Sydney Chefs

Phillip Searle

Phillip SearlePhillip Searle keeping an eye on things at Mietta's in 1995. Photograph ©Tony Knox 1995

In 1991 Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide gave Oasis Seros three hats and 18 out of 20. Melbourne food critic Jill Dupleix, says: "Oasis Seros is Sydney punk. To us, it's the home of the most creative cuisine in Australia. However, in the manner of punk, it can be confronting. There's the cool, almost stark room, in scumbled greys, barely relieved by sculptural flower arrangements and very occasional paintings. There's the menu. Comfort food this isn't. Who else but Phillip Searle would list a É Overseas foodies rate a visit here mandatory. Local foodies should make it at least an annual event."

Christine Manfield, of the Paragon, goes further. She says that "Oasis Seros is not designed for complacency and mediocrity; it was always designed for throwing down the gauntlet and challenging mediocrity."

Critic,Stephen Downes, rates Oasis as equal third in his Top Ten and gives it 17.5 out of 20. He describes it as food of high technical brilliance: "At Oasis Seros you will find the most consistently exciting and original food in Australia. At the same time, many dishes are subtle and rely for their appreciation on considerable gastronomic experience. As palates become more sophisticated, I am convinced its appeal will increase considerably. Among the cognoscenti, however there is no doubt."

Christine Manfield "the first restaurant protege of Phillip [Searle]" says, "Phillip Searle is incredibly important in Sydney; he is the most important influence on the way people think and respond to food here. It's fascinating to see his effect on people. He is a very good teacher, very methodical and has a very good way of explaining and directing; he is very definite in terms of what he wants but his great strength is that he does it in a way that makes you feel still in control.

"He is definite, precise in his instructions and works with logic and reasoning. He explains clearly why things are done a certain way, there is always a lot of analysis in his work. He has a very lateral approach to anything he is applying his knowledge to. He looks at all the possibilities and then decides on the tactic.

"He is self-taught and came into cooking in his late 20's. He is now in his early 40's. His style of food came from reading and travelling. He lived in New York for about six months before starting up in Sydney. He has travelled in India and Africa. Experiments all the time but works through an intuitive knowledge."

Why doesn't his restaurant work?

"Oasis Seros is not busy at the moment but all top end restaurants have suffered lately. When he gets press it goes. What he is doing is still light years ahead of the general understanding of food here in Sydney.

"Oasis Seros is not designed for complacency and mediocrity; it was always designed for throwing down the gauntlet and challenging mediocrity."

Christine concluded, "When you work with Phillip, its unlike any other chef -- with him we know no bounds; there are no rules -- "lets see how far we can go with this"."

Oasis Seros closed in 1994. In 1996, Phillip, and his partner Barry Ross opened Vulcans at Blackheath serving, what Barry calls, the black heathens. Situated in an old bakery the dishes come from the 'fire' -- the original bakery oven. These slow cooked dishes are providing Philip with a new outlet for his creative energy.

Vulcans is at 33 Govetts Leap Rd. Blackheath, 2785 and is open from 9am to 11pm Friday to Sunday. Phone +61 2 4787 6899.

Phillip Searle at Mietta's in 1995 plating his 'eyeballs'. Photograph ©Tony Knox 1995

A 1999 interview (and recipes) with Phillip Searle, a 1995 interview from Mietta and Friends and a review of his restaurant Vulcans.

Mietta O'Donnell
February 1991
Updated December 1996
©Mietta's 1996