Pucca owners (from left) Cecyl, Emilie, Neale and Jake.
Pucca owners (from left) Cecyl, Emilie, Neale and Jake.

London restaurateurs set their sights on Noosa

ANGLO-Indian chef Neale White has worked at some of the world’s best restaurants but the food of his heart comes from the streets of India.

Born in Calcutta and raised in Australia, he grew up with his father’s authentic home cooking and the tastes of the street.

Mr White’s new restaurant Pucca, opening in Noosa Junction next week (Tuesday, December 17), is inspired by such humble food origins but elevates the dishes for a modern dining experience.

“Our tagline is ‘modern coastal Indian’, inspired by the west Bengali coast, places like Kerala and Goa,” explains Mr White.

“It’s nothing like the Indian restaurants that most people are used to. You just don’t get the kind of food I grew up with (in Indian restaurants.)”

Mr White, who worked alongside Gordon Ramsay in the 90s before his rise to TV stardom, has a background in Michelin-starred fine dining.

The other brains behind Pucca, chef Steve Hillen, focused his career on authentic ethnic food such as London’s Mediterranean-inspired Moro.

Their two divergent experiences have come together to create a new style of Indian eating that is pushing new boundaries in Australia.

Rather than meat heavy, saucy stews that most diners would expect at Indian restaurants, the Pucca menu will centre on light, fresh and spice-enhanced dishes – mostly plant and seafood based – that combine traditional concepts with new cooking methods and ingredients.

A key feature of the kitchen will be the use of coals and grills.

“If you do see a curry on our menu it could be something like a Kerala fish curry with a fresh onion pickle – simple, clean curries.

“If you see one of our tables, it will look like a colourful feast.”

The restaurant includes a cocktail bar with a strong focus on gin (gin and tonic was invented by the British East India Company in the 1700s).

A team of five restaurateurs – many of whom trained in London – have moved to Noosa to launch the venture.

Mr White’s pedigree includes working in several Michelin-starred restaurants and opening acclaimed Australian restaurants such Pure South and Papa Goose.

Other team members include Steve Hillen (kitchen), Cecyl Ducal (sommelier), Jake Sherwood (cocktail bar) and Emelie Groleau (events and marketing).

Mr White said the name Pucca was a slang British world which had its origins in Indian street food.

During the time of the British Raj, the colonials realised that eating fried street food was safer than the boiled versions from which they were coming down with dysentery.

The word pucca, which has since been popularised by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, was used to describe the safe street foods.

Pucca’s cocktail bar will open on Tuesday followed by the launch of meals on Wednesday.

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