LOC’s new chef residency brings a unique intimate experience to eating out, and offers a fresh taste with local food and chef friends.

Words:  Lara Pacillo // Photos: Dylan Starczak

There’s a certain feeling of going to a friend’s house for dinner – they’re on one side of the kitchen bench chopping and sizzling away, while you’re on the other having a chat, occasionally asking what they’re doing. It’s warm, cosy, and relaxing.

It’s this feeling that Olivia Moore has replicated, seamlessly into her Hindmarsh Square natural wine bar, LOC, with her new chef residency which kicked off in August. Now three chef residencies in, Olivia says they won’t be going back.

“It fits really well; It isn’t hard work. If anything, it’s made the wine side of things mesh really well. I feel we should have done it a long time ago.”

Once a concept that seemed tricky to pull off due to space restrictions, it’s this small-scale vibe that deepens the dining experience.

A renovation two months before the chef series began focused on maximising space has made “a world of a difference”. Three indoor booths were installed to suit the functionality of cutlery and plates, while also making the bar more welcoming during the colder seasons.

A long blue communal table, which before was used as a bench, transforms into a makeshift kitchen during cooking time.

“I had one hole cut into the bench to put plugs through; that’s the only thing that has changed to make that space a kitchen,” Olivia explains. “Everything’s electric, there’s a fridge, three inductions, this tiny grill. It’s unbelievable what people can create out of that.”

The first chef residency featured Tom Campbell, followed by Ali Currey-Voumard, and now for a six-week stint is Linh-Chi Nguyen aka LC.

“I think that the limitations of the kitchen are actually great,” LC says.

“No deep fryer, no charcoal – it’s a constraint to work with. You just have to be smart. All prep heavy stuff.”

LOC’s current chef resident, Linh-Chi Nguyen aka LC

Olivia describes the chef residency as a “rolling concept” where she grants freedom to the chef to decide what’s on the menu.

“It’s evolving with each person,” Olivia says. “I just wanted it to be more than snacky – can build it into a meal if you want, but also, no one feels obligated to eat a full dinner. 

“It’s not quite a restaurant. The chefs can come and cook what they want.”

What has and will remain constant across the residencies is the conscious sourcing of products, which is a value that she instils across her wine too where organic is at the forefront.

Sourcing locally is a top priority when it comes to food, which is a commitment that Tom helped establish coming from his background as a former chef for Summertown Aristologist – a restaurant which grows much of its own produce. 

Small scale market gardens Presqil and Village Greens of Willunga are amongst LOC’s top suppliers.

LC explains her aim is to share traditional Vietnamese food she grew up on, “you know the stuff you don’t really see around”, while showcasing the freshness of the produce.

“I think it’s those two things,” LC says. “The menu is really driven by farmers. We went up to Presqil farm yesterday. It’s so beautiful. You have this veg and it’s like you’re cheating because it’s so delicious.

“Then it’s nostalgic food memories like stuff that grandma used to cook.”

LC isn’t actually a chef. She is however, an amazing cook, and the maker of the best spaghetti vongole Olivia has ever had. Olivia was determined to have an LC residency so more people could have a taste of her cooking.

While the menu shifts over the weeks and even days depending on what’s in season or what’s available that week, LC has a standard skeleton of dishes she builds on.

“I’ll always have a noodle soup with a different kind of broth on, or like a wrappy cold roll thing – I’m doing it with fish today,” LC says. 

“And then just things I like to eat, or I always order at wine bars – so oysters, raw fish or a raw beef dish, and veggies.”

Olivia moved to Adelaide from London in 2018. While she worked with wine in an office setting, she craved being more in and amongst it.

“Lots of places in Europe just had heaps of little tiny spaces and sold delicious wines like this. I think I slightly missed that too when I moved.”

She left her office job to become more familiar with Adelaide’s hospo scene and wine lists. Over COVID, she launched a natural wine website, and once the pandemic blew over, she opened LOC in 2020.

In the coming years, she would be joined by vintage store Room on Fire, and Carton Deli who collectively have transformed Hindmarsh Square into a bustling not so secret little community.

“East End has always been pumping and so has the West End, so it’s nice to be filling this tiny gap in-between,” Olivia says.

The new food offering has allowed people who come to LOC to stay longer, highlighted local chefs and produce, and elevated the business while maintaining the casual non-pretentious feeling that LOC lives and breathes.

“A lot of people are saying it’s like a home,” Olivia says. “I think a chef bar at any restaurant is always exciting because you’re in the mix, but that’s often because you’ve got ten chefs. 

“Being just one person here, you’re just chatting to them. It’s become something really special.”

LOC Bottle Bar: Wed: wine, Thurs – Sun: dinner + wine [walk-ins only] // 6 Hindmarsh Square, Adelaide 5000

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Homebound acknowledges the Kaurna people, the traditional custodians of the land on which we work and live today, and pay our respects to elders past and present.

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