"Modern Australian with a touch of quirk" is how executive chef Massimo Speroni describes his menu at Jana, the signature bar and grill restaurant opening at QT Newcastle on June 9.
The eclectic top-shelf vibe of QT Hotels & Resorts is a comfortable fit for Speroni, whose resume boasts stints working at two Michelin-starred Italian restaurants: San Domenico in Imola, and Café le Paillotes in Pescara.
He was, until recently, head chef at award-winning Brisbane fine-dining restaurant, Bacchus.
"I've always enjoyed the Hunter Valley region and have had the opportunity to spend some time in the community after moving in January to join the QT family," Speroni said.
"I've used the last few months to travel, exploring wineries, farms and producers to gather inspiration for the menu.
"True to the QT philosophy, QT Newcastle will offer a highly inventive food and beverage experience, highlighting local provenance."
Read more: New taste of high-end dining in the East End
The Herald has been given a sneak peek of Jana's menu: Bone In Rib Eye (500g) dry-aged Jacks Creek, NSW, Black Angus MB 3+; chitarra pasta with Tasmanian sea urchin and chives; and hiramasa kingfish with corn, soured cream, coriander, quinoa and lime.
Speroni was born in the Abruzzo region of Italy, near the Adriatic sea. He said the restaurant's name - Jana - was inspired by an Italian goddess.
"The goddess Jana is named after is represented with two faces, one facing the past and one facing the present," Speroni explained.
"When designing the menu, I was focused on bringing this vision to life using traditional techniques with modern flavours.
"You can see hints of my own Italian heritage with dishes that are elevated, yet approachable, showcasing the best premium ingredients from local producers and providores."
Diners will be able to watch Speroni, chef de cuisine Manuele Erriu and the Jana team in action in the restaurant's open kitchen. The steak offering has been sourced entirely from NSW farms; the lamb is from Little Hill Farm at Mt Vincent; and the olive oil from Pukara Estate near Denman.
The Rooftop at QT is, the Herald is told, the "highest" of its kind in Newcastle, and its cocktail and izakaya menus are inspired by its selection of Japanese whisky, said to be the most comprehensive in town.
QT Newcastle is the first regional hotel in the QT stable. General manager Michael Stamboulidis said QT Newcastle "had been years in the making but is well worth the wait".
"We were always drawn to Newcastle's incredible beachside locale and thriving community but when the opportunity arose to be part of the East End revitalisation, in the iconic 113-year-old David Jones building, we knew it was the perfect place for QT to call home," he said.
"Born and bred in Sydney's Northern Beaches, I grew up surfing the east coast of NSW as part of my backyard.
"I would often visit Newcastle when I was a young boy to surf the wild waves of Newcastle Beach, and even back then, the city always had a calling.
"As I was kicking off my journey at QT Melbourne as the food and beverage director, I knew the brand was for me, with aspirations of one day becoming a hotel general manager. With my coastal roots, and the announcement of QT Newcastle, I knew this was the one for me.
"I'm truly thrilled to now call the city 'home'."
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