At the age of 24, Charlie Carrington has more notches in his belt than the average chef would dream of. His time spent travelling the world and learning from the best at places such as Vue de Monde, Marque and Firedoor has given this ambitious and talented chef wings to fly.
Combining his love for travel, international cuisine and experiences in cities such as San Paulo, London, San Francisco, Mexico City and Bangkok, comes Atlas Dining.
Charlie is enticing and exciting Melbournians with an ever-evolving showcase of top, locally sourced ingredients. The cuisine at Atlas Dining changes every four months, incorporating the flavours from the countries he has visited, Australia’s multiculturalism, all with a hint of smoke from his wood-fired oven and grill. Charlie is pushing boundaries impressing all since opening the doors of Atlas Dining in Commercial Road, South Yarra and has earned himself a Good Food Guide One Hat award.
Charlie has taken his diners on a contemporary culinary experience through Vietnam, Israel, South Korea, Mexico and, currently, Peru. Patrons are given the option of a 5 course degustation menu or a 7 course ‘Nikkei’ Japanese/Peruvian fusion experience. This is a Food Affair I needed to experience for myself.
On entering Atlas Dining, the soft tones of the timber floor and joinery, the tan leather banquettes and a gentle hint of smoke from an open fire fill me with a feeling of comfort and excitement for the experience ahead. There’s a green line tracing the circumference of the room which leads to a large compass-like fitting on the ceiling; a nod to the global journey Charlie has been on and now invites you to join.
Additional touches such as a rolled leather pouch containing the cutlery for your evening’s courses, a ‘passport’ with a handwritten menu and an extensive wine list inside the cover of an atlas bring my mind to a place of travel.
We choose the 7 course Nikkei experience, and what an experience it is. As each course comes out, all immaculately presented with perfectly placed elements on each dish, my tastebuds are tantalised.
We begin the evening with flathead ceviche served with the traditional Peruvian condiments such as salsa criolla and sweet potato blackened by the fire then sprinkled with a mix of passionfruit, basil and chia seeds. A chef emerges to pour tigre de leche, a citrus marinade with tomato water and passion fruit, over this exquisite dish, slightly cooking the fish and adding a balance of acidity.
Next brings the first of the Nikkei experience bringing forth the renowned flavours of Atlas Dining. Chilled lightly smoked trout with fermented rock melon, Atlas’s Karachi dressing flavoured with hot mustard, combu and soy, topped with a grain and seed mix of Peruvian cereals and spices commonly found in Peru that add crunch and bring the dish together. A perfect match of traditional Peruvian ingredients and preparations, with subtle touches of Japanese flavours and techniques.
The Nikkei experience continues with smoked Victorian eel, figs and tempura salt bush, finished with lime and rocoto oil that adds a hint of heat to this delicious, salty and smoky dish.
To me, Peru is ancient ruins, mountains peeking into the clouds, women in beautiful coloured clothing, and dishes where potatoes are the hero, with corn, grains and chillies. The next dish exemplifies this.
Here is the perfect representation of traditional Peruvian street food. Warm spiced potato causa, garnished with locally sourced cheese and olives, potato crisps and an ocopa peanut sauce, served with escabeche that cuts through the richness of the causa.
As the evening flows on, so does the wine to complement each dish. We select wines from small producers across the globe, which change and evolve with Atlas Dining’s menu. Meanwhile, front of house works the floor like a well-oiled engine. The service is efficient, friendly and unobtrusive.
Next, comes my favourite of the evening’s experience. Grilled locally sourced duck served with smoked beans – local purple and Lima beans – tossed in anticuchera sauce, white lima beans and smoked eggplant purée, topped with puffed rice noodles and smoked Spanish paprika. This comes together like world flavours becoming best friends.
Then the finale, dessert. Cleverly incorporating the Peruvian staple of quinoa in a chocolate ganache, with limoncello custard, grilled gooseberry and lemon sorbet with hints of burnt syrup. I spoon up every delectable drop.
As I walk out onto the street and look back into Atlas Dining, I am in awe of what Charlie Carrington is achieving here. This incredibly talented young chef will no doubt continue to amaze and impress diners at Atlas Dining and be well deserving of every accolade and award that comes his way.
The question on everyone’s lips is, ‘What will he do next?’. Regardless, I will be back.
-by Amy Wilson