Turning waste into good times
British bar wunderkind Matt Wiley talks to food writer Richard Cornish about his award-winning sustainability focused Re bar and kitchen, where otherwise wasted food and drink is reimagined in a beautiful historic building in Everleigh.
Q: How did the Re concept evolve?
A: Over 10 years ago, in London, I was watching class two produce, fruit with a blemish or slightly misshapen veg, being sold for a 10th of the price. So, I started buying strawberries for 50p instead of £6 a kilo. I was blending them anyway for cocktails. I saw a business model, plus I wanted to shed light on the issue.
Q: Wasn’t it hard to get your hands on so much waste food?
A: Thirty percent of all food grown ends up in landfill. A lot of that doesn’t even leave the farm because of the market requirements for aesthetically perfect produce. There hasn’t been a market for it. But there is demand. We set up a WhatsApp group with our supplier, Sydney Direct, who would put up pictures of what class 2 produce was available from their suppliers. We buy secondary cuts of meat from Whole Beast Butchery in Marrickville. Recently we made pig head croquettes. Very popular.
Q: So how do you incorporate waste produce here at Re?
A: Our supplier also processes produce. They trim carrots for big kitchens. That trim is still immaculate, edible, and delicious. We roast the carrots and make hummus, served with sourdough and pickled carrots. We take blemished mandarins and make concentrated juice. We cure the skins in sugar and make a syrup and then a soda with the juice. The skins are further fermented with jalapenos and koshu. We mix all this with Mexican tequila to make our mandarin margarita. We’d love to use a local spirit, but the Australian agave spirit industry is still in its infancy.
Q: What about drinks? Is there such a thing as waste drinks?
A: A mate of ours, Mike Bennie, is part of P&V Merchants. He has a lot of samples coming his way. He may pour off 100ml to sample. The rest would be wasted. We infuse his white and orange wine samples with koji-fermented banana skin. They taste just like green olives. Amazing! We blend this with Tanqueray gin for our version of a dirty martini.
Q: What’s business like?
A: We’re in an office-heavy area. While people are still working at home, it is making things quiet. Late weeknights and weekends are good. We need people back in offices to get the hospo economy kicking along.
Q: How do people react to the green ethos of Re?
A: If people walk in off the street, they could not know we are a no-waste bar. If people ask us about what we do, we can share our enthusiasm for sustainability for hours. We’re a bar with a kitchen. We’re about fun.
Find Re bar and kitchen at 2 Locomotive St in Everleigh.