“See you at the Town Hall,” is a phrase I’ve become quite used to hearing, as this year I’ve been invited to more lunches and dinners at the Fitzroy Town Hall Hotel than I can remember.
It’s a place that seems to be on everyone’s list of current faves. Friends from the east, north, west, and friends from out of town. And having eaten there numerous times, I know why – the place looks great, the food tastes great, and you leave feeling great.
Owned by dynamic husband and wife duo, Sean and Natalie Donovan, the Fitzroy Town Hall Hotel dining experience consistently delivers with a well-considered approach to classic pub dinning textured with worldly accents and controlled flair.
The menu is designed to work across several distinctive eating areas including, a classic front bar, a more casual light-filled atrium styled dining room and a delightfully sombre dining room, finished with deep-blue walls, tartan and leather upholstery and an inviting, working fireplace.
The kitchen is overseen by Head Chef Anna Quayle - this month’s Mount Zero Hero(ine) - and Sean, who’s talent and reputation has long been cemented by his awarded work at the Park Hyatt and the Botanical; as well as for a much admired revitalisation of The Station Hotel in Footscray.
Anna and Sean have worked together now on and off for close to a decade, as well as both working and training with French-born chef Pierre Koffmann in London.
Thanks to Anna for taking the time to answer our questions, and for supplying three incredible recipes to share with you all. (Click on the images below for links to recipes.)
What lead you into the industry and into cooking?
I grew up in Brisbane and with a farming family. Everyone in my mum’s family is a great cook. Cooking and food was always around me, so the decision to make it my career felt simple.
What has been your career highlights to date?
Working with Pierre Koffmann at The Berkeley in London for two years. His passion was a marvel to watch and he is the hardest worker I've met. I still have his voice in my head whenever I'm in the kitchen and miss working with him very very much.
What is your current favourite menu item and why?
For me it is asparagus and fresh morel mushrooms. My Aunt and Uncle farmed biodynamic asparagus when I was young, and the first few weeks of Australian spring brings back such lovely memories of eating asparagus snapped straight from the ground.
In my book, asparagus, broad beans and morels must feature on a menu as soon as they're available!
Where do you source your produce?
Our menu features Victorian seasonal produce as much as possible. I have a tendency to use beef from South East QLD (keeping in touch with my roots) and Sher Wagyu (Ballan, Vic). I forage for sea-herbs on my days off and I use Mount Zero products wherever I can.
What currently is the most heard feedback from your customers?
Consistent offerings; generous servings with rich and moorish flavours.
What is your favourite kitchen tool?
My Thermomix is my favourite tool, when it’s not in need of repairs. (It’s currently out of action.)
What would you be doing, if you weren’t in the food business?
I deferred from studying law at university to work in a wood fired pizza shop and I really can’t see myself anywhere but the kitchen.
What would be one word you'd use to describe Mount Zero Olives.
What food experience should be on everyone’s bucket-list?
Eating spanner crab fresh off the boat with lemon and pepper on North Stradbroke Island.
Do you have any special plans or a dream project on the table for next year?
To keep the kitchen humming at the Fitzroy Town Hall Hotel. And, I’m turning 30 - so a wee European holiday is on the cards!