23/11/2004 - 21:00

Turning up the heat at Aurora

23/11/2004 - 21:00

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When Gusto heard of a particular fire-fighting tale involving the head chef at newly-opened Aurora Restaurant and Denmark’s Prince Frederick and Princess Mary it seemed only fair to share it; after all, who hasn’t been captivated by the recent royal roman

Turning up the heat at Aurora

When Gusto heard of a particular fire-fighting tale involving the head chef at newly-opened Aurora Restaurant and Denmark’s Prince Frederick and Princess Mary it seemed only fair to share it; after all, who hasn’t been captivated by the recent royal romance.

But this gastronomic piece also has relevance for those not caught up in the fairytale and associated ‘Mary mania’.

It’s about fine food’s newest entrant, Aurora, and Alan Groom, the man who has devised a menu aimed at putting this restaurant on the map for its quality food – from classic old-time recipes to the latest in gastronomic fare.

Aurora was formerly Piccolo Mondo, which adjoins Gala Restaurant on Kearns Street in Ardross, but a few months back it was renovated by new owners Ann Sumich (sister to former West Coast Eagles football star, Peter) and her partner, Scott Bowman.

They’ve secured the services of Mr Groom, who has spent 25 years working in top establishments throughout Canada (including a stint as the executive chef at Vancouver’s Wedgewood Hotel), and headed to Western Australia a few years ago to take up the head chef’s posting at El Questro Homestead. 

And this is where the prince and princess part comes in.

While working at the luxury homestead Mr Groom and his wife, Lori (who works as his sous chef at Aurora and was El Questro Homestead manager while Mr Groom managed the kitchen) were given the opportunity to create culinary masterpieces for Denmark’s royal couple.

However, their romantic holiday was interrupted by a fire that engulfed the surrounding property of the homestead.

“The homestead was surrounded by fire and the only way to get out was on the river, which was filled with crocs. The gates were on fire and the flames were 30 feet high, it was like a cowboy movie,” Mr Groom says.

“Lori, Mary, me and the prince fought the fire and it eventually extinguished itself; that happens a lot out there, the fires flare up and extinguish themselves.

“We would have eventually gone on a boat on the river if the fire had kept going but we fought the fire first.” 

While it was the first and only fire Mr Groom has had to deal with, the royal couple weren’t the only high-profile guests he has cooked for.

Other guests to stay and dine and at El Questro have included Kylie Minogue and media magnate James Packer.

And according to Mr Groom, the richer the individual the simpler the taste.

“The more money they had the more basic it got. They could drink and eat anything they wanted, and I would alter things to suit, but a lot of them just wanted simple food,” Mr Groom says.

He says working at El Questro was a great experience.

“It was the experience of a lifetime. You’d find crocodiles every night and waitresses would dodge the snakes,” he says.

Mr and Mrs Groom have left the celebrity cheffing and fire fighting behind them and are now enthusiastic about the task ahead at Aurora.

And on the menu there are noticeable influences from Canada and other parts of the globe, such as Japan’s popular chawan mushi.

It’s a set custard adapted to suit Perth palates, with a topping of salad and truffle dressing.

There’s also a variation on Canada’s popular Indian candy.

“They hang the salmon up and strip the belly and soak it in molasses, sugar and salt and dry it out. It becomes like candy and kids chew on it. We do a take on that. We marinade the salmon or trout for a few hours so it has the flavour and it makes it very buttery … it melts in your mouth,” Mr Groom says.

“I’m much more about taking something and representing it.”

And meat lovers shouldn’t miss out on his take on steak and ribs.

The sirloin steak and brisket short rib served with spinach timbale and citrus port sauce has been one of the best sellers since the restaurant opened as Aurora on September 24.

There’s also a dedicated vegetarian menu, not to mention an impressive dessert list.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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