‘Fast-fine’ dining trend hits CBD

Lyndall Wakeford and Jenny Ward at Chefs.

A new restaurant that has no waitrons, only gives you a very limited selection of meals to choose from – and eliminates the need to add a tip to your bill – has opened in the city.

Introducing the “fast-fine” trend, Chefs in St John’s Street, aims to make fine dining a not-so complicated experience by taking away waitrons, tipping and complicated menus – and diners are left with an option of three meals, brought to you by the chef to have either quickly on a lunch break, or as a relaxed dinner.

On arrival at the front desk, you are greeted by the professional chef on duty and you make your meal and drink selection on an iPad – there are only three meals a day: a light meal, a meal containing fish or meat and a vegetarian meal and one dessert. You then pay, choose a table and wait for your meal to arrive, which takes a maximum of 10 minutes although in my experience, it couldn’t have been more than five.

The meals rotate every day, and guests are welcome to watch head chef Jenny Ward prepare the meals, or even take a look in the kitchen – it’s all open plan.

“Basically, we want to strip away the barrier between chef and customer, so the concept is like eating in my kitchen. There’s no barrier. People are free to come and talk to me, some people even come into the kitchen, so it’s about having that connection going,” said Ms Ward.

Asked about the menu, Ms Ward said: “I decide what goes onto the menu by mainly looking at the weather. It’s such a small menu, so I can’t get it wrong.

“If it’s cold outside, it eliminates a few dishes for us. Then I look at what’s available at suppliers, then we go from there. It also depends on the food. Some things take two days to marinate and some we can do overnight. I always try to mix it up, like chicken once a week or lamb of some sort, or duck. I don’t want to do chicken every Tuesday or something (like that).”

She said their aim was to create a sustainable, local and fresh menu.

“We don’t need to worry about how long something was sitting in a restaurant before it was used – tomorrow is probably a different menu so we start all over again.”

And while Ms Ward believes waitrons play a vital role in fine dining, she says at her restaurant “the chefs are here and they are your waitrons”.

“You can still ask anything you want, and we are still attentive.”

She said the thinking behind it was to increase interaction between the chef and the customer. “It’s always better to interact with the person that makes your food. If you were to ask about the food, the chef would know exactly what to answer”.

We’ve also eliminated the tipping, and we are interested to get the feedback from customers about the food instead of hearing it from the waitron, or having people come and watch you cook in the kitchen.”