The busy team behind Lilian, Chef Otis Gardner Schapiro (left) and co-owner (along with Willy Gresson), Hugo Baird (right), took some time out to answer some of our burning questions.
Congratulations on the super-successful opening of Lilian, and thanks for taking the time to chat.
What do you think is the most important thing to consider when opening a restaurant – can you encapsulate the magic formula for getting it just right?
Hugo: Create an environment where people want to be, through atmosphere, fitout, service and offering. You get one wrong and there’s too many other places getting them all right.
What are the main differences you see in the food scene in New Zealand compared to your recent overseas experiences?
Otis: New Zealanders are definitely not as open to weird/different food. I think this is slowly starting to change though.
Who would you most like to have come and eat at Lilian – anyone living or dead (go wild)?
Hugo: Anthony Bourdain for sure. I’m sure he would give an honest appraisal.
Who would you most like to have the opportunity to cook for?
Otis: A few loved ones that aren’t around anymore.
What is your favourite recipe you cook for yourself?
Hugo: My go to is crispy skinned fish (usually salmon) on some sort of salad depending on the season. Loving the mediterranean salads at the moment.
Otis: Fish tacos.
Your go-to dinner party dish?
Otis: Steamed whole fish with ginger, spring onion etc…
The one thing you always have in your fridge?
Hugo: Cheese and wine.
Otis: Cholula hot sauce.
If you could impart one piece of entertaining knowledge to everyone, what would it be? (And how do you like to get the party vibe going!?)
Hugo: Keep the drinks topped up.
Who are your food heroes?
Hugo: There are too many to name but I learnt the most from my mum who is a great home cook.
Otis: Fergus Henderson, Corey Lee and Victor Arguinzoniz.
What music do you like to listen to while in the kitchen?
Hugo: I like to mix it up, although it has to be chilled unlike the Lilian team who listen to trap exclusively, I have been listening to Khruangbin a lot lately.
Otis: Almost exclusively loud trap music. I find it keeps everyone going.
Biggest kitchen disaster?
Hugo: Leaving a mouse trap (cheese toastie) in the oven and falling asleep after a night out. Luckily I had flatmates around to save the day/house.
Otis: Nothing major comes to mind, fortunately. We’ve had a few dud dough days at Lilian where we’ve had to completely scrap Pizza for the night. Quite disheartening.
Your guilty pleasure?
Hugo: Chicken fried rice.
Otis: Oporto's Bondi burger.
In all your travels, where have you experienced the best food (and what was it)?
Hugo: Copenhagen had some amazing food from many different cuisines. They also have a huge focus on locally sourced ingredients and sustainability which is hugely important. The pizza at Roberta’s in New York is hard to go past though.
Otis: Lobster coral xiao long bao at Benu in San Francisco.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Hugo: Travelling. A trip to Melbourne always gets the juices flowing and isn’t too far.
Otis: Past work experiences, past meals and cook books.
The kitchen utensil you can’t live without?
Hugo: Microplane and a sharp knife.
Otis: Never without a plastic bench scraper and an offset spatula.
You are currently craving?
Hugo: A mouse trap.
Otis: Sichuan beef noodles from Taste In Memory.
Lilian - Osteria & Wine Bar
472 Richmond Road, Grey Lynn
Tuesday - Saturday, 5pm - late