Brainchild of Head Chef Hayden McMillan who crossed the ditch from Auckland and joined forces with Sydney restaurateur, Darran Smith, The Roving Marrow offers fine dining yum cha and promises something just that little bit different. Hayden explains the concept and talks to us about his passion for cooking.
Perhaps we could start with a bit more of an explanation of what fine dining yum cha might look like.
The European yum cha style has basically the same aspects of Chinese yum cha. The trolley and the tray are a large part of that style of service and that’s what we’re going to do. So, picture the trolley and the tray and then put modern Australian food onto it.
I come from a fine dining background and I wanted to do something that was a lot more fun with a bigger scope to be ore creative instead of just within the realm of a la carte or degustation menus. That has got a little too generic for me. Everyone is doing that. I just wanted to do something original. So the idea is that, say you come in for dinner with your partner or with some girlfriends, within 5 minutes of sitting down, the trolley will come right next to you and will be like the snack trolley. It’s like when you go to a dinner party and there are pre-dinner nibbles. So on that trolley you could have freshly shucked oysters with different condiments for $3 and there could be dehydrated kale or crispy nori with a little bowl of cultured cream, almost like a chip and dip type of thing. That kind of stuff is around $5 or $6. So then before you know it, you’ve got maybe 3 oysters, a little bowl of pickled and fermented seasonal vegetables, something cleansing and refreshing to start the meal. There’s a lot of interaction and you’re ordering with your eyes, so the challenge for me is to make everything visually appealing but also super tasty.
The next part of the menu will be about small plates and they’ll go round on the tray. They are more like tapas; smoked duck carpaccio with roasted hazelnuts and a beurre noisette or a lamb lollipop; slow roasted lamb rack with a leek ash in a little puddle of goat’s cheese cream.
Ideally, diners won’t even look at a menu until they are ready to order a main off the à la carte menu.
How did you get into cooking?
I’ve been in cooking for 12 years. I always wanted to be a pilot, but I’m too tall. (6’5”) I realised that cooking can be a super exciting career. It’s not just cooking, there’s art and expression in it. You can be quite vocal in cooking.
Where have you worked before?
I’ve worked in Auckland; Merediths, The French Café, Huka Lodge, TriBeCa and then I opened a New Zealand inspired restaurant for The America’s Cup in San Francisco. We did that for nine months. It was awesome. When we got back from San Francisco, we decided we wanted to be part of an amazing dining scene again. After being overseas, New Zealand felt small.
How did you connect with Darran Smith?
One of my good mates is Morgan McGlone, another kiwi, who has Belle’s Hot Chicken and Morgan is best friends with Darran. Darran was restaurant manger in Flinders Inn, in Sydney, which was Morgan’s restaurant. When I told Morgan I was moving over, he put me in touch with Darran.
How are you finding the food scene in Melbourne?
It’s hard in New Zealand to be super successful because the dining culture is so different. Here there are 4 million people and it’s in the culture to eat out a lot more. And the produce over here, especially the fruit and vege, is amazing. But the seafood back home is better. New Zealand has world-class fish.
Have you discovered any favourite places in Melbourne in the last 3 months?
I did a ‘stage’ at Brae. Dan Hunter’s food is amazing. I recommend that any young chef who wants to be good needs to go and work for him. And I love Attica. Ben’s a kiwi chef doing amazing things. It’s a bigger pool here, I’m going to learn a lot.
418 Lygon Street, Carlton
Dinner Wed – Sat, Lunch Fri – Sun