Rutherglen's loss is Albury's gain as hospitality power couple Simon Arkless and Cait Mitchelhill open Yardbird with Denis Lucey in the border city, following nine successful years at All Saints Estate's hatted Terrace Restaurant.
Driven by European techniques and powered by a Mibrasa wood-fired oven from Spain, Yardbird is Arkless and Mitchelhill's attempt to create a local venue in their home town, after serving mainly destination diners at All Saints.
"There's lots of pub-type venues in Albury. There's not that many places that are doing contemporary food," says Arkless, who is heading the kitchen while Mitchelhill brings her expertise to the floor of the 150-seater.
The pair have upgraded the former Hog's Breath Cafe with Albury local Dana Hutchins, formerly of Techne Architecture, highlighting the building's past as a mechanics workshop. Splashes of terracotta and olive, red tiles and handmade blackbutt tables from Yackandandah bring warmth to the industrial foundations.
A courtyard out the front is ideal for people-watching and Arkless' bar snacks – think O Couto peppers from the fire or grilled La Boqueria chorizo. Dinner could start with grilled Lakes Entrance octopus, lardo and hazelnuts, before roasted blue-eye with beurre blanc or one of three cuts of steak cooked over charcoal in the Mibrasa. Grilled vegetable sides and entrees, tortilla and croquettes also appear on the menu.
"We're starting at Calais and working our way down," says the British-born chef. "Lots of Spanish, French, a little bit of Italian, dipping a toe into North Africa or Turkey in a couple of instances."
But cherries from nearby Chiltern, locally grown berries, and nuts from High Country towns Gapsted and Mitta Mitta also have their place.
Sommelier Ben Knight (ex-Vue de Monde) has assembled a list of 100 wines that hail from Europe, Chile and Victoria, especially nearby regions Beechworth and King Valley.
As for the name Yardbird? Arkless and Lucey just really like the band.
Open Tue-Sat 5pm-9pm, 493 Townsend Street, Albury, NSW, 02 6048 7804, yardbird.com.au