First look – the Hellenika crew unveils SK Steak & Oyster at The Calile
In a year jam-packed with heralded restaurant openings, Ada Lane might end 2019 as one of the biggest success stories. The micro-precinct situated adjacent to The Calile in Fortitude Valley has become home to some landmark dining destinations in recent months, and it’s set to welcome one final resident just before Christmas. Owned and operated by the Hellenika crew, SK Steak & Oyster is extending the group’s top-flight service to its second concept at The Calile in as many years. Set to open on Wednesday December 18, SK Steak & Oyster is bringing a timeless bar-and-grill experience to The Calile, boasting an inviting Palm Springs-inspired aesthetic, exceptional service, bottles of crisp champagne, succulent seafood and some of the best prime cuts you’re likely to taste in Brisbane.
It’s safe to say that 2019 has been a big year for Simon Gloftis. After capping off 2018 with the high-profile opening of the Brisbane iteration of his lauded culinary concept Hellenika, 2019 has been all about redirection. In July, Simon announced his departure from fine-diner Nineteen at The Star, following up a few months later with the sale and closure of Hellenika’s popular Nobby Beach location in November. Although these decisions took many by surprise, there was sound reasoning behind the pivots. Simon and his team have been making sizeable inroads into Brisbane’s dining scene, an undertaking that naturally requires Simon’s undivided attention. While Hellenika at The Calile continues to reign as one of Brisbane’s best dining destinations, Simon’s newest venture at the buzzing hotel is angling to make it two-for-two. SK Steak & Oyster is the name of Simon’s second concept at The Calile, which is set to officially open at the Wandoo Street-end of the hotel on Wednesday December 18. The initial idea for SK Steak & Oyster – an interpretation of the classic upmarket bar and grill – has been rattling around in Simon’s brain long before Hellenika took the coast by storm. When the idea first sprung in 2010, neither the scene nor the timing felt right, and it wasn’t until Simon fostered a working relationship with the Malouf family (the figures behind The Calile) that his long-held idea started to gain legs. Early in the piece, the Maloufs offered Simon the Wandoo Street space for Hellenika, but eventually both parties agreed that the poolside space was a better fit. In July this year, the two sides revisited the space and Simon sold them on the idea of installing a timeless bar and grill inspired by mid-century Palm Springs. It would be the kind of place one would expect to see Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack late at night – crammed into a booth, ties undone and cocktails in hand – but without the stiff tuxedos and pretension. Heartened by Hellenika’s success, and with a strong working relationship in place, Simon, SK’s co-owners Theo Kampolis and Kelvin Andrews, and the Maloufs shook hands and SK Steak & Oyster got underway.
Renowned architectural practice Richards and Spence was recruited to help actualise Simon’s vision for SK Steak & Oyster’s build. The breezy southern-California vibe meshed well with The Calile’s established subtropical aesthetic, though the architects were careful to imbue the restaurant with its own identity. The design team eschewed the trappings of typical American grills and steakhouses (mood lighting, red leather, dark wood) in favour of classic, clean and neutral tones that highlight the venue’s structural concrete cornerstones – pale timber, grey stone and brass form the core palette. When guests enter via Ada Lane, they will be greeted by the curved bar and cylindrical glass-encased liquor display, which will be used alongside a nearby nook as a holding area for walk-ins as well as more informal counter dining (three booths are reserved for walk-ins). Beyond the bar, the main dining floor sits beneath SK’s high ceilings, with ample natural light filtering through wall-to-wall windows. Comfortable cushioned booths line the windowed wall, facing inwards to help keep the energy centralised. A baby grand piano that belongs to Simon’s family is positioned at the heart of the venue, where gifted pianists will tickle the ivories from time to time. Located above the hubbub is a Juliet balcony, where DJs will perch and keep the vibe upbeat. Situated at the far end of the space is SK’s open-plan kitchen (which comes equipped with a sizeable grill and oyster shucking station) and SK’s meat fridge – chock full of primo cuts of all sizes.
The food and drink
SK Steak & Oyster’s kitchen team, headed by co-owner Kelvin Andrews (formerly of Nineteen at The Star) is a cadre of chefs plucked from Simon’s various venues. Many of those working the kitchen have been with Simon for years, establishing a singular focus and shared ethic for excellence. SK’s menu is built around its two foundational pillars of beef and seafood, with much of the product gracing the grill. Two kinds of wood are utilised – ironbark for the heat and applewood for the flavour. SK uses Stockyard Beef as its exclusive grain-fed beef supplier, negotiating a deal to keep price points reasonable. SK’s sustainable and ethically sourced steak selection includes various top cuts, from eye fillets, prime ribs and chateaubriand to Kiwami sirloin with a marble score of nine-plus, and a one-kilo sirloin on the bone, dry-aged for 35 days. The rest of the menu encompasses the likes of freshly shucked oysters, seafood cocktails, wagyu-beef ragu, SK’s signature wedge salad, wagyu steak burgers, pan-fried flounder fillets, grilled lobster and Mareema free-range duck. Carb lovers will be drawn immediately to SK’s potato menu, which boasts a selection of nine potato-based dishes including classic mash, jacket potato, potato fondant with crab, roasted bug tail and trout caviar, and Moreton Bay bug mash. The drinks selection has been curated by the group’s beverage director Alexandra McPherson, who has assembled a stellar list of drinks that aim to bring romance and pleasure back into dining out. A champagne-heavy wine list is the standout, featuring drops from well-regarded and up-and-coming producers, while the cocktail list boasts sophisticated sips – martinis are a specialty!
SK Steak & Oyster opens to the public on Wednesday December 18. For opening hours and booking details, click over to the Stumble Guide.
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