There’s barely a person in the world that doesn’t seek comfort in the cheesy aromatic goodness of a pizza fresh out of a wood-fired oven. This is all part of the ethos behind the new Italian joint Denny’s Kitchen, formerly Black Sheep Café.
Head chef and venue manager, Dwayne Bourke, has been whipping up quality dishes for the café for around 18 months and been one of the main driving forces behind the venue’s new refit. He could see that there was a bit of an identity crisis and that the iconic venue of the National Wool Museum had room for growth.
“Six months in, I approached the directors and shared my opinion of the identity crisis with the business. They’ve always had quality product and service and fair foot traffic, but it wasn’t on people’s dining radar. I wanted something that disassociated us from Lambys but still connected us to the building,” Dwayne says.
Italian was quickly brought up in discussion and Denny’s Kitchen was born a few months later after a much needed refit and carefully chosen menu.
Still, with aged wooden beams, rough stone and the rustic charm the heritage listed building is known for, Denny’s Kitchen has added the warmth of the Italian culture that was lacking before.
An assortment of pots, pans and cooking utensils hang above rows of delicious baked goods in the glass display at the entrance. Scrawled along the brick walls in Italian are the phrases ‘Good Friends, Good Food, Good Times’. While it’s cocky, it’s still a fine outline of the dining experience to be had at this venue. This is heavily aided as Italian is a highly favoured cuisine amongst diners. Denny’s Kitchen has gone back to Italian as it should be, with a strong focus on “peasant style” meals.
“We’re focusing on the peasant style dishes where you sit around the table and have all the platters and plates down the centre and you can pick and choose from what you like,” Dwayne says.
“We’ve got lots of big tables here, which work well for that. And that’s kind of what Italian food lends itself to.”
Denny’s has all the Italian classic covered, Osso Buco made with with beef, arancini balls, risotto and what seems to be a favourite amongst diners, the wood-fired pizzas and crab linguine. It may seem like everyone makes wood-fired pizzas these days but Denny’s has a point of difference. Their wood oven was imported from Naples, Italy and it known to be from the world leaders in pizza ovens.
Rather than focusing on overcomplicated lengthy procedures, Italian is about letting the ingredients and the quality produce shine through in each dish. Denny’s Kitchen has taken this on board with their produce sourced locally.
“We’re trying to get as much local stuff as we can to support the local industry. We’ve seen that there are a lot of quality suppliers in the Geelong region and it’s nice to be able to have those to choose from and support,” he says.
It soon becomes clear that the team behind Denny’s has placed much thought into each aspect of their venue; from their new fit-out to the tomatoes they get from suppliers, there’s nothing that’s done half-baked. With every little aspect of the venue it’s all been pieced together in order for the most enjoyable experience for you.
“We don’t want to be just a destination restaurant. And we just want people to walk away and say, ‘Wow, that was a great place worth the refit and the staff are very friendly and what a great experience to be had’,” Dwayne says.
Open: Open for Lunch 7 days, Wed to Sat for Dinner
Where: National Wool Museum. Cnr Moorabool & Brougham Sts, Geelong
By Amanda Sherring