The finishing touches are being put on the restaurant this week in preparation for a media launch on Friday and planned opening later this month, with Nguyen’s goal of injecting some fun into the dining experience already evident in the décor.
The interior of the two-level building at 12 Peel Street features gilt-framed prints of Renaissance portraits of people such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Marie Antoinette, some of which also feature cheeky caricatures by Adelaide artist Hang Ong. The dark colour palette and lighting create a gallery-like feel.
“It’s things that I love,” says Nguyen, a first-time restaurateur who previously worked in sales.
“I love that style of art, but it’s about how do we have fun with it so that it’s not so serious.”
2nd & 6th – named after greed and gluttony, which come second and sixth in some lists of the seven “deadly sins” – has a smart mahogany frontage with gold lettering and lighting.
The kitchen will be led by chef Rocco Tedesco, who did his apprenticeship at the Hilton Adelaide and has spent the past decade working in restaurants across Australia and Europe, most recently in Italy.
Tedesco says the menu will reflect his passion for French and Italian food – “but not Italian as we know it here, because here it is very southern-influenced. My family is from southern Italy, but I was working up north.”
The restaurant will seat up to 40 people inside and 15 outside, and will serve brunch from 7.30am until about 3pm, as well as opening later with a limited bar and dessert menu from Wednesday to Saturday.
Although Tedesco says he considers technique and quality paramount, he promises there will be a flamboyant element to his dishes, which will include items such as lobster brioche with baked herb chips, French “floating island” dessert ile flottante (a poached meringue which floats on a crème anglaise) and the Italian suppli al telefono (an egg-shaped fried rice ball filled with stretchy cheese).
“I think Peel Street, and also Adelaide to an extent, is at a place where we can really play around with the menu and just not have to play it straight,” says Nguyen.
“We don’t have to have the usual breakfast dishes … we can be a bit more daring. I think this is the perfect spot for it.”
It’s an exciting step for the young entrepreneur, who studied engineering, then built a successful career in sales, but has always harboured a passion for cooking and food. He says it comes partly from the fact that his parents once owned a Vietnamese restaurant on Adelaide’s Hanson Road.
“I was pretty much born in a kitchen – my friends like to say I was born straight into a wok!”
Many of his friends are also restaurateurs or chefs who would gather every Friday night for a cooking session at Nguyen’s home.
“Over the years, they were just like, ‘Hugh, you’ve got so much passion for it, what are you waiting for?’
“I would get really excited about it [the Friday sessions]. It got to the stage where it wasn’t just a Friday cook-off; it would take me Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to get ready for it.”
The Vietnamese food he grew up with is heavily influenced by French cooking, and it was a style he loved, which is one of the reasons he wanted to bring a European flavour to 2nd & 6th.
As for why he chose to focus on brunch, the answer is simple: “It’s my favourite meal of the day … that and dessert.”
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