BAR BITES / Captain’s Bar

By Cuisine5 Minutes
February 22, 2021By Cuisine

Like most chefs at the top of their game, Callum Liddicoat is an energy bomb of creativity and anxiety. It’s written on his Instagram feed where, amid the edible artfulness, he posts motivational messages such as ‘Never stop creating new shit’, and on his arms where the visual symbolism tells a personal story. “Tattoos are part of my world. Hospitality folk are an interesting bunch: behind the face there’s always a bit of mystery.”

As executive pastry chef at Park Hyatt Auckland, his role, which ranges from designing desserts for Onemata, the hotel’s signature restaurant, to catering banquets and events, is tailor-made for his penchant for reinvention.

It was at Conrad Jupiters on the Gold Coast that patisserie chef Merv McCoy set the eager 16-year-old apprentice the challenge to reach executive pastry chef status by the time he was 30. Callum made it a goal and achieved it at 29. The pair still meet for a beer when he returns to the Gold Coast to visit family.

Having worked at Qualia Resort on Hamilton Island, Callum travelled to the UK and secured a job at two Michelin- star restaurant The Greenhouse in Mayfair. Then, for a change of pace, he signed up as executive sous pastry chef at Marylebone Cricket Club whose ground, Lord’s, is the undisputed home of cricket. Serving up Victoria sponge and 10,000 scones a day in the members’ pavilion over a five-day international test was a primo training ground for managing a team and learning the organisational structure required to pull off the big hits.

But creativity is Callum’s driver, the thing that keeps him spiritually sane. Often there are dry periods – days, weeks, months even – when nothing will come. Then at ‘stupid o’clock’ in the morning, when he’s lying in bed with brain whizzing, inspiration strikes. “I jot down every idea. Even if it’s bonkers.”

Experimental curations are appreciated both by staff ‘testers’ and guests at the hotel including at Captain’s Bar, where the modern nautical theme is set with timber-panelled walls, blue leather banquettes and a flickering fireplace. It’s a cosy, sophisticated environment and the elegant brass bar with a timber top glows at centre stage. Diners, who may easily have stepped off one of the yachts that bob in front of the terrace, might come to sip on one of the 60 fruity, floral, oaky or spiced rums on offer or to experience the theatre of mixology and an innovative cocktail list.

They dine on shared plates designed by Argentinian chef de cuisine Leo Minelli from a menu that includes tropical prawn ceviche or kikorangi and honey empanadas. Fellow Argentinian Ezequiel Marquez makes cocktails that speak their own language. “I like to generate flavours and textures that you cannot typically achieve using a cocktail shaker or mixing glass,” he says. And Callum adds his own Latino twist with desserts to be served alongside the cocktails like sweet tapas. CLAIRE MCCALL