When asked about our success and our road to a MICHELIN Star, I often say that even before opening our doors, we knew that we were trying to be something special, but we still started humble, and kept going with that attitude in mind.
The fact is that no restaurant can open its doors with a sprint mentality and manage to sustain that for years. It’s a step by step process, and even if the Chef’s goal is a MICHELIN star, the fact is that a new restaurant can’t justify charging certain prices and serving certain products without the restaurant having gone through an evolution, through testing times and growth periods, without hard lessons and a reputation that precedes it.
Perhaps we at NONI think this way because we’ve seen this all before, in kitchens we’ve worked in and with our respected peers in this industry. Perhaps because I personally have failed before and watched colleagues fail also, and I learnt the lesson early on, so much so that when we opened NONI I insisted with everyone that I did not want the words “fine dining” used to describe us anywhere, something which baffled our restaurant marketing agency.
By time, and after lots of work and constant improvement, we got better as a team, experimented more, honed our craft and kept learning.
That was then, this is now. Now that we have a reputation, this is not the point where we compromise. Unlucky as we may feel we are to have to live up to MICHELIN standards in the year of the pandemic, the fact is that our clients come to us for an enjoyable, excellent meal, pandemic or not, and we must deliver on that promise.
Our current menu is in fact a statement of insistence and doubling down on our core principles; excellent produce that is elevated by our cooking, not distracted or destroyed by it. The entire menu focuses mainly on the core ingredient of each dish and the creation of different textures and techniques through the whole dish.
For example, our Crab & Green Apple uses the whole of the crab; white crab meat with a little smoked haddock for added smokiness, apple gelee and raw apples, as well as a crab bisque with brown crab meat and shells.
Our Lamb & Kohlrabi focuses on those two ingredients throughout; a roasted loin of lamb alongside a Boulanger of pressed thinly sliced kohlrabi and braised lamb. Kohlrabi puree and pickled kohlrabi are then used to cut through the general richness of the dish. The Beetroot & Stratiatella – those are the only two ingredients in this plate, Stratiatella in the bottom and everything else is beetroot, apart from a little hazelnut dressing.
Noni’s signature rabbit dish does the same thing. Refined since last season, this dish serves a roasted thigh and slow cooked loin with rabbit mousse tarragon mustard. We braise cabbage and serve with lemon and thyme sauce, alongside a rabbit liver and kidney pastizz with proper pastizzi pastry.
The future must be sustainable. For me, we will achieve what I want NONI 2.0 to be the day that we manage to go from seed to serving, where every single ingredient is either grown or reared entirely by us, or one of our top local suppliers and partners.
When our ‘farm to fork, snout to tail’ philosophy, respectful of our produce, whether it’s an animal or a plant, that does not waste and uses the whole thing, and that elevates the ingredient to proudly present it to our clients is part of the process throughout our entire operation, that will likely be the happiest day of my life. Until we get there, we’ll be here working and refining.
Thank you for your constant support of our journey, and hope to see you this year.
Chef Jonathan Brincat