Rather than trying to fill the large, well-worn shoes of previous tenants, Hilton Adelaide General Manager Peer Norsell thought the Coal Cellar + Grill should strike its own chord.
A restaurant of its place
The Hilton Adelaide has never been short on dining prestige.
Cheong Liew created culinary magic and grabbed international acclaim with The Grange restaurant, then Simon Bryant honed the offering with a more South Australian focussed menu for The Brasserie.
Coal Cellar + Grill
233 Victoria Square, Tarndanyangga
Adelaide SA 5000
But the latest concept to take hold at the corner of Grote Street and Tarndanyangga is not the creation of the next celebrity chef, but is instead a thoroughly Hilton Adelaide project, spearheaded by Danish-born General Manager Peer Norsell.
Coal Cellar + Grill launched late last year and took out line honours in our Holiday Cheers list of most useful venues.
And it would be reasonable to assume that following two well-known Australian chefs in a location that once attracted diners from around the country would be a daunting prospect, but for Peer it was a chance to reinvent.
“Without a doubt, we have a strong heritage if you look back at who’s worked in our kitchens,” says Peer.
“[Coal Cellar + Grill is] not so much about what we did in the past, [it’s] about what we want to be going forward.”
The restaurant’s new identity is one aimed at a simpler and more approachable attitude to food.
“The Brasserie at times got a little bit fancy in terms of the menu – and I don’t mean fine dining, I just mean that the dishes were more complicated than they necessarily needed to be,” says Peer.
“What we wanted to do here was to really simplify it.”
An important part of the change for Coal Cellar + Grill is their doubling-down on the commitment to South Australian produce.
They’ve maintained relationships with local growers and producers developed under Simon Bryant’s Seriously South Australian campaign, and have even extended it to the hotel’s beer selection, reaching out to Adelaide craft brewers.
“We wanted to get in on that scene because we wanted to work and think very locally; we are a big brand, but we want to do stuff for the local industry as well,” Peer says
The departure from hotel restaurant norms was a key part of the refit of the space too. The challenge was to balance that with the corporate requirements expected of a Hilton restaurant.
“We wanted to make Coal multifunctional and we wanted to add a level of luxury into it — but at the same time have that raw edge — so, you know, the exposed concrete slabs, the ducts,” Peer tells us while gesturing to elements of Coal Cellar + Grill’s interior.
“And then the addition of the private rooms … you have that ability to either close them right off or we can open it up and let it be part of the restaurant atmosphere as well, so that [gives] us the ability to cater to all without one getting in the way of another.”
While the exposed concrete, open grill, and abundance of timber placed throughout the lower level does make for an inviting space, it’s nothing compared to the allure of Coal Cellar + Grill’s crown jewel: the exposed cellar.
The made-to-order, temperature-controlled, glass-walled cellar holds the restaurant’s entire wine list — most of which is South Australian — and showcases it to guests in a way that encapsulates the Coal Cellar + Grill philosophy: remove boundaries between good food and drink and the consumer, and let the produce speak for itself.
The result of that philosophy, coupled with Coal Cellar + Grill’s relationship with passionate local growers, makers, brewers and producers, is a restaurant Peer sees as fitting in just as well in New York or London as it does in Victoria Square.
“That’s obviously the Hilton brand that’s focussed on delivering a product that is to a standard we could place anywhere in the world.”