January 14, 2019
In this second part of our series on Cuisine Good Food Award winners, I talk with Tom and Kate Hutchison from Capitol Dining Room & Bar for a wide-ranging conversation set against the backdrop of a buzzing restaurant preparing for mid-week lunch service.
Starting at the start, what does the Cuisine Good Food Award mean to you?
Tom: to gain recognition is fantastic and its lovely for the team to have achieved this. We stick to what we love, and what we do is our passion: good food and good service in a good environment.
We’re lucky in that we love what we do.
Our motivation comes from what the business will provide each day; who will walk in to our restaurant, who will be thrilled to see we’ve got porcini mushrooms, or Scott’s venison on hand, or that we’ve got a different oyster supplier or are early with the scallops or asparagus.
Kate: what’s created is very much led by produce and Tom’s creative drive; his desire to forage, or he may choose to cook only with wood this week, or perhaps fermentation.
How has your food stood the test of time and evolved?
Tom: the restaurant has evolved over time and the food has become slightly more complicated as chefs are often very driven to get better and better.
We went through a phase of being put in the fine dining bracket, but that's not our pricing. We’re a slightly faster bistro than fine dining restaurant.
Kate: also, ideologically the current food trends of deconstruction and decorative food can be wasteful. More and more visually aesthetic food doesn’t necessarily taste better, it’s often more about plate art than about nourishment and good energy.
There is an energy transfer that comes from the person who has given themselves to creating it. That’s what’s going on the plate, the good intentions, care, integrity and passion.
There’s a vibrancy to food. We’re into generosity and integrity in what we do.
Tom: and it’s the full cycle. If my kitchen hand is unhappy and snaps at the front of house staff, the front of house staff won’t have a positive connection with the diner and mistakes can be made.
Everyone must be in harmony and it’s what we work hard to achieve here at Capitol.
How would you describe your food?
Tom: it’s hard to put a label on it ..
Kate: Tom is a perfectionist, his food is layered and subtle, paired back and honest, he lets what nature has created show through to its very best by taking good produce and only minimally enhancing it.
Tom: my food can be considered simple. I like to see the product when it comes in. One of my favourite ways to eat when I cook for myself is directly out of the pan. And that’s what I try and create for the customer – it’s just been cooked and now you’re just eating it.
As with the garnishes, we’ll mandolin cabbage and fennel for slaw by hand to order so the live vegetable has been cut within seven minutes of getting to the customer.
Kate: it’s food that is bursting with life.
What’s on the menu at Capitol now?
Tom: John Dory season is always exciting and provides me with livers which allows me to make fish liver pate. And spring/summer is veal time which is also great.
How far ahead do you plan?
Tom: 18 years! We’ve built this restaurant with the intention of keeping it, that’s the way we look at everything we do. We’ve got to have longevity for the people who work here and for ourselves.
Kate: restaurants come and go. To keep a restaurant functioning at a high level for a long period of time requires sustained attention.
Tom: and innovation and dedication.
Kate: we’re constantly micro reinventing so that people feel comfortable and safe coming here but can also try new things.
For us work life balance and raising a happy family has been really important, I was 7 months pregnant when opening this restaurant. We strive for balance and feel proud of this.
Tom: we have this recognition because we’ve been doing what we do really well.
Kate: we spend so much time trying to make people feel special. There’s is so much to give in this industry.
Tom: they’re walking into our dining room so we welcome them as if they’re guests in our home.
Capitol Restaurant is a bustling bistro in Mt Victoria serving tasty fare with a strong focus on seafood and seasonal, local ingredients. For bookings and enquiries click here.
- 2018 – One Hat Cuisine Good Food Awards
- 2018 – Cuisine Top 100 restaurants
- 2018 – Felix Awards Gilmours Central Outstanding Chef of the Year - Tom Hutchison
- 2010 – 2017 – Finalists Cuisine Good Food Guide