Taxi Kitchen is located in prime position in Melbourne’s iconic Federation Square, so one may assume it is a tacky and overpriced tourist haunt, but it is actually full of some of Melbourne’s best culinary identities and most respected food.
Trading Plates caught up with executive chef, Tony Twitchett, to find out more about himself and the relaxed and fun atmosphere and food at Taxi.
In 1996, Twitchett, moved to Melbourne aged 17 from country Victoria to start his career in food at the prestigious Stokehouse. After a four year apprenticeship he undertook some travel is South East Asia, primarily to explore the cuisines of the region.
After three years he returned to Melbourne and took up a position at Circa the Prince alongside Michael Lambie, before making the move to Taxi as head chef at age 26.
In the first 12 months of Twitchett’s tenure, Taxi won The Good Food guide’s Restaurant Of The Year and received two chefs’ hats.
Twitchett says that the menu at Taxi Kitchen changes at least six times a year, dependent on the seasons and availability of ingredients.
“It’s always good to change more often than not because it keeps the customers and the staff engaged in the product and the experience stays fresh and current.
“We trial dishes over a period of time behind the scenes, sometimes for a month or other times it can be for up to six months. They can be tweaked until we are happy with the final result. I have been tweaking the Szechuan Duck for 11 years and it continues to develop and refine!
“A dish is normally a product of the seasons, ingredients, family background and can sometimes even be created by accident.”
Twitchett says he has a great relationship with all the suppliers who provide Taxi with their impeccable produce and with those relationships he can build trust and understanding of each other’s businesses.
“For example, I have been buying seafood from the same fish monger for 18 years, Clamms. I bought from the father and now I buy from his son. I always get the newest lines of product in the market and the freshest, they even deliver to my restaurant seven days a week and twice a day if need it.
“I have a great free-range rare breed pork supplier in Greenvale Farm and my fruit and vegetable supplier is Scicluna’s, which is a long-time family business, who are highly respected at the Melbourne markets.
“I have also been instrumental in getting Roof Top Honey Bees here at Taxi and Federation Square and I helped set up 172 Little Veggie Patch’s on the rooftop at Fed Square, so my kitchen can grow and pick our own herbs, foliage and baby vegetables for the restaurant.
“I work with suppliers like Grown & Gather for specialty items and wild foraged ingredients and this gives my customers an even great experience at Taxi. Every supplier I talk to personally, some of them every day as early as 7am to get the right product for the day.”
When matching wine and other beverages with the food at Taxi, Twitchett says that one should never overpower the other as they are meant to be enjoyed together.
It is important they are similar in textures, balance, aromatics and strengths.
“It’s like you’re looking for the wine to heighten the flavour of the food and for the food to open up the wine on your palate. The match can also lengthen the flavour on the palate, or cleanse the palate. All this and we also need to consider the bouquets of the beverage and food too.”
Twitchett reveals that some of the most popular dishes on the current menu are the Sake washed Tuna, Candy Pork, Scorched Oysters, Szechuan Duck and the Whole Barramundi.
“From the desserts the Famous Soufflé is our biggest seller and our most popular drink by far is the Espresso Martini,” says Twitchett.
Swanston St & Flinders St, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9654 8808