In a suburb celebrated for its Asian cuisine, chef Samuel Bull is hoping to put Ashfield on the map for Italian food with an ambitious transformation of the Ashfield Hotel's kitchen.
"We liked the idea of doing Italian in this area because there's no point trying to compete with all the good Asian food offerings on the strip," said Mr Bull, executive chef of the Nelson Meers Hotel Group. "Although there's also a large Mediterranean community here, there's not much going on in terms of good Italian food."
Pub Cucino - roughly translating to 'I cook' - quietly opened at the Ashfield Hotel on Liverpool Road two weeks ago. While some regulars are lamenting the loss of the cheap steaks the pub was known for, Mr Bull hopes the hearty Italian offerings on the new menu will eventually win them over and draw in a new crowd too.
"There's an old crowd here who loved their $15 steaks and things like that. They got a bit upset. But, otherwise, we've had some great reviews so far and there's been positive feedback to myself and the team. The pasta, especially, has been very well received."
Nelson Meers Hotel Group, which bought the Ashfield Hotel for $18.5 million in 2004, are planning to bring management of all 14 of their venues' kitchens in-house. The Ashfield Hotel - built in 1926 - is the first in the group to be transformed in this way.
Mr Bull, a Belfield local, started with the Nelson Meers Hotel Group this year but has been in the food industry since he was 16. He's previously launched kitchens at the Prince of York Hotel in Sydney's CBD and Redfern's Norfolk Hotel.
He said it's not just the menu that's changed - the hotel's dining area has also had a makeover; "We changed the smoking area into an outdoor dining area, we got new furniture in, and we lifted the Bistro area. We wanted to make the lounge and dining area more separate from the sports bar area.
"The place looks great and there are more improvements on the way - more new furniture, more branding and the outdoor heater is getting fixed up so we'll have a couple of warm months of winter out there before summer comes around."
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