Why buy it?
In 2006, two rockabilly chefs traded in their fine-dining toques for a restaurant they could call their own. They wanted a place where they’d like to go, with music they’d want to listen to and food they’d want to eat. They found a site in Surry Hills, created a Latin American-inspired menu, and called it Bodega. Elvis Abrahanowicz and Ben Milgate were sceptical whether people would come, but when the doors opened and the crowds poured in, they realised they weren’t the only Sydneysiders who preferred cool vibes over stiff tablecloths. Bodega is still going strong.
Four years later, they opened another joint inspired by the food they enjoyed – Argentinean Sunday barbecue cooked traditionally over flames by Elvis’ dad. They named it Porteno, opened an adjoining bar upstairs called Gardel’s, and hoped people would like this one too. They did.
Recipes for a Good Time, the duo’s first cookbook, captures the stories, host of characters (including most of their combined families) and coveted food behind two of Australia’s most popular restaurants. Driving the book’s look and feel is the pair’s inimitable rock ’n’ roll style, with stylised photos by Anson Smart, quirky intros by food writer-friend Myffy Rigby and ’50s-style graphic illustrations, plus recipes for how the pair eats when they’re off duty – usually, a picnic in rockabilly regalia with mustangs in tow.
The many fans of Bodega, Porteno and the boys will love this book, but so too will people new to their work. There is heart and soul in what they do, and the same is true of Recipes for a Good Time.
Recipes range from complex, multi-part restaurant recipes, to picnic fare, barbecuing and guides to curing meats and making cheese, so there’s really something for everyone. Chapters are divided accordingly, with Bodega, The Perfect Picnic, Handmade, Cooking with Fire, Porteno and Gardel’s Bar, making it easy to find the kind of food you’re looking for.
Groupies will go for restaurant signatures, including Bodega’s Banana Split with leche flan, banana marshmallow and dulce de leche ice-cream, and Portenos’ Brussels Sprouts, deep-fried with lentils, mint and vincotto. Newbies should try these too – they merit the fanfare.
Most surprising dish
Pineapple Princess, a classic ’50s party dish – essentially, smallgoods on skewers stabbed into a whole pineapple. It looks retro (read naff), but that’s kind of the point, and the boys swear by it.
Introducing their Cooking With Fire chapter, Elvis and Ben write:“Even for experienced chefs, cooking with fire is like starting from the beginning. It’s intuitive, physical and you’ve got to pay attention… We don’t use any marinades or mask the flavour of the meat in any way. The only other ingredients are time and patience.”
Restaurant fans, ’50s style aficionados, Sydney food goers, curers and picklers, barbecue fanatics, coffee table book collectors and fun food lovers.
Recipes for a Good Time, Elvis Abrahanowicz and Ben Milgate (Murdoch Books, $59.99, hbk)