Timmy Dreams of Negroni: An Interview with Timothy Maxwell Part II

by Timothy Maxwell

So we’ve been talking about Italian food, we’re talking about Italian cocktails. At Kubricks, you’ve got the charcuterie, great cheese. It has a real aperitivo vibe to it, is that what you’re going for?
The goal with Kubricks is to be surrounded by Sydney’s finest. Whether it’s furniture makers, artists, designers...customers. Using that as a framework to build an atmosphere where you can eat and drink quality things. Just like the artists on the wall, the seat that you’re sitting on, you know. It’s trying to be stripped back and the ingredients that are in the bar, let them sing.

I guess we’re trying to be worldly in what we offer and that explains elements of other cultures being represented, like japanese for example. But, it’s always in the same spirit. It’s an ode to people doing things the right way, the quality way and the way that’s endured.

It’s “Timmy Dreams of Negroni”
Haha Exactly, I’m like Jiro... It’s just about doing things that stand the test of time. No gimmicks, not trendy...anything. Just about great Sydney people creating an atmosphere that’s eclectic and interesting.
I think having that timeless commitment to quality is something that people really respect, and feel when you enter into a place.
Yeah, I’ve been lucky enough to travel a bit. Of the places I’ve travelled, the ones I’ve found most amazing have built a platform that supports their surroundings. Other people in the community see that, build on top of that, and it creates a culture that grows out from strong roots.

One of the reasons I love bars so much is that people walk into your joint, and they’re yours. They’re drinking your drinks, they’re listening to your music, they’re looking at your aesthetic and they’re being cared for by you. They’re under your care. So you can transport them to a place, that is inspiring, exciting, homely, whatever etc. You give them something. What I wanted to portray with Kubricks is that if people come in and they really like the looks of this place, I can say “great, this is all Sydney people.” This is not trying to be an era in America that was great, it’s not trying to be a day of the dead themed...thing. It’s just celebrating who we’ve got at the moment.

Yeah I guess just like any consumer business you’re building a relationship with your customers. You get to create that story and that romance for them, that is a powerful relationship. It can be a transactional relationship, but it can be something more. You can really bring something new to their lives, if you want to.
Yeah for sure. If you’re an american travelling in Japan, you’re not going to go eat at Hooters. And if you are, that’s sad because you’re just picking a familiar place with a familiar cuisine, because you know you like that. You want to go to a place that’s authentic. It might be authentic because they’ve appropriated the hamburger. That’s still authentic if they’re putting their own stamp on it but, I just find it difficult when I walk into a place and I’m not in the mind of anyone. I’m just in a transient, uninspired place, because it’s trying to mirror something rather than push something. So I believe that if you’re going to do something push it, not necessarily be unique but just take heed of your surroundings and celebrate it.

"They’re drinking your drinks, they’re listening to your music, they’re looking at your aesthetic and they’re being cared for by you."

It sounds to me like you’ve travelled, you’ve had great experiences. I know when I go and eat somewhere or drinks somewhere there are, in my life, only a handful of experiences that have been defining. What have been some of those defining moments for you?
Yeah, one straight from the start was a time me and my Dad were in Paris. I was probably about 10 or 9. We were both hungry and we’d been looking at nautical antique shops all day. We wandered into this tiny little spot that had about 15 chairs and a guy who was 65 plus. I remember thinking to myself, why the hell does the roof have a mirror on it. I could just see him in the kitchen, looking up at the mirror, looking at everybody's table. Then I realised he was the only person there. He was the waiter, the cashier, the chef, everything. He could see in the mirror where everyone was at in their meal so he could time the next course.

That really struck a chord with me and that was probably my first defining moment where I realised, that person serving me isn’t a “waiter” they’re a human being, and they’re doing it so you enjoy yourself. I think the reason people choose to make a career out of hospitality is that, at the end of the day, they like to make people happy, and they like making people happy their way.

So anyway, we sat there for an hour or two, just because it was such an inspiring environment. He put out such an amazing vibe. Not just with his food but with his surroundings, the music he was playing, he came and had a drink with us and a chat. For that two hours I was in his world. I was in a 65 year old Parisian’s world. That to me was probably the most authentic French experience I’ve ever had in my life.

"I think the reason people choose to make a career out of hospitality is that, at the end of the day, they like to make people happy, and they like making people happy their way."

Maybe someone who’s not so into hospitality can walk into a venue, they can have breakfast and later you might ask how it was. “Oh yeah, I liked it.” Maybe they don’t realise all the little elements that had to come together to ensure that they enjoyed it. If you do know hospitality you know it’s because the lighting is great, the music was great, the service was beautiful, the food was authentic and high quality. All of these things, done well, result in someone walking out and thinking they had a great experience.

Well it’s like great design. You don’t necessarily recognise great design, you just feel it, you just enjoy yourself. I don’t sit there and analyse a great experience, I’m usually in it. You obviously love what you do. You love what you’re putting out and you love the people who come into your bar...except the Nourish team.
Yeah, I have to talk to you guys about that...haha I guess at the end of the day, for me, I’m trying to think about why I love something more and more. If I sit in a chair I find myself thinking, why do I love this chair? What is it that makes it that next level of great. As you develop this sense, you start to recognise a need. The chair in this bar isn’t very comfortable. That’s where innovation springs from. You think to yourself, I haven’t sat in a great chair for a long time. Why? Is it that hard? Why is it that hard? Can I find a way to make it better?

That’s what I’ve tried to do with bars in Sydney. I’m not bad mouthing any bars in Sydney, everyone has a vibe. I just felt like I was often walking into places that were trying to be something that we as Sydney are not. There’s a lot of people in Sydney doing exciting new things. Maybe taking cues from other cultures but doing something new with them. I mean we’re sitting here in Edition Coffee Roasters and they’re doing Swedish Japanese Fusion. It’s amazing. It’s something different and it brings people in.

All of these things, done well, result in someone walking out and thinking they had a great experience.

You feel like you’re in someone’s head.
Yeah exactly. I walk into a lot of places in Sydney and I don’t feel like I’m anyones world. I feel like I’m in a business models world. There’s no love. Hats off to the bartenders out there because when you sit at the bar, you’re in their world. I think Sydney has a great bartender community because it is amazing when you’ve got people who are really passionate about their craft and when you sit at a bar here, you’re under their care. I just feel like the broader bar scene is letting itself down because it’s all business model.

That’s my Sydney synopsis...

So tell us a little bit about what you’re doing at Kubricks.
I find Sydneysiders need a bit of an excuse to go out during the week. There’s definitely a big weekend culture, that’s for sure. We’re trying to push a bit of education through hospitality I guess. We’re trying to offer different experiences, food, drink, atmosphere and history over the week.

Monday’s you get free cheese with any bottle of wine between two people. We’ll be featuring new cheeses every week and talking about where they’re from. Trying to get as much Australian stuff as possible because it’s really great.

Tuesday’s, monthly, we do sake tastings. The other week we had one of the most prolific sake makers from Japan. He’s one of three guys that grows his own rice and makes his own sake. He’s the fifth generation doing this. It was a fantastic night.

Wednesday night we do mulled wine and board games.

Thursdays we feature a range of negroni’s - including the recipes I’ve shared on Nourish. 15 on the list, $15 each.

Fridays and Saturdays it’s just party time.

Within the framework of those nights, there’s a lot more opportunity to tell people about where ingredients comes from, where recipes come from.

We’re trying to push a bit of education through hospitality I guess. We’re trying to offer different experiences, food, drink, atmosphere and history over the week.

What cheeses are you into right now?
That Fiore di Capra you tried on the weekend. I got that from salt meats cheese and it’s pretty amazing. It’s a mid to hard cheese from Sardinia. At the moment I’m enjoying going out and trying cheeses in different spots and featuring the ones I like. There’s all sorts of stuff like coffee porterhouse or raisin cheddar. So many weird and interesting combinations. Some are a bit far fetched for me but others come off really well, so it’s just about trying them and seeing what I might like to feature. Monday night’s have been a great excuse to dive deeper into what cheese is on offer.
And sake? Are you a dry man or a sweet man?
I like them all mate. I like it when there’s complexity, hot, cold, dry, sweet etc. One thing I learned on Tuesday night. A great trick with sake, if you like the taste of hot sake but you don’t want to drink it hot. Heat it up and release all of those flavours and then let it cool for room temperature. You still get the complexity of the hot, but you can enjoy it cold. Stuff like that you’d never find out unless you get the chance to talk to someone who really knows their stuff.
Pine box or no pine box?
Well the pine box, that’s an interesting one. I’ve been in Tokyo where they’ve served it in a pine box as an overflow mechanism. They looked at us a little strange as we started sculling it out of the pine box. The pine box is actually a perfect measure of rice and I think it might be more of an outside appropriation thing. But some people in Japan do it, I don’t really have the education to know, but everything I’ve heard points to no pine box.
And party time?
Just fun! Sometimes friends get on the records and play some tunes. It’s a good spot to come after work on a Friday, we’re not too far at all from the CBD.
Timothy Maxwell has 5 Negroni recipes for you to try at home:
Whiskey "Boulevadier like" Negroni
Blood Orange Negroni

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About the Author

Timothy Maxwell

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