Jarrod Walsh and Dot Lee are no strangers to taking over a familiar space. The pair guided Hartsyard into its second chapter, running the Newtown eatery in Sydney for four years until an opportunity to become the custodians of the former Automata location presented itself.

It was a fortuitous moment — especially for Walsh, who once worked in the kitchen of the fine diner. “I loved the space and the fit out,” he says, “but I was like, ‘I can’t have an attachment to it — it needs to be your own thing’.” And that’s how Longshore came to be.

Walsh speaks to Hospitality about building a restaurant from scratch for the first time, lessons learned from running Hartsyard as a business owner, and rolling with an ‘anything goes if it tastes good’ mentality in the kitchen.

Timing is everything — especially in restaurants. And while there never seems to be enough time in a day, milestone moments come about regardless — spearheading your first restaurant is one of them. Longshore is the culmination of many years spent in the kitchen and on the floor for chefs Jarrod Walsh and Dot Lee, who opened the doors to their Chippendale restaurant in June this year. “It took a lot of time to build up to this,” says Walsh.

Walsh and Lee took over Hartsyard from previous owners Gregory Llewellyn and Naomi Hart in 2018, with the first-time restaurateurs coming to realise they were ready for something new. “Hartsyard was our playground in doing what we loved and not having many restrictions, but after a few years, we wanted more,” says Walsh. “The opportunity came up at The Old Clare Hotel to set up the hotel side of things and ultimately take over the restaurant space.”

Jason Loucas

Opening a restaurant in Automata’s place generated excitement, nerves, and of course, a fear of the unknown, but Walsh and Lee were more than ready, having been through a comparable experience at Hartsyard. “We made mistakes, and we worked out what not to do,” he says. “We knew how to take over a restaurant that’s iconic and not make those mistakes again, which is what we’ve done at Longshore. You don’t want people to compare and say, ‘Automata used to be like this or do that’, — we’re the opposite of what it was.”

There’s no replicating a restaurant like Automata, and there was no question Longshore would be an original concept with an original fit out. Nevertheless, the redesign process began with a wave of nostalgia. “It hurt me to say, ‘We need to get rid of all this stuff’, but it was so essential,” says Walsh. “We’ve gone for a warmer interior compared to the minimalist approach Automata had. We went with recycled timber tables and all our coasters are made from recycled plastics, which ties in with the minimal-waste approach we take with our menu and cocktails.”

It’s difficult to define the culinary backbone of Longshore — an intentional move by Walsh who developed the concept while winding down at Hartsyard — something that was only possible with the support of the people around him. “We built a good team from the start at Longshore and we could put our trust in them,” says the chef.

Walsh knew Longshore would be a seafood-centric eatery, having grown up fishing and cooking with seafood throughout his career, but the complete concept came about after much discussion and trial and error in the kitchen. “The hardest thing was coming up with the vision to begin with — that’s what we struggled with,” says the chef. “But cooking with seafood is something I’m very comfortable with, so once we got rolling, it developed along the way as a combined effort, and it’s become so much better than we thought.”

The restaurant veers away from the norm by offering guests a choice of not one, but three menus: a 10-course snack flight, à la carte, or set. The idea was a decision rooted in flexibility; to become a restaurant where someone can drop by for a few snacks after work or settle in for a full dining experience.

But it took some fleshing out to get right. “When we were putting the menus on paper, we changed them so many times — it sounded good in theory but would be a nightmare for service,” says Walsh. “So we decided to build the menus from the à la carte offering. We take the snacks for the flight and then snacks and dishes for the set menu.”

While most diners have been ordering from the à la carte menu, the snack flight has also been a popular choice — with one guest returning to have it again in the same week. “The snack menu is fun and it’s how I like to eat when I go out, trying different things without feeling full,” says the chef, who is also using the menu as a platform to get creative and challenge the kitchen team. “It’s interesting to come up with things when you need to think about how people can eat something with their hands in one or two bites.”

Hospitality’s July visit to the restaurant saw the table filled with Skull Island tiger prawns atop a sheet of toasted nori and a fragrant leaf with habanero paste; skewers of charred octopus with a smoked soy glaze; and Abrolhos Island scallops served sashimi style with mandarin kosho and Makrut lime.

The dishes at Longshore can only be described as freestyle in nature. Turnips are teamed with taramasalata; pumpkin miso accompanies Margra lamb rump; party pies are stuffed with abalone; swordfish is covered in XO butter or green lip abalone sauce; and salted muntries and Japanese mayo are the condiments of choice for the kangaroo tartare — basically, there are no rules. “Flavour-wise, we don’t like to restrict ourselves — we call it freestyle cuisine,” says Walsh.

The chef is already contemplating the next party pie filling, a morsel he spent months perfecting, but calls out the steamed sand whiting as a dish that exemplifies the Longshore experience. “As a kid, I would catch whiting using the pipis I found on the beach as bait,” says Walsh. “We put the whiting with XO pipis, so that’s pretty special and ties in with using under-utilised species, which is something we really wanted to play on.”

Walsh and Lee set out to preserve what hospitality means to them — warm service, good food, and approachability, and they’ve achieved what they wanted to replicate at Longshore; a restaurant that’s for every diner.