Hospitality Business Magazine

Executive Chef redefines French cuisine at QT Wellington

QT Wellington has announced Sylvester Nair as the Executive Chef to spearhead a new era in dining at their award-winning harbourside restaurant, Hippopotamus.

Under Nair’s lead, Hippopotamus will explore a bold new culinary direction, undergoing a metamorphosis from fine dining to a more modern and approachable menu style. Featuring a seasonally curated a la carte menu and lavish degustations, diners can expect the same award-winning wine list and a refreshed offering of high-end cocktails.

Stepping up to the pass at the Capital’s iconic, two-hatted institution is a challenge for expert chefs with even the sharpest of knives. Nair has already made an impression, with Hippopotamus’ three course degustation menu for Visa Wellington On a Plate winning ‘Best Use of Theme’ at the May festival.

Fusing his South African heritage with fine French technique, Sylvester aims to push boundaries in Hippopotamus. The new menu is largely finished on the fire, which is second nature to Nair, a self-confessed braai fanatic.

“Hippopotamus is already an institution and I want to use it as a conduit for redefining French fine cuisine in my own way, relaxing it for modern diners but maintaining the finesse. My menu features classic techniques and flavours, but always with a twist. I’m excited to introduce diners to the new Hippopotamus, whilst retaining all of the iconic charm they know and love,” says Chef Sylvester.

With a focus on using the finest local produce, Nair has partnered with suppliers who share his commitment to exacting quality. Whitehart Kurobuta pork is a hero in the ‘porc grillé’ entrée – succulent pork belly served with cauliflower purée, ‘dry red’ sauce and kohlrabi. Kurobuta are among the finest breeds of pig and Whitehart’s stock are farmed according to traditional Japanese techniques in Fairlie, South Canterbury. Nothing wasted, chef Sylvester uses the skin of the pork to make a ‘craquelin’ cracker, served alongside Hippopotamus’ beef tartare.

Continuing a longstanding partnership of Hippopotamus’, Sylvester heroes Ōra King salmon for his best-selling crudo entrée. Known as the ‘Wagyu of salmon’ for its naturally high marbled fat content, the sustainably-bred fish have been developed for the world’s best chefs. The crudo showcases finely sliced salmon which is cured, flash smoked and immediately chilled to infuse a light smoky flavour. Served with chilli, capers, a house made ponzu sauce and koji, the simple dish allows the premium salmon product to shine.

“Ingredient integrity is key for me. It’s important to use the very best products available to create dishes with clean, fresh flavours and allow the products to shine. I’ve partnered with the likes of Pure South, Lumina, Black Origin and Ōra King for their sustainability, exclusivity, New Zealand provenance and above all, quality,” says Sylvester Nair, Executive Chef at QT Wellington.

“Chef Sylvester has just the sort of audacious vision required to transform Hippopotamus. We are thrilled to have him on the team leading the charge in this exciting new chapter,” says Chris Greening, General Manager of QT Wellington.

Chef Nair will lead operations across all outlets, including Hot Sauce Asian bar and eatery, confrencing and events, Room Service by QT, and the hotel’s signature restaurant, Hippopotamus.