14 May 2012

Encore Restaurant: Chef Donovan Hamilton

Encore Café, Restaurant and Bar has been going strong since it opened in January 2012, with patrons responding enthusiastically to the vibrant atmosphere, friendly staff and delicious food. The man behind the menu, chef Donovan Hamilton, takes a moment to tell drama on the waterfront all about the food at Encore (and even shares a recipe!).

DOTW: Please tell us a little bit about your background as a chef.

DH: I have recently returned from overseas. The last place I worked was in London at The Providores Restaurant for Peter Gordon.  I have been traveling and working on and off for the last 20 years following the completion of my apprenticeship under Mark Limacher of Roxburgh Bistro fame. I worked at Capitol for a while for the fantastic Tom Hutchison. All three of the aforementioned chefs have been a big influence on my career but there have been so many people I have worked with over the years who have helped me learn and hopefully many more to come. Cooking can take you to amazing places around the globe if you let it and I have sure let it carry me away to a few far-flung corners. I worked on private boats for as a private Chef for a while, leading to a lot of hard work in very glamorous settings: Cannes, Monaco and the Caribbean, to name a few. I lived in Germany for two years and have also worked in France, England, Scotland, Portugal and Australia.

DOTW: What is your approach to the menu for Encore? I notice it changes every so often, why is that?

DH: We aim to provide affordable, fresh and interesting food that tastes and looks great. The menu changes seasonally and we are running specials for each show aiming to match the feel of the dining experience with the theme of the show. So far this has been very warmly received. We are running an a la carte menu as well as providing an extensive array of counter food options for those looking for a quick bite to eat on the run before the show.

DOTW: What challenges, if any, does working at a restaurant in a theatre provide?

DH: As previously mentioned by other Chef s working with Circa, cooking for the discerning theatre-going public does provide its challenges. The main one being the short time frame in which to feed everyone. Menu planning requires quite a bit of thought involving a good balance to the equipment and methods of cookery to allow for a smooth service. Offering services such as desert and coffee at interval allow our diners the chance to get a full culinary experience without the feeling of being rushed. 

DOTW: What would you tell someone who had never been to Encore? What should people know about Encore?

DH: We are a young, vibrant, creative and experienced team. The hard work that Jacinta [Saeki, the owner] and the rest of the crew have put in over the last few months since we have opened is really showing. Please book at least a week in advance as we are very busy and hate to disappoint people on the night when we are fully booked. The Café is open during the day now as well for Brunch and Lunch

DOTW: What is your absolute favourite thing to make, both at home and at Encore?

DH: I love to cook simple things at home for friends and family, be it a nice pasta dish with prawns or a nice little curry. When we did our first show earlier on in the year, The Motor Camp, we went for a dish that summed up a bit of the coastal camping experience for me: smoked fish cakes. I am an avid fisherman with limited success. Ah well.

Here is the recipe:

Smoked Fish Cakes Mulheron

200g smoked fish fillet (Kawhai / Moki) Boneless
500g Roasted Baby Potatoes
2 Spring Onions Finely chopped
2 T Corriander Fresh
¼  tsp Chilli Flakes
2 Cloves Garlic finely Chopped
1 T whole Grain Mustard
¼ Cup breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

Roast the baby potatoes with a touch of olive oil in a moderate oven skins on. Mash the potatoes whilst the are still warm. Add the rest of the ingredients mix well. Shape the mix into little cakes and lightly panfry to colour them golden brown and cook them through for about 10 minutes in the oven. Serve with either sweet chilli sce or Tartare Sauce.
Server with a nice salad. For the Gluten free people out there just leave out the breadcrumbs and sneak in an egg to help bind the cakes. Feel free to try other fresh herbs in the mix.

Bon Appetite!

Hope to cook for you soon,

Encore Cafe, Restaurant and Bar is open Tuesday through Sunday for coffee, muffins, brunch and lunch during the day, and full restaurant and bar service in the evening - including pre-show dining. Every Sunday is the delicious Sunday Roast. Advance bookings are strongly recommended as the restaurant tends to fill up most evenings before the show. Please call 801-7996 to book or with any queries.

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