Who is Tom Blakely: I am the venue manager for Onzieme Restaurant in Kingston.
Best recent dining experience: Probably Rebel Rebel in Acton. Their food is just super solid, they have an awesome wine list, the staff are lovely and I always have a super fun time.
Favourite cuisine: I’d probably say contemporary Southeast Asian food. I’ve had a love of Asian cuisine for a few years now and working as a supervisor at XO Canberra for a few years also influenced this.
Most embarrassing pantry item: Probably the box of Weet-Bix that I haven’t touched in like six months. I never really eat breakfast and every time I open my pantry, it sits there and I look at it very guiltily.
What ingredient can I not live without: Wine. It’s not really an ingredient, but it can be. It’s always good to have one on hand.
Next big thing in the Canberra food scene: This might be a little biased, but we’re located at the old Kingston shops, and the revival of this whole area is something really amazing.
We’re really excited about it as it’s bringing life back to the old Kingston shops which have been really quiet for years. A number of really good venues like Champi and Caribou have opened up around the corner too.
Best coffee spot in Canberra: My favourite coffee spot is probably Lava here in Kingston. The guys there are really lovely and make quality and consistent coffee.
Who I admire in the Canberra food and wine scene: Probably Kent Nhan, the co-founder and manager of XO in Narrabundah and ILY in NewActon.
He’s a super-efficient operator who runs a really tight ship and is very impressive with his ability to know everything. Whether it’s wine, food or knowing how to work as a team, he’s just a really good role model for how to run a restaurant or multiple restaurants.
Biggest culinary influence: Anthony Bourdain. His message and everything he pushed and presented was always super positive and he brought new life and attitudes into hospitality.
Favourite cookbook: Liquid intelligence by Dave Arnold. It’s actually a cocktail book but focuses more on the art of creating and building drinks which we’ve used for inspiration in our wine bar downstairs.
Where am I travelling to next: I want to go back to Tasmania. It’s such a gorgeous state with a beautiful hospitality food and wine scene, and heaps of vineyards.
A must-try on our menu: I’m going to say probably our Piquette, a low-alcohol vineyard hand wine that we are currently making in collaboration with a local winery. It hasn’t been released yet and will be coming soon to our menu, but it’s definitely going to be a must-try.
What are this week’s specials at Onzieme?: We don’t really do a special of the week. The whole menu gets re-written pretty much every day, so most of the menu is super fresh. Whatever is freshest on that day is the special.
Death row meal: A medium Big Mac meal with a Coke from McDonald’s – it’s my dirty comfort food that’s perfect after a late night at work. You can’t beat it.
My least favourite food: Probably liquorice and aniseed, they’re just no good. Anyone who does like them isn’t normal.
COVID-19 response: We were delayed in actually being able to open because of lockdown, so we were pushed back a couple of months and we had to fight to survive before we were even open. Thankfully, we had a huge positive response from the community after the lockdown, and they supported us and everyone was super respectful with the restrictions as well.
It’s also really good that Canberra is so highly vaccinated, and we’re very lucky that the community as a whole has been so positive around health, health guidelines and making sure they’re taking care of each other through getting vaccinated and following the rules.
My top three cooking tips:
- Leave it to the pros
- Bring a good bottle of wine
- Take your time and enjoy it.
Onzieme is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 6 pm to 11 pm. It is located at 35 Kennedy St in Kingston.