It is arguably the most famous restaurant space in the Blue Mountains, and this week the Vulcan’s site at Blackheath will rise from the ashes with a former head chef from Rockpool Bar & Grill in control of its famed oven.
The site’s landlord, the legendary chef Phillip Searle, says the restaurant joined the casualty queue in 2020: “The last operator [Fumo] timed out with the deepening of the COVID crisis in about June.
“The consensus appears to be that – in any of its incarnations – it is sadly missed, part of a tradition in Blackheath of hatted go-to destination restaurants,” says Searle, who put Vulcan’s on the culinary map and pioneered wood-fire restaurant cooking in this country in the mid-’90s.
Ates, the Ottoman Turkish word for fire, is a nod to the old Vulcan’s moniker. And the restaurant’s owners have the pedigree to follow in its footsteps: Terry Tan (Vesta, Victor Cafe) and chef Will Cowan-Lunn, a graduate of the Tetsuya’s kitchen, who also steered the ship at Rockpool Bar & Grill in Melbourne.
“I’ve been lucky enough to work with some great chefs, including Phil Wood, Dan Hong and Dan Pepperell,” Cowan-Lunn says.
Cowan-Lunn admits he has big shoes to fill. With Searle’s blessing, the chef will offer “a few homages” to Vulcan’s classics. Searle’s duckling sausage with pickled beetroot has been reimagined with roasted Maremma duck, and the chef is playing around with Searle’s chequerboard ice-cream.
Cowan-Lunn will deconstruct and reboot the dessert of star anise ice-cream and pineapple granita. “It’s a work in progress at this stage, we’d like to get it on the menu down the track,” he says.
But for the most part Ates’ owners will focus on new creations, which include octopus with capers and a cabernet-sauvignon vinegar, and a yellowfin tuna dish with fermented chilli and pickled cucumber.
With a focus on Mediterranean share plates from an ironbark-fuelled oven, Ates hopes to make its own history in the Blue Mountains.
Open lunch Sat-Sun; dinner Thu-Sun.
33 Govetts Leap Road, Blackheath, atesblackheath.com