WINTER evenings call for comfort food.
Chiefly East has revived its night-time service in time for winter after it secured a liquor license, allowing the cosy, inner-city sandwich shop on King Street to introduce a new evening menu paired with local wine from Usher Tinkler and brews from FogHorn.
"We are about four weeks into it now," owner, chef, and "sandwich monger" Ali Downer says.
"We were waiting to get our license approved before we started cranking again. When COVID hit us last year we started doing a set menu night and we just always enjoyed the space at night time, so we tried a few nights and now I think we know where we're at with it."
For Downer, who originates from Scotland, winter is one of his favourite seasons to cook. Hearty meals including chicken and chorizo hot pot with red wine sauce, cottage pie, and chilly garlic chicken curry have recently appeared on the evening specials board.
"We are really about moving along with the climate and letting it influence the menu," Downer says. "I love cooking warm food. I feel like over here you don't really get a chance to do it that much, so we are really taking advantage of those three months where it is a bit chilly and everyone is rugging up.
"This week, for example, we're going to do a cottage pie, fresh baguette, beautiful red wine from Usher Tinkler. Just very simple, but delicious and comforting."
He is also concocting winter-inspired drink specials, like hot spiced cider, which is an aromatic blend of cider mixed with cinnamon, star anise, chilli, and paprika that is guaranteed to warm up the insides.
That one is inspired by his memories of German Christmas markets in Glasgow.
"We have bought a couple of ideas from Scotland, so we are doing a hot mulled spicy cider, which everyone is loving, and on Thursdays, we have a stew night so something like a curry or hot pot, just super unpretentious, homemade meals," he says.
"That's inspired from my background in Scotland and cooking in pubs, doing events over there, and being sensitive to those chilly nights and wanting something warming and comforting."
The Chiefly Moonlight menu includes plates: special smoked sausage, black pudding, and smoked chorizo with blue cheese dip ($14); Balmain bug slider, mackerel pate on rye and mussels with pickled veggies ($25); artichoke hearts, mixed pickles, butternut, and cashew dip with antipasto ($15); as well a small snacks menu to pair with drinks.
And, yes, the sandwiches are served in the evening, too.
The regular Chielfy East menu is available at night, as well as the "bedtime baguettes", with meatballs, ragu, and buffalo mozzarella ($15); black pudding, beetroot and chilli jam, gorgonzola, caramelised apple, and rocket ($12); smoked chorizo, chimichurri, chipotle mayo and jalapeo salsa ($12) among the choices.
The baguettes are baked fresh in-house daily. At night, Downer offers to bake your bread fresh on the spot.
"During the day when it's really hectic we have to pre-prepare a lot of things, but at night, you have that little bonus of taking your time a little bit, especially if someone is having a beer or wine and they're happy to wait," he says.
"We're able to tell them 'Hey, we're going to bake your bread fresh and make you a sandwich."
Downer is only too happy to vouch for the sandwich as an acceptable evening meal.
"Yes, I think it is, surprisingly so. I think it's great, especially something like a Reuben, or we do a killer kransky with a hand-made smoked sausage," he says. "We had a group of guys come in recently and they had our beautiful cheese sandwich with a glass of wine and I thought, 'Yeah, that looks like an awesome dinner!'."
The wine list includes a full range from Usher Tinkler and beers from Foghorn who installed a tap system at Chiefly East.
Chiefly East has earned a faithful following since Downer opened the doors with his baker wife, Gem, in 2018, winning over diners with their fresh-baked baguettes and hot toasties, generously brimming with delicious fillings, from classics such as the Reuben to the Coronation chicken.