Saturday, October 22, 2022

How restaurant plonk became a talking point

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The General Store Norah Head, Bush Street, Norah Head NSW, Australia

The Burton General Store Norah Head

Norah Head may just be the NSW Central Coast’s best kept secret. A sleepy beach town, with beaches, clothing boutiques and friendly cafes. 

Beneath the towering coastal trees of Norah Head you will find a great atmosphere in a bustling and vibrant cafe luring in locals and tourists alike. Surf town vibes fill the air along with some beautiful beachside scenery and a strong community spirit making this a great stop for a bite to eat. Previously known as the Ark café, The General Store is a well-known and cherished institution in Norah Head.

Run by locals who love the area, their food philosophy is fresh, local and seasonal.

Located right next to the beach and a nature trail that leads to the Lighthouse lookout, the location is perfect for exploring with a rockpool down below that is perfect for swimming with kids.

Menu favourites include unique items like plant based waffles, vegetarian halloumi bowls with pumpkin hummus, burrito bowls and burgers.

Guide to Nora Head

Meeting Brett on 22 at 175 Coastal Cafe Etalong

Best bargain bottles: 13 great wines for $20 or less

Why I’m sticking to the house wine How restaurant plonk became a talking point

Opting for the “house wine” can often feel like a cop-out: a tacit admission that one is too timid to order something more interesting. But a growing number of influential bars and restaurants are choosing to make the house plonk a talking point — collaborating on wines you won’t find anywhere else.

The Four Horsemen in Brooklyn serves wines selected and bottled exclusively for the bar by Sébastien Châtillon, winemaker at Ad Vinum in the Languedoc

“Sébastien and I have been friends for a long time — it’s a project born of a true relationship,” says The Four Horsemen’s wine director Justin Chearno. “Doing a private-label wine gives you that connection between restaurant and grower,” he says.

He describes the red blend — typically Grenache/cinsault — as “a fresh, bright, joyful wine for the table — the kind of wine our guests love”. The playful labels are designed by friends. Superstar Portuguese chef Nuno Mendes recently released his first collection of wines in collaboration with Niepoort. “I made them, I stepped on them, I tasted them,” says Mendes. “It was a dream come true.” 

The biodynamic range, served at his London  restaurant Lisboetais designed to showcase Portuguese grapes: it includes a sparkler, Tiny Bubbles, a ruby and white port, a zesty white and a smashable Baga red cheerfully dubbed Park Juice. London restaurant Kiln sends staff to join the harvest for its house wine range, Arkestra, every year. When I speak to GM Luke Pyper, he’s just finished picking Grenache at La Petite Baigneuse in Roussillon. Another winery they work with frequently is Il Farneto in Emilia-Romagna. 

“Going direct to the source means we can support smaller producers,” says Pyper. “It gives staff a sense of connection ­— and guests a better bang for their buck.”

Ottolenghi is currently working on a collaboration with the Czech natural winemaker Krásná Hora. All being well, the wines — “a slightly skins-y white and a fun red” ­— will be launched in the middle of next year. “We’ve served Krásná Hora’s wines for four or five years — they are lovely people who share the same ethos as us,” says head wine buyer Pierre Malouf. “Their wines are modern but steeped in old methods and traditions.” Recommended HTSI Why English wine is more beauty than beast

Goodman Restaurants — which has one of the most extensive American wine lists in London — has a house wine in the pipeline with Cali hipsters Benevolent Neglect. Santiago Lastra’s restaurant Kol serves four vibrant house wines made in partnership with Slovakian grower of the moment Slobodné. And Sager + Wilde has done private-label wines with insider names including Sybille Kuntz, Tschida and Rajat Parr. “It’s an opportunity to do something a bit more risky because in a bar like ours, you know it will sell,” says Mike Sager.

 “People are looking for much more of an experience these days, and it gives you stories to tell.” These wines are different to simple “white labels” — where a restaurant buys an off-the-peg wine and slaps its own brand on the outside. They are projects with real integrity — so you can order that house wine with pride.

 is more than building relationships and making friends — it's about dollars and cents. For years now, industries have been struggling to keep and hire workers. A 2022 MIT Sloan studyfound that toxic work culture, including disrespect, unethical  or a lack of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, was the driving force behind the Great Resignation.

But while a toxic culture drives people away, a positive workplace culture draws them in. Promoting team members' well-being improves relationships and amplifies individual strengths and creativity, leading to more innovation and productivity with less stress and burnout. But people will see through false cultures created just to hire them. If we expect to draw and retain talent, genuine culture is needed: We need to walk the talk and build a company that demonstrates what we are all about.

If pigs could fly

Tracing the History of the Green Book in Southern California / the Manhattan Population Explorer / selfie landscapes: ‘The Instagram capital of the world is a terrible place to be‘ / The Acrostic Edition, a short piece about the joy of hidden acrostic messaging, something unique to print / paintings by Edmond Praybe / incredible linocuts by Dan Howden / Automotive AI, ‘Automotive designs from a parallel universe, brought to you by artificial intelligence’. Some of these look alarmingly credible / Battersea returns (see thingspassim): Wainwright weighs in (‘It’s quite some feat to drown out one of the most imposing buildings in the capital, but this motley approach sure does its best.’) and so does Moore (‘But, between the blandscape outside and the brandscape within, the power station is cussed enough to assert its own character’) / sort of related, save the Twentieth Century Leisure Centre / Aide-mémoire, an exhibition of shopping lists at the Museum of Brands (via the Guardian) / The Woolworths Museum / digitised type collections at the St Bride Foundation / worth a download: Radiohead’s Kid A Mnesia, a virtual exhibition. We’ve come a long way from Frankie’s ZX Spectrum game (and The Stranglers’ Aural Quest, for that matter) / Quake goes Brutalist.