Chef Josh Gray gives a glimpse into the experience at his new fine-diner, Any Dining.
Any Dining opened in mid-January in Perth’s CBD with an experience centered around a “chef’s table” concept delivered from an open kitchen, along with another offering in the dining room that’s more casual and shareable. Headed by chef Josh Gray, who brings a wealth of experience from time at Tiny’s, Rockpool and Print Hall, it’s his vision of an interactive dining experience, driven by produce and refined flavours. We spoke to Gray to find out more about what he’s bringing to the table at Any.
What is Any Dining all about?
ANY is about serving food that intrigues, yet still feels familiar, within an interactive dining experience centered around a fully open galley kitchen. There’s no set time frame for menu changes, dishes will change periodically and regularly, dependent on seasons and new ideas.
The dining room offers two experiences: à la carte and the chef’s table. Tell us more about the chef’s table.
The intimate chef’s pass is definitely the main feature of the venue, and it’s an idea that’s been on my mind for the last decade or so – to create a space where diners can see the inner workings of service, have conversations with the chefs and ask us any questions. I was also able to provide some input into some of the design, allowing for a spacious, streamlined kitchen.
How would you describe the approach you’ve taken with the food?
Refined casual. I want to present refined food in a casual setting where people feel welcomed and comfortable, while still experiencing a good level of food and drink. My cooking style is essentially a compilation of my 15 years of experience in the industry. It draws from the flavours of my childhood and travels, and is inspired by working with quality produce.
Is there any one dish that best represents the concept?
Barbecued pork neck marinated in annatto and umeboshi. It’s a play on char siu pork that’s paired with pickled baby onions, watercress verde, pork sauce and seeded mustard. I love char siu pork – we’ve taken this classic dish and elevated it, pairing it with complementary flavours like pickles and seeded mustard, giving it smokiness from the charcoal it’s cooked over, sweetness from the marinade. And we also make the salsa verde using all the stems from watercress and garnishing it with watercress leaves. It reflects what we try to do when we approach a dish: experimenting with fermentation, different cooking techniques, and using every part of an ingredient.
Produce drives the menu, what’s been your favourite ingredient to work?
Anything from the sea. I work closely with Endeavour Foods, which allows me to work with great local seafood. We currently have Shark Bay blue swimmer crab on the chef’s pass, which we dress in jalapeño and lemon verbena oil. That sits on top of a burnt corn custard, and is served with wild rice.
Is there an unusual flavour pairing on the menu that you’ve discovered really works?
The pea dish on the chef’s pass gets dressed in lemon, mascarpone and river mint oil and is served with a broth made from seaweed. The seaweed is placed in a bacon-spiced brine to replicate pork, making the dish somewhat reminiscent of pea and ham soup.
What’s on the menu for people who don’t eat animals?
I love cooking with vegetables and substituting them for protein where I can and thinking of ways that I can elevate the dish. A current example is my golden beetroot dish on the à la carte menu where the beetroot is barbecued for an hour and is served with sheep’s milk yoghurt, a homemade lemon kosho, and dressed with fresh Granny Smith apple and Geraldton wax.
And if I’d like something sweet to finish?
There’s two desserts on the menu at the moment, and I can’t favour one over the other. The first is a yuzu cheesecake with chamomile ice-cream, cashew praline and burnt carrot cake. And the second is a white chocolate and wattleseed Swiss roll with roasted macadamia sorbet, peach, buttermilk, and a ginger crumb. They both provide a sense of familiarity that I love and take you back to childhood memories, like going to the bakery after school or savouring mum’s lemon cheesecake.
What to drink?
Leory Rawlins is behind the bar, and with the cocktail menu there are certain cocktails that have a lighter approach so we can pair them with the food. There’s also quite a lot of things you’ll see on the menu which are on the cocktail list as well, but with a different preparation. Personally, I really love the Rhubarb Negroni. The rhubarb freshens it up and makes it a bit lighter. I love rhubarb in anything, can’t go wrong.
Finally, what experience do you want diners to take away from ANY Dining?
I want diners to have a good offering of food and drinks in a small and intimate restaurant, surrounded by good company, and to be able to walk away with a memorable experience in these uncertain times. The chef’s table is designed to be an interactive experience between us (the chefs) and the guests. Feel free to ask questions, have a chat and experience a service with mediocre humour that may be heard between chefs in the kitchen, which I do apologise for. We’re working on that.