Sunday, April 14, 2024

Chef Matt Moran reveals plans for two side-by-side steak and sandwich eateries

Compa (Italian slang for friend), a 116-seat Italian steakhouse, will launch next door to &Sando, a bite-sized venue that will squeeze 18 eat-in sanger fans.

Scott Bolles

Chef Matt Moran has joined the wagon of seasoned food operators staking a claim in Canberra. In mid-April, the restaurateur, farmer and food broadcaster will open a restaurant – with a sibling sandwich bar next door – in the nation’s capital.

Compa (Italian slang for a friend), a 116-seat Italian steakhouse, will launch side-by-side with &Sando, a bite-sized venue that will squeeze 18 eat-in sandwich-snacking customers. The venues are headed into the Canberra Centre site of L’Americano eatery, which closes in mid-March.

Moran says Compa won’t be limited to but will include single cuts of steak such as bistecca alla fiorentina. Sides will be Italian, and produce from Moran Family Farm will be included on the menu. “There’s a pizza oven in there we might end up using,” he says.

Canberra “feels really busy, it’s really ripe”, Moran says.
Canberra “feels really busy, it’s really ripe”, Moran says.Trent van der Jagt

Moran joins a growing posse of restaurant professionals keen to tap the market. Why is the nation’s capital suddenly attracting these experienced outsiders? “It feels really busy, it’s really ripe,” Moran says.

Australian chef Shaun Quade, who picked up two chefs’ hats at Lume in Melbourne, then packed up four years ago for California, also felt the pull of Canberra when deciding to return home. In March, he’ll open Rosa’s, a garden bar, followed by Ballyhoo restaurant in April, as part of his role as group culinary executive at The Lawns of the Lobby, near Old Parliament House.

Quade predicts enormous growth in the local hospitality industry due to its proximity to high-quality produce and winemakers, as well as educated and curious diners. With many Sydney restaurants feeling the pinch of oversupply and interest rate hikes, Canberra’s economy and government sector job market offer a stable hospitality market.

Veteran Sydney restaurateur Manny Spinola (Lola’s Italian, Bondi and Manon Brasserie at the QVB) was early to the Canberra push, opening Walter Cafe and The Marion on the edge of Lake Burley Griffin in 2022. Several large Sydney hospitality groups are believed to be close to joining the action.

Moran, who has lost exact count of the number of venues he’s opened but puts the figure around 13 or 14, has partnered on Compa and &Sando with Sydney hospitality outfit Fresh Collective (MOD. Dining by Clayton Wells is part of its stable). Attracted by the buoyancy and potential of the Canberra dining scene, they were careful not to rush in too quickly.

“We looked around and thought about what was needed and the best concepts we can take there,” Moran says. Steak and sandwiches is usually a pretty good bet.

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Scott BollesScott Bolles writes the weekly Short Black column in Good Food.

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