Not your average rotisserie chicken
How does the ex-NOMA and Momofuku Seiobo chef Ben Greeno do roast chicken and chips? On imported, custom-made French rotisseries, of course, complemented by clever seasonal sides and those all-important fries.
Ben Greeno is a quietly spoken English chef whose dishes yell out with colour, complexity and respect for one’s ingredients. His newly crafted menu at The Paddington reflects Ben in more ways than even he might realise: “smoked trout, English muffin, duck egg,” reads one offering. The list is a poster board of clever pairings that will satisfy curious eaters and surprise everyone else. But then there’s something very casual about it too – the wall of rotisseries a hint of weekend crowds to come.
The menu at The Paddington was built around Ben’s rotisserie concept – chicken, of course, yet also lamb and beef rump, fish and celeriac. But the idea came about in the same way one might propose Saturday brunch, with one line followed by an enthusiastic “yes” in response. During one of his early meetings with Justin Hemmes and Frank Roberts, Merivale’s Director of Food and Beverage, Ben was asked the type of food he’d like to serve. “They were like, ‘What shall we do?’ And I said, ‘Well, why don’t we get a rotisserie? Nobody really uses one here.’ They were like, ‘Brilliant. Let’s do it,’” explains Ben.
Octopus, potato, confit tomato, black olives
Soon after, he was on a plane to France, where rotisseries spin 365 days of the year. “It’s huge in France because it’s the way it’s always been: you buy a really good chicken, take it home and have it for dinner. It’s just a way of life there,” says Ben. Like any responsible shopper, he’d done his research long before setting off. “I already knew people who had this particular one, so I knew what I wanted. I went to the factory to check them out before we ordered. Just to see them and to get an idea of what the company was like.” His spit of choice is the Rotisol, produced by a family owned business that’s been around for more than 50 years. The imported rotisseries now line a wall of The Paddington, patiently awaiting next week’s opening.
So did it ruffle any feathers to leave behind his post at the three-hatted Momofuku Seiobo to take the reins at The Paddington? “I was nervous handing my notice in. People were shocked, everybody was shocked, ’cause there was this picture on Instagram where Pat Nourse broke the news,” he recalls. “At that point, I felt like the team had achieved a lot. I needed a new challenge.” The change of scenery also served as a lifestyle makeover for Ben, who’s balancing his Executive Chef role with that of father to his two-year-old son. “I needed the balance back in my life. And there’s no reason why the food won’t be as good or complex as what it is at Momofoku, but it’ll be served in a lot simpler surrounds.”
Goat curd, herb oil, sourdough
Joining the Merivale family appears to suit Ben, as it’s a week out from opening and his demeanor certainly doesn’t show it. After a beat, he assures us that’s not entirely the case: “Obviously, I’m a little bit nervous. But I should be panicking a lot more than I am. But I also think: I’m 35, I feel like I can cook, and I can tell somebody how to cook, so what could really go wrong?” Having worked for some of the world’s greats (namely NOMA in Denmark and Restaurant Sat Bains in the UK), Ben is adamant he’s staying put. “Yep, definitely. I love it here. Sydney right now is the most exciting place to be for food.”
The Paddington is located at 384 Oxford St, Paddington.