Sean of the Grill

With a mantra of simple and fun dining using top local produce, Sean Connolly has created a restaurant for everybody with the latest addition to Adelaide’s resurgent dining scene, Sean’s Kitchen.

Situated in the Casino’s old North restaurant, Sean’s Kitchen is a New York-style brasserie where you can order anything from a $20 burger to salads and slaws to high-end dishes such as lobster and caviar ($400 for 50 grams of Oscietra caviar, if you don’t mind). “There’s supposed to be something on the menu for everyone,” Connolly says. “I hope you wouldn’t walk out and go, ‘I couldn’t find anything on the menu’. There are 40 items on there.” The host of TV shows Under the Grill and My Family Feast, Connolly, who owns restaurants in Sydney (The Morrison and The Grill) and Auckland (The Grill), has been planning his Adelaide venture for three years. The location(Station Road near North Terrace) was always the ex-Englishman’s prime choice for his first Adelaide restaurant. “They showed me a couple of sites within the Casino. I fell in love with North, it’s such a beautiful space,” he says. The stunning vintage train station look of Sean’s Kitchen fit-out perfectly matches the New York-inspired brasserie food. “It’s quite easy to make a posh steakhouse or a posh restaurant but that’s not what this restaurant is about,” Connolly says. “It’s just about going somewhere fun to get drinks, cocktails and to pick up a snack – it might be a lobster roll, a burger, spaghetti, steak or a piece of fish. You can have three courses or you can have one. There’s no pressure. We’re not stressed about it. It’s not like an upsell thing – you come, you hang, you drink and you eat.” The menu celebrates South Australia’s best producers as Richard Gunner, San Jose and Saskia Beer are all named on the menu for their small goods and pork. But one aspect of Sean’s Kitchen that will make it stand out is its focus on seafood. Despite being close to some of the greatest fish and oysters in the country, Adelaide lacks a destination seafood restaurant. Sean’s Kitchen arrests this with its seafood platter, freshly shucked oysters as well as lobster, prawns and sashimi. “When I built this restaurant I thought, ‘What’s New York all about?’ When you got to New York, what are the things people like the most? It’s lobster, shrimp, oysters and crabs – they’re the main drivers. We’ve got all those on the menu. “The oysters here are off the hook, they’re amazing, you’ve got Brendan Guidera’s Pristine Oysters and Zac’s Angel Oysters from Smoky Bay. They are two of the best oyster producers in the country. Very lucky to have them both here; they’re just super special. People are saying to me that this is the freshest seafood they’ve ever tasted. We’re just really passionate. Everything that’s not fresh, we move it out. Everything’s fresh – every day.” Connolly first experienced Adelaide when the chef drove through Adelaide 20 years ago after exploring the state’s dry centre. “We just had a crappy old van,” Connolly says. “It burnt up so much oil. We were buying Black & Gold oil from Coles or Woolies or something and burning five litres a day. It burnt more oil than petrol. Insane. We limped into Adelaide, and we went to the Central Market and bought beautiful cauliflower and amazing cheese. I don’t know why we made cauliflower cheese, we weren’t vegetarians or anything. We just sat at the back of our campervan and boiled the cauliflower, made the sauce, just melted it on the grill, and it was the best cauliflower cheese we’d ever eaten. The most inspirational thing was the beauty of the market. There’s not many places left in this country that have amazing fruit, veg and meat. That’s a special market there.” Sean’s Kitchen arrives in Adelaide just as the local food resurgence is about to kick into another gear with the opening of Duncan Welgemoed’s Africola and Fino’s second restaurant in Seppeltsfield. These places will join Magill Estate, Jock Zonfrillo’s acclaimed Orana, the nose-to-tail philosophy of Daniel O’Connell, as well as the crop of eateries and bars that have emerged from the laneway revolution. Connolly says there are some really good chefs here and his biggest concern is to meet the public’s standards, as he hopes they will get his simplicity. “There are some fantastic cooks like Jock [Zonfrillo] and Duncan [Welgemoed]; I don’t know a lot of them, but I’ve got to be equally as good as those guys. That’s the most nerve-wracking thing – the quality of the cooks down here and the quality of the restaurants. The whole restaurant scene is really vibrant – people really know their onions down here. “The precinct is kicking off. Jamie’s has come; Peel St and Clever Little Tailor are kicking off. It’s good for the city; it’s good for everyone. It’s nice to be the first cab off the rank in the casino. Nick Watt opens his restaurant in a couple of months. It’s all about bringing people down to this side of town.”

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