In her name: latest restaurant trend
What’s in a name? When it comes to naming a restaurant, the appellation you choose is your opportunity to make the right first impression. Some choose puns (Thaitanic, Wok This Way, Lord of the Fries). Others choose the language of the cuisine they’re serving (Vue de Monde, Shobosho) or their location (Quay, Bennelong). Some are headed up by a chef so famous, you can just name it after them (Tetsuya’s, Joël Robuchon). But in recent years, there has been a new trend emerging: naming your restaurant after a woman.
It makes sense. In the past, women were traditionally the ones in charge of the kitchen. Many of us also have fond childhood memories of meals served up by loving mothers, grandmothers and aunts. Naming a restaurant after a woman can provide a sense of warmth, comfort and generosity. But it’s perhaps surprising that the majority of restaurateurs of late who have chosen a female name for their venue are men.
Mothers and daughters
Neil Perry chose to name his new Sydney restaurant Margaret after his late mother. As he recently told Broadsheet, he wanted to reflect the sense of hospitality and care that his mother instilled in him. “Mum was the major influence behind the care philosophy that began with Rockpool in 1989,” Perry says. “My mother was an incredibly generous and caring person. It just felt right… to name it after her.”
Scott Pickett of the Scott Pickett Group (Longrain, Chancery Lane, Smith St Bistrot) has also named venues after female relatives. Melbourne venue Matilda is named after Pickett’s daughter. Meanwhile, newly opened Audrey’s at The Continental Sorrento in Brisbane is named after Pickett’s grandmother, who instilled in him a passion for cooking.
Here’s to Gran
Grandmothers are clearly a theme, and no doubt a strong influence on the restaurateurs who have chosen to honour them. Tristan Rosier of hatted Sydney restaurant Arthur (named after Rosier’s grandfather) has paid homage to his grandma with his new restaurant Jane. Rosier’s grandparents’ home in the Sydney suburb of San Souci also inspired the restaurant’s design. Meanwhile, Michael Madrusan of Made in the Shade Group named his New York-inspired slice joint, Connie’s Pizza, and the newly opened Connie’s Italian Diner in Melbourne after his nonna. The menu showcases traditional dishes inspired by Madrusan’s memories of growing up in his family’s Italian restaurants.
“The Connie’s concept is grounded in a love of traditional home cooking and a feel-good, warm, welcoming atmosphere,” Madrusan says. “It’s an inspiration of mine from growing up in an Italian family where generosity and food is what brings everyone together.”
The feminine touch
For others, the name they have chosen represents the influence that a woman has had on their lives. Sammy Jeon chose to name his Sydney restaurant Diana after his mentor Diana Shaw, co-founder of Philip Shaw Wines in Orange, NSW. Jeon learned about the amazing food and wine culture of Australia through Shaw. He says that choosing the name Diana is “wonderful” and “meaningful”, as it reminds him of where he came from.
Sometimes a woman’s name is enough to create the right atmosphere. Lola’s Level 1 in Bondi was named after the concept of an imagined personality: welcoming, timeless and creative. “Lola’s is all about fun,” says co-owner Marco Ambrosino. “We want Lola’s to be approachable. A place where you can drop in for a drink and some oysters; a place for dinner with the family; or a long lunch on the balcony overlooking Bondi.”
Leading the charge
Of course, naming a restaurant after a woman is not a new idea. Tilley’s Devine Café Gallery in Canberra is named after Matilda “Tilly” Devine, an English Australian organised crime boss from Sydney. When it first opened in the 1980s, it was designed as a safe space for women; the only way for men to enter was to be accompanied by at least one woman. As owner and manager Paulie Higgisson told the Canberra Times in 2003, “I just didn’t want a room full of blokes”. This caused outrage among some men at the time. A group of cadets from the Royal Military College, Duntroon, apparently attempted to force their way in on one occasion, leading to a brawl. The policy only remained for two years.
Many restaurants with female monikers were named after the women who ran them. An Irish woman named Una opened Una’s in Sydney in the 1960s. While the venue changed its owners and its fare over the years, the name has remained. In the 1970s, restaurateur, chef and food writer Mietta O’Donnell opened Melbourne institution Mietta’s with her partner Tony Knox. It stayed in operation for 21 years. Also in the 1970s, cook, author and restaurateur Stephanie Alexander opened Stephanie’s Restaurant in Melbourne. It had a strong focus on seasonal produce and French cuisine, and also stayed open for 21 years.
Head out to eat or drink in any major city and you’ll find yourself awash with women’s names. Sydney has Ursula’s (the middle name of co-owner Lis Davies’ mother), Roxy’s (named after owner Damien Monley’s youngest daughter) and Apollonia (named after Michael Corleone’s first wife in The Godfather). Melbourne has Marion, a wine bar named after the lane it backs onto. Brisbane has Agnes (after the street it’s located on), Bianca (after co-owner Bianca Machi) and Donna Chang, which gets its name from a character in an episode of Seinfeld. In Hobart, you’ll find Ettie’s, named for Tasmanian-born Kiwi Ettie Rout, who once lived in the building. Rout rose to fame by promoting safe sex during WWI.
Perhaps some men might wonder why there aren’t more male-named restaurants. But it’s clear this is more than just a trend about names. It’s also about honouring the women who have fed and cared for others; who have been bold and brave in their lives; and who have made a lasting impression on our history and culinary landscape. To loosely paraphrase Shakespeare, a restaurant by any other name would taste as sweet… But would it make you feel like you’re getting wrapped up in a huge hug from your nan?