Accomplished chef Ashley Hughes has worked alongside culinary superstars Jamie Oliver and Marco Pierre White, but as the newly appointed head chef at Sydney’s iconic 360 Bar and Dining he says when it comes to good food, simplicity is always best.
By Lauren Arena
At 305 metres above sea level, the revolving restaurant at Sydney’s tallest fine dining venue allows patrons the chance to appreciate just how expansive the city is, with panoramic views stretching from the Sydney Harbour Bridge, across surrounding suburbs, as far as the Blue Mountains.
I sit back with a sense of absolute serenity, gazing out across the motley coloured cityscape, when a tray of oysters is set down in front of me. Topped with champagne jelly and beads of salmon roe, the plate glistens in the sunlight that’s streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows – yep, it doesn’t get any better than this.
And for chef Ashley Hughes, who joined the Trippas White Group at Sydney Tower in May, this is just another day at the office.
For more than 10 years Hughes, along with his sister Tracey, was at the helm of renowned Italian restaurant Alio, in the inner city Sydney suburb of Redfern, and says after running his own successful business he was after a new challenge.
“I wanted to push myself… It’s been a long time since I’ve worked in a restaurant that’s done these kinds of covers and the sheer volume brings with it a completely different mindset and organisational skills.”
Hughes’ seasonal menu is modern Australian with a distinct Italian edge and focus on fresh flavours.
Alongside an expansive wine list, standout dishes include roasted duck breast with heirloom carrots and a carrot puree that’s velvety and sweet, and a spinach and ricotta rotolo with porcini mushrooms and sage and chestnut butter – Hughes’ personal favourite due to its sheer simplicity.
“I don’t like to over complicate food and prefer to let the produce tell the story,” he says.
“The menu is seasonal and therefore always evolving, and while we often introduce new flavours, the underlining simplicity remains.”
Hughes, who worked with the likes of Jamie Oliver and Ben O’Donoghue at the famed River Café in West London, says his food philosophy is greatly influenced by the café’s co-owner and chef, the late Rose Gray.
“Rose changed the way I thought about food and taught me to respect the produce and the people behind it. Her food philosophy starts from when, where and how the food is grown and extends right up to how you cook it and how you treat the kitchen as a whole.”
When it comes to corporate events, Hughes enjoys creating bespoke menus and interactive workshops. At Sydney Tower’s dedicated events space, Sky Venue, Hughes recently held a cooking demonstration where guests were taught the art of pasta making and sampled his signature rotolo dish.
As well as cooking demonstrations, Hughes and the team at Sydney Tower are hosting a series of Wine Club events, where winemakers from across the nation showcase their many red and white varieties alongside a specially prepared menu. These events can be booked exclusively for corporate groups. m