By Hilary McNevin
Chef Nicky Riemer is packing boxes. One of Victoria’s most popular and lauded chefs hasn’t had a job change but (like so many of us) has done the job ‘pivot’ (there’s that word). Since March this year, Bellota in South Melbourne where Riemer is head chef, has been successfully creating takeaway and delivery menu options as well as meal boxes.
They’re selling like hot cakes (or more appropriately, Riemer’s signature sausage rolls) and while she’s happy to do it, it’s not where her heart lies.
“These boxes have kept us really busy,” Nicky says, “we’ve had a great response to them, but there’s no human interaction with guests and that’s heartbreaking. I don’t enjoy not having people in the restaurant.”
Like so many in the hospitality industry, Nicky has found a way to keep herself and her team busy during this intense year. The Bellota Boxes include many favourites, including: stracciatella, agro dolce, roast eggplant and chilli, and confit duck, spaetzle dumplings, caramelised onion, bacon and hazelnuts, but it’s the recipe that Nicky has shared with us as this month’s Mount Zero Hero that is making us very happy!
Photo thanks to Jana Langhorst.
Her dish of roast quail and barley, wrapped in pancetta served with quinoa and roasted grape salad, which incorporates Mount Zero ingredients; pearl barley and quinoa - and the earthy flavour of quail with sweet-salty pancetta.
Of the dish, Nicky says, “Mount Zero Barley holds moisture well and soaks up the butter, onion, garlic and fennel that it’s mixed with. It doesn’t break down at all, has a nutty flavour and is great as a stuffing.”
Nicky’s relationship with Mount Zero goes back to when she was an apprentice for Stephanie Alexander at her eponymous restaurant in Hawthorn.
“Richard [Seymour, Mount Zero GM] would do deliveries with his dad,” she says, “and we all naturally built a friendship around work and their product. I have never used any other oil in any of my kitchens, except when I worked in Hong Kong for a year! You could say I’m a devotee.”
Nicky notes the consistency of Mount Zero is what has kept her sticking with the product. “Each season, even though there are differences in flavour, it’s the consistency within that that is so good.”
She’s also a fan of Mount Zero olives, “I also love their consistency; they’re plump, juicy and full of flavour.”
When she’s not been busy at Bellota during these unusual times, she and her sister, Tiffany enjoy Aperitivo Hour every weekend with snacks, “including Mount Zero olives, of course,” she laughs.
With the easing of restrictions on the horizon, the first thing Nicky is looking forward to is,
“Putting food on plates!” she says, “We’re all looking forward to Spring and Summer and we are organising as much outside dining as we can. I can’t wait to see our customer’s faces.”
We’re with you Nicky!