After opening their Wyndham Street restaurant and with yet another new eatery, Lowbrow, added to their name(s), chefs Kyle Street and Jordan McDonald are well and truly hitting their stride in the hospitality scene. Interested to know how their practice has evolved since venturing out on their own, we sat down with Street to chew the fat, touching Auckland’s finer dining nuances and what the pair hold most important.
Where was the concept around Culprit born from and how did it evolve? We both had ambitions of opening our own restaurants. Having just travelled through the States together, we decided to pool our efforts and take the leap into business together. The restaurant’s service style ‘inspired by the ease of yum cha’ was born of a restaurant called State Bird Provisions we discovered in San Francisco on our travels.
The ‘yum cha’ concept must mean your kitchen has to operate in a unique way. How is it different from that of other restaurants? One thing we knew is that to do this concept justice we had to go all in, from ensuring there was enough room between our tables for the trolleys to elongating the makeup of the kitchen to cope with the multitude of small plates that leave the pass each night.
What was the reaction to the concept when you first opened? There was definite intrigue; we have always been convinced that this is the right way to serve our food, ensuring diners get on board and receive a large variety of different ingredients, and can see our unique dishes and preparations right in front of them opposed to ordering off a traditional menu.
Was there anything that was difficult for diners to get their heads around? We learnt a lot over the first year, gaining feedback from our customers. We tweaked and perfected our new style of service. When we started we had too many options, an entrée menu, yum cha trolleys and large mains, which may have been a little intimidating for some. Now we have consolidated and tried to make it appeal to many for any occasion. Our ethos is always to keep it simple and delicious. We also now take tables at any time from 5pm onwards, and walk-ins are more than welcome. We serve all starters from the trolleys, which contains 8-9 seasonal bites and then follow that up with mains or larger plates that are good to share or to have on your own.
Have you noticed a change in diners’ perceptions since you opened? We have noticed a great response to our new menu format this year, there has been a marked change from some that maybe haven’t gotten why we decided to serve our food this way to now overwhelming support for this style. We still find that Kiwis have a serious case of FOMO and tend to take all the courses offered, so we have reduced the number of trolley courses but change them more frequently now.
What are some of the principles that govern how and what you guys cook? We love to showcase one or two ingredients on a dish, adding other components only to bring out more of the flavour or characteristics of that ‘hero’ component. I’d say this makes our dishes bold and striking as you can see and taste that clarity on the plate.
Is there anything you’re looking to focus on at Culprit in the future? We want to keep our creative juices flowing and collaborate with more chefs from around the country and further abroad, we also want to continue to celebrate our local ingredients and seasonality by discovering new ways to serve classic ingredients.
What is your ultimate winter dish? Our roast bone marrow dish is killer for winter. We soak and then brine our marrow over three days, then roast it to order in an intensely hot oven. We serve it alongside a Gel made from a jar of McClure’s spicy dill pickles and some top quality chardonnay vinegar, mature Edam toasts and a shallot salad à la Fergus Henderson.
Click here to book a table at Culprit.
12 Wyndham St
(09) 377 5992