From Surfing the Menu and South Bank Surf Club to finding his groove in Brisbane’s Southern suburbs, celebrity chef Ben O’Donoghue has ditched his coastal callings and is finding success in the River City.
First he opened Billykart Kitchen in 2013 in Annerley, garnering local fans and critical acclaim, and now 4101 welcomes Ben O’Donoghue’s return with the opening of a sister restaurant, Billykart West End.
Last year was a big one for O’Donoghue, with the opening of his new restaurant coinciding with his TV appearance as judge on Channel 7’s Aussie Barbecue Heroes.
Calling on the nostalgia of a childhood when the world was a simpler place, the name Billykart Kitchen immediately evokes memories of climbing trees, scraping knees and spending days running around in the sunshine. The original Billykart Kitchen put Annerley on the breakfast map, with foodies migrating to the suburb to get a taste of O’Donoghue’s famous dishes. Unlike his Annerley digs, which are set in an old Queenslander corner shop, the Billykart West End locale does not immediately offer the same nostalgia evoked by the name.
Set at the bottom of ARIA’s newly developed Botanica apartment building, Billykart seats 90 plus and is immediately more inner city than charming neighbourhood café. However, architect Angus Munro has woven some elements of the Queenslander back into the modern space. Using recycled stained glass windows to separate the kitchen from the dining room, he has given a nod to the restaurant’s suburban roots.
But let’s face it — people are not coming for the nostalgia. They’re coming for the food. O’Donoghue’s exciting breakfast menus have had Brisbane food lovers and critics impressed for years.
Almost every element in a Billykart dish is made in-house — from the kefir and clotted cream to the nut milks and sprouted seed bread. These ingredients alone are an indication of the theme of the menu — expect delicious, ingredient-heavy, nutrient-rich meals. The breakfast menu offers creations from carne asada with fried eggs, habanero salsa, chicharrones and corn tortillas, to a congee with fresh spanner crab and scallops. Lunch is a slightly more traditional affair, offering whole-baked fish and a twist on French classics, like the potato waffle croquet Madame.
However, it’s not just O’Donoghue at the burners — although he watches over the kitchen at West End, he has brought in Scott Webster as head chef. Webster has moved from the UK and is experiencing the Queensland food scene for the first time. Coming to terms with the change in attitude towards breakfast — not such a glamorous affair in the UK — Webster is thoroughly enjoying the challenge and the sunny change in scenery.
Billykart Provisions is operating next door — a providore for fine meats, cheeses and an interesting selection of wine and craft beers. Also selling house-baked bread and duck, quail and chicken cooked in-house on the charrasco grill, the store is making easy work of an epicurean takeaway or picnic. The restaurant is open Monday to Sunday for breakfast and lunch and dinner from Thursday through Saturday.
Words by Alice Thompson | Images by Scott Burrows