Nero Dining

“Being a chef is not a glamorous occupation,” Chef Dennis Duncanson tells us, and he’s right. Chefs work hard long hours in steaming hot kitchens, often when the rest of us are out playing.

Long before the public sees them, most young chefs are sweating it out in other people’s kitchens. Perhaps they get caught up in the corporate hospitality treadmill, the requisite trip to Europe to explore cultural experiences, or they chill out in Bali to rub away the difficult edginess of the kitchen…

At 30 we sometimes get them back, willing to branch out and experiment to stave off the boredom of the routine. Some are eager to open places of their own, to change to daylight lifestyles or to settle down in their home area.

It’s rare to come across very young talent in their own restaurant. Astounding, really.

But there it is at Nero, in Broadbeach Waters, a venue run jointly by young Chef Jayden Barker and his father Andrew.

After a 10-day refit, the restaurant opened in July 2016. From the outset, the pair had clear goals in mind:

“We enjoyed dining out, both corporately and as a family, the feeling of being known and treated well,” Andrew tells us. “That’s what we wanted to achieve here. A casual restaurant with upmarket food manned by a stable staff who were committed to success. We have that,” he says, praising the staff he considers as family.

With Andrew covering front of house, Jayden is putting his seven years’ kitchen experience to good use. It’s a great combination – modern classics with a twist backed up by attentive knowledgeable service; no doubt the reason why, in January 2017, they won their first chef hat with the AGFG, Jayden being the youngest chef on the Gold Coast to reach that honour.

Greeted at the door by Andrew, who explains the menu dish by dish, there’s no rush to dine, no turnover of tables or multiple settings. There’s a relaxed masculine vibe to the place, fitting for its nomenclature. (After all, ‘nero’ means ‘black’ in Italian.) Tables are clad in black cloths. Edison lights hang over a timber floor with interesting grey walls lit by one maroon feature section.

Starting with home-baked bread served with burnt butter and a platter of Sopressa Milano, Jamon Serrano and local Wagyu Bresaola sliced to order, we take our time and amble our way through a meal of generously-sized share plates.

There are also three set menus, a great choice if you have trouble making decisions from the a la carte menu. Not just seasonally-based, the menu uses many unusual ingredients and changes often. We dine on a week night, but the boutique wine list, containing many hard-to-source wines demands a revisit, a wine-paired meal an obvious answer to a night of celebration.

Woodfired corn with spicy aioli and pecorino follows, then fresh melt-in-your-mouth Gnocchi with rich burnt butter, balanced by crispy fried kale and shaved cured egg yolk. It’s an indulgently moreish dish to be savoured; one of our favourites of the night.

Sous vide-cooked Pork belly is served with smoked mango, perfectly charred bug and a crinkly pork puff; a simple but bold dish, the meat full of flavour.  The tempura-clad broccolini is a local favourite, served with black aioli with a hint of manuka honey sweetness to round out the palate.

We finish with dessert:  a Chocolate parfait using Ecuador cocoa, accompanied by hazelnut mousse, chocolate soil and a few sprigs of micro mint, and an assemblage of Whey-cooked blueberries, peanut and brown butter crumb thrown Jackson Pollock-like over a base of panna cotta.

“Our food speaks for itself,” says Andrew, showing obvious pride in the precocious talent of his son. Trite but true, it does! Using a dash of bush food, unusual combinations and nuances of flavour, one year in, Nero boasts 96% return clientele, proving that they’re giving locals the dining experience that they enjoy. It’s success many would envy.

Jayden says that he has learned lessons from every aspect of his career so far. A dishhand at 14 at Jacob’s Well Tavern, he did a stint waiting tables at The Garlic Clove before landing a job as an apprentice chef at Harrigan’s, Jacob Well.

It was at Harrigan’s, working with Chef Michael Harris, that he discovered his love for the energy of service.  As a 15-year-old, he was helping to plate up meals for 300 – 400 at a sitting, so ‘mis en place’ (preparation), timing, and getting meals onto the plates was a priority.

Following that, at Cavalier (now part of Justin Lane Establishment), he learned from Chef Bryce Hayes to make bread, gnocchi and tortellini by hand, to slow down and taste. Chef Pepe at Pablo Pablo showed him the path less travelled, he tells us – how to take a traditional dish and twist it to meet the market.

His experience has led Jayden to include Spanish and Italian influences in Nero’s menu, yet it would be incorrect to categorise the food as either one. Jayden’s chef experience correlates to what we may say about our children: they are a bit of each of us, but entirely themselves.

“So, how old are you, Jayden?” we ask.

“21,” he replies. So young!

Functions: Nero is available for functions. While there’s no venue hire charge, minimum numbers and spend applies. Contact the venue for further details. Long lunches will recommence in November. Follow the restaurant’s social media feed for special event dinners.

3/1 Sunshine Boulevard, Broadbeach Waters Ph: 07 5526 7364

Tues – Sat : 5:30 pm – late

NOTE: This review has also been published on Blank GC. Good Food Gold Coast dined as guests of Nero.

Nero Dining Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Broadbeach Coffee & Tea Cuisine Dessert Dinner Gluten free friendly Licensed Main course $15 to $25 Main course $25 to $40 Modern Australian Restaurants Share plates , , , , ,

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