Pull quote: ‘We find it more interesting to make it ourselves.’
The culture of pub food has undergone a serious metamorphosis in the last decade. In a suburb like Surry Hills, it’s impossible for pubs to ignore the changing tides of cuisine, particularly towards sustainability, carbon footprint reduction and focus on top quality produce.
Headlining one such pub transformation is The Clock’s Luke McEnallay, who has been head of the kitchen since January 2020. Previously, Luke was head chef at the Marly in Newtown and Edinburgh Castle on Pitt Street, both venues within the Solotel family.
McEnallay moved to Sydney from his hometown Newcastle at sixteen, after a long-time obsession with SBS show Iron Chef pushed him to get an apprenticeship in a kitchen.
Fifteen years later, McEnallay has accrued an impressive string of gigs and brings his work ethos of creativity, thinking innovatively and maintaining a work life balance to The Clock.
“I’ve worked in fine dining and pub kitchens. Sometimes fine dining can be too encompassing to your whole life. I find you get to have a lot more fun with food in a more relaxed environment,” says Luke.
“You can have a passion for food without being so crazily detail oriented.”
Taking cues from his favourite restaurant, Stanbuli in Enmore, Luke’s new menu is packed full of vegetables, Mediterranean inspired share plates and a focus on seasonal produce.
“Our kitchen isn’t huge but we’re really busy, so we’ve got to keep it quite simple. We wanted to lighten the food up a bit and get a lot more colour on the plate,” says Luke.
“I’ve become a lot more vegetable focused the last few years. The Marly was a mostly vegan menu, which really changed my thinking on how to put food together. You can’t just rely on a piece of meat; you have to get creative with how you use vegetables and flavour.”
The Clock kitchen now produces its own ricotta, pickled vegetables and mustards. The pickled vegetables change according to what’s seasonal and what specials the producers are offering.
“I think pubs are a lot more willing to go all in and take risks with food, to lead a venue with food. The food is what’s going to bring people in day to day, because you can get a beer almost anywhere.”
When lockdown happened last year, Luke moved back home to Newcastle and focused on gardening, making ceramics in his Mum’s studio and cooking for his family.
“In Sydney I’ve got a garden now and I cook much more for myself. On my nights off I make a conscious effort to cook. It helps my work because when you take time off you come in more refreshed.
“I try things out at home that I wouldn’t at work because I’m just cooking for myself. You’re not worrying about the costs. You can just experiment a bit.”
Luke recommends the falafel pita, made by local inner west supplier Kade, as well as the house made ricotta with pickled vegetables. Pop in for lunch or dinner and sample the new menu for yourself.
470 Crown Street