After two years, two names and three chefs – Electra House are forging a new identity with the food and service at Level One.
Why you need to reacquaint yourself with Level One at Electra House
When Electra House opened in March 2015, there had already been months of anticipation as to what would come from the stunning century-old King William Street building.
The redevelopment was billed as a $10m beacon of hospitality grandeur. Electra House featured a beer garden, several bars, a restaurant with a Spanish Chef and two, separate function spaces on the third level of the refurbished heritage building.
Level One at Electra House
131 King William St, Adelaide
Tue – Sat: Dinner from 5pm until late
Fri: Lunch from 12pm – 3pm
Closed Sunday / Monday
(08) 7123 4055
And then it flopped.
Stuck in an awkward no-man’s land between London’s SoHo House and an Aussie pub, Electra House’s identity floundered in the early days.
Food critic John Lethlean dealt a significant blow in his review for The Australian newspaper and, with one star, effectively shuttered Olea – the redevelopment’s restaurant.
Electra House’s management then started the process of rebranding and re-launching a still-running restaurant.
Enter Chad Hanson – who played a key role, front of house, in establishing Sean’s Kitchen for SkyCity.
It was Chad’s job to project-manage the transition from Olea to Level One – a tough job that not many in the industry would leap at, but one that was of particular interest to Chad.
“It’s much more challenging than opening a business from scratch, coming into something that has had a bit of a misguided start, trying steer it back to where it should have began,”he says.
– Chad Hanson
“There was a lot of hype about the space prior to its opening and rightfully so, it’s an absolutely stunning building. For myself, the appeal was the opportunity to come onboard and help redirect what had not yet been executed properly.”
After three months in the project management role, Chad was brought on as general manager of the venue and has since worked to create a more holistic narrative for the restaurant’s many identities.
Not all went exactly to plan. Under the stewardship of head chef Satoshi Kikuchi, who Chad had worked with previously at Sean’s Kitchen, Level One’s introduction to Adelaide was as a fine dining Asian restaurant.
This concept didn’t draw the crowd they’d hoped for, and given the formal nature of the food, it was difficult to create cohesion between the restaurant and the bar and beer garden below.
In October 2016, after a three-week hiatus, Level One Mark II opened without much (if any) fanfare.
Now headed by executive chef Jamie Kang, the restaurant is firing on all cylinders. Jamie’s take on modern Asian cuisine sits perfectly on the line between beautiful presentation and casual approachability. For Chad, Jamie’s appointment has provided a missing link for Electra House.
“Working with Jamie has been quite refreshing. As a chef, he’s very open to suggestion, has a great understanding of food and hospitality in general,” says Chad.
“In the last 12 months we’ve picked up a number of awards, which is quite humbling, and also reassuring to know we’re heading in the right direction.”
Like Chad, Jamie saw opportunity in coming into a venue in the grips of an identity crisis.
“Rather than just Asian, they wanted to see my food, so I thought it was a really good chance. It was a really good chance to showcase my food,” Jamie says.
“Building a reputation is a huge challenge… but I’m still young. I’ve just turned 31, I can try one more big challenge.”
Jamie’s menu is an idiosyncratic experience that draws on the full scope of his resumé, which includes 12 years in the industry spent working mostly under Italian chefs, a short stint at Stokehouse in Brisbane, the mastering of Japanese cuisine while leading the kitchen team at Sake, Hamer Hall in Melbourne, and early experiences cooking food linked to his Korean heritage.
“I don’t have any [one] practice – it varies – so I look at the ingredients and what’s available to match to the ingredients,” Jamie says.
“We are contemporary Asian dining, but [if I have] ingredients that are good for Italian, I bring in Italian.
“We have ravioli with ricotta and shitake mushroom and miso cream, also we have kingfish sashimi on fermented white kimchi. So we have so many different cuisines in my menu, but everything has a bit of Asian influence into it.
“It’s a bit strange, but this is me.”
Coming into the executive chef role, it was Jamie’s ambition to not only to redirect the style of food on offer, but to make it more widely accessible.
“I wanted to make it not expensive, but it’s still special and pretty,” Jamie says.
“If you’ve got lots of money, or if you don’t have much money, you still can come here for Valentine’s Day or a birthday or something like that.
“And the service also is more friendly. Rather than a suit, we’re wearing jeans [and] sneakers. It’s more a friendly, easier atmosphere.”
With every aspect of the venue thoroughly considered and reconsidered, and with the kitchen’s tempestuous period of ever-changing head chefs finally laid to rest, Electra House is set to become the venue it always promised to be.
“I think this business had every opportunity from day one to be known as an iconic venue within South Australia, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to establish it as now,” Chad says.