Back in New Zealand for a few weeks, chef Peter Gordon talks with Hospitality Business about The Sugar Club and what’s inspiring him, food and produce wise, these days.
Peter Gordon really needs no introduction. He left New Zealand at the age of 21 and now runs restaurants in Auckland (Sugar Club, Bellota) and London (Providores, Kopapa). He has written seven books, a multitude of great columns and starred in the TV3 series Fusion Feasts, about creating the perfect marae meal.
What ingredients are you excited about this season?
I have to say that from a foodie point of view, autumn is probably the least interesting of the seasons. There’s pumpkin, kumara and leeks and Brussels sprouts coming through as well as all of the brassicas, which isn’t really as exciting as when you’re heading into the summer. We were hoping to have some saffron milk cap mushrooms coming in about a month ago but the weather has just been all wrong for the growers, which is sad as they really put their heart and soul into what they do.
We are hoping for some truffles in the next six to eight weeks though, and we’re just getting through the last of the quince we had. We have been playing around with putting goat on the menu but haven’t quite got what we need from the suppliers just yet, although we have added paua. Our head chef Neil has worked on a creamed paua on toast with smoked, mashed potatoes and it’s really cool.
How long are you in Auckland for this trip?
I do five visits a year and this time I’ll have been here four weeks when I leave. I usually come out for at least two weeks and we do a full seasonal menu change.
The Sugar Club has been a runaway success, but have you made any changes since you opened?
No I think we’ve just improved the things that we were already doing. Our biggest change is happening at the moment, we’ve now got Martin in as our new bar manager and cocktail specialist. I always envisaged that our bar would be the coolest cocktail bar in Auckland one day as there aren’t a lot of true cocktail bars here like there are in London, and we’re in the most perfect spot. So Martin is here with his amazing skills and we’ve bought a whole lot of beautiful glassware arriving any day now. We have lots of small plates on offer still and an amuse bouche for everyone as well as a pre-dessert, and we’ve changed our lunch from larger mains to small plates as well.
When you’re in Auckland where do you like to eat?
My absolute favourite place that I go back to time and time again is Ponsonby Road Bistro. When I’m here I stay in Herne Bay so it’s pretty much local, and Melissa (Morrow) and Blair (Russell) both used to work for me at The Sugar Club in London. I know the chef Sarah Conway from London as well so they are all old mates. I also love Cocoro in Brown Street as it’s always amazing and just so different, and I’m off to The French Café soon. I have never had a bad experience there and I can’t wait.
Is the scene in London thriving in the lead up to summer? Are pop up restaurants still the key trend happening over there?
Absolutely. Pop ups continue to do really well in London and they allow younger people that might not have a lot of resources to set up a kitchen and do stuff. There’s a great restaurant in London called The Clove Club, which is in Shoreditch Town Hall. They started as a pop up in the Ten Bells pub in Spitalfields and then moved to Shoreditch and are now a permanent fixture as they are just so good. It’s such an exciting way for chefs to make their name.