Chef Jake Kellie has partnered with the Palmer Hospitality Group to bring to life his dream restaurant, Arkhé, which is powered by a two-tonne wood oven and a simple ethos of quality produce cooked over flame.
Open-flame restaurant Arkhé opens on The Parade
It is a concise ethos at the heart of Arkhé, the hospitality venture recently opened on The Parade.
127 The Parade, Norwood 5067
Tuesday: 5pm ’til 11:30pm
Wed—Sun: 12pm ’til 11:30pm
“We just grill shit. Make shit tasty,” says chef Jake Kellie, who owns the business alongside his partner Ena Vujcic and business partner Martin Palmer of the Palmer Hospitality Group, which also runs 2KW and Fishbank, among other establishments.
Though an ostensibly simple aim, Jake has established a high level of operational complexity to make this happen.
There are no electric appliances used in the Arkhé cooking process, with all dishes from the kitchen prepared over coals.
The engine powering this concept is a two and a half tonne dual cavity wood oven which can reach temperatures of up to 1100 degrees. Chefs will burn ironbark, a dense timber, inside these ovens, and then shovel the coals into Arkhé’s elevation grills. The coals will hold their temperature for around half an hour before the grills then need to be topped up.
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“Obviously it’s very labour intensive, shovelling quite hot,” Jake says, again with characteristic concision.
Jake has long been associated with this style of cooking. Burnt Ends, the Singapore-based restaurant where Jake was head chef, is known for its wood-fired grills, and when the chef returned to Australia to work at Leigh Street Wine Room, he had the restaurant install elevation grills. Following that stint, Jake ran a charcoal-focussed pop-up at Pirate Life in Port Adelaide.
The chef’s commitment to cooking over coals comes, first, from a love for the flavours that come from charring ingredients and using different types of timber. Secondary is the love of the challenge.
“The enjoyment of not using a pan,” Jake laughs, “just using a grill. That’s what I get a real rush for. When you know you can cook it from that base of raw fire, it’s very satisfying.”
For all the recent reports of staff shortages in the hospitality industry, Jake says he had no problem finding people willing to work in this particularly challenging kitchen.
“I’ve been very fortunate with the staff that we’ve hired. That’s something I’m very humbled about, and the team we’ve got together is incredible,” he says.
Aside from the method of cooking, there is no particular cuisine Jake is presenting through the Arkhé menu. Instead, the aim is for the restaurant to platform producers.
“I’m a big fan of the snacks sort of vibe, and obviously fresh seafood, fresh produce, that kind of stuff was a given,” Jake says.
“It’s more the producers and stuff we’re using. I think it’s pretty exciting. Obviously Mayura Station, being good friends with Scotty [de Bruin] for some time.
“We’re definitely going more on the local side of things… [But]I’m not afraid to look further, to the best possible stuff I can get.”
The menu is made to be shared, with a range of snack plates and entrees available, and about five larger plates, all of which will change as produce becomes available.
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Arkhé has an open kitchen, with 19 seats lining its bar. A major aspect of the restaurant’s service will fall on the chefs, who are encouraged to interact with diners. Front-of-house staff, led by Greta Wohlstadt, formerly of Orana, will also bring the kitchen to the restaurant floor.
“A lot of stuff will be done table-side,” Jake says. “So filleting whole john dories, caviar service, dessert done tableside. There’s different elements of what we do in the kitchen that we want to bring to the table.”
The bar is run by Vanessa Rech, a long-time member of the Palmer Group, with a wine program by sommelier Bhatia Dheeraj, formerly of Magill Estate and most recently Daughter In Law.
“[There’s] a little bit of fermentation happening at the bar,” Jake says. “Not too much, but a bit of smoked honey, charred oranges for Negronis. Just different elements of smoke and char that we can bring to drinks, just to give it that extra pop.”
Arkhé’s fitout, designed by studio -gram, is drastically different to the space’s prior tenant, Stone’s Throw. The bar at the front of the venue has moved, with a lounge section and booths extending from the front window down the length of the restaurant to where the dining room begins.
The massive kitchen is a key feature of the space and has a domestic feeling to it – even with bank of elevation grills – attributable to the extensive use of timber.
“I just love that whole fire, timber aspect, and it looks very nice as well,” Jake says.
“Obviously drew a bit of inspiration from Justin [Hemmes] and Fred’s. But that was always the brief.”
This is Jake’s dream restaurant, and it was made possible, he says, thanks to the involvement of Martin Palmer.
“Marty [has] being amazing to let us go with the freedoms of designing what we want to do, making it my dream restaurant – this is it,” Jake says.
“And he’s very good at teaching us along the way, understanding what the actual business was – getting into the nuts and bolts of it. He does have a good office team that we’re using to help us watch all our costings and that sort of stuff as well. So there’s good infrastructure there for Arkhé.”
For now, as a newly launched restaurant in the suburbs, Jake is concentrating on establishing Arkhé as a second home for his clientele.
“We’ve definitely tried to keep it like that neighbourly restaurant. We don’t want to be snobby or anything like that, in the sense of what we’re trying to do,” Jake says.
“We want locals to be able to come in, have a glass of wine, have a couple of snacks and come out going, ‘That was great’, you know?
“And they can come in and have a couple of plates of food and not break the bank account. I’m not going to say it’s not expensive, it’s in the medium range, but we want people to be able to come in once, twice or three times a week.”
Arkhé is located at 127 The Parade, Norwood, and operates 5pm ‘til late on Tuesday and midday ‘til late Wednesday through Sunday.