The Sugar Club and Peter's vattalapam
Peter Gordon’s new restaurant, The Sugar Club, opened this weekend on Level 53 of the Sky Tower.
Peter’s menu features highly popular dishes from the previous Sugar Clubs, along with favourites from dine and some fresh new creations.
Peter was hired as head chef (as a mere 23-year-old) for the first Sugar Club in Wellington, by owners Ashley Sumner and Vivian Hayman.
He then joined Ashley and Vivian when they opened the second Sugar Club in London’s Notting Hill in 1995 and a third in West Soho.
This fourth incarnation with SkyCity features luxurious Milanese-inspired décor – polished brass, bespoke chandeliers, stone dining tables with staff dressed by Crane Brothers. We asked him a few questions:
When you started cooking for the Sugar Club in Wellington in 1986, then in the 90s in London, your food had to be given a new name, “fusion”. What do you think has endured in your—and our — food tastes in the past 20 to 30 years?
Fusion was a term I coined in the All Saint’s Road Sugar Club (Notting Hill). I’d read the term used to describe Norman Van Aiken, a chef in the US and thought it was apt. What appeals to the customer, I think, is the non-restrictive playfulness of my food. Although it would be true to say that many chefs are now doing that, using a mixture of European and Asian ingredients. I still love discovering a new taste or ingredient and I think many people do too.
Do we still call it “fusion”, even?
I tried to rename it (I listened too many times to it being described as ConFusion) but failed to come up with a better word — so I now have relaxed into fusion and think it’s great.
What are your favourite dishes that you still send out?
I have components I use and move around: nam phrik num dressing (spicy mango, coriander and ginger), sweet nori sauce, tapioca in various guises, avocado mango sorbet and laksa in a variety of forms. And I haven’t really had to re-work them for today, I think they stand the test of time.
And can you tell us about one of your favourite dishes, the vattalapam, that will be appearing at the Sugar Club?
I first cooked vattalapam in Melbourne when I was a young chef, after reading the recipe somewhere. It is wonderful — like a dairy-free cashew nut creme caramel.
I’ll be serving it with mango sorbet and coconut praline so it’s a little bit more fancy than you might taste on the streets of Sri Lanka.
Can you talk about the wider availability of ingredients, now? For example, in the original Sugar Club cookbook you substitute golden syrup for palm sugar because back then it was hard to find. Now, of course, it’s pretty much available everywhere.
We are lucky because the variety of ingredients available for both the home cook and restaurant chef are just getting more and more easy to find. This is either through more importation of food, or local producers growing produce, curing meat, breeding animals and generally seeing if things can be produced here in New Zealand. For me, and my style of cooking, I am thrilled.
For Sugar Club bookings phone 09 363 6000