Former Ottolenghi chef opens cafe-deli Otis in Kiama

Emily Herbert has returned to Australia to open a venue on the NSW south coast.
Emily Herbert has returned to Australia to open a venue on the NSW south coast. Photo: Cathy Law/The Bugle Kiama

Yotam Ottolenghi came close to opening a restaurant in Australia before pulling the pin on a deal, but we've landed the next best thing.

Emily Herbert, the Australian head chef at Ottolenghi Belgravia for the past four years, has returned home to open a cafe-deli in Kiama.

Otis, on Kiama's main drag, has the sort of fresh, constantly changing menu the best-selling cookbook author and TV host would give a big tick.

Heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, zaatar, pomegranate molasses.
Heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, zaatar, pomegranate molasses. Photo: Supplied

There's a salad of roasted pumpkin, tahini, caramelised onion and zaatar, miso-baked broccolini and dukkah-crusted chicken breast with rose harissa yoghurt.

"He taught me as much in the four years I was there as I learnt in the 15 years [in the industry] before that," the Melbourne-raised Herbert says.

"He's very hands on, he could be in the kitchen [a few] times a week working beside me, telling stories about how he first discovered a dish."

The Aussie chef is guarded talking about the Ottolenghi near-miss opening in Australia, which is believed to have fallen over due to the distance from his home base, but Herbert would almost certainly have been a part of it.

And why did the call of home take a Melburnian to the south coast of NSW?

"My brother lives there, I've been visiting for years," she says.

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She spotted some available real estate on the internet one night – inking the deal in hours. Belgravia's loss is Kiama's gain.

And while Herbert mightn't deal with as many sheiks and oligarchs as she's used to in Belgravia – where she was once asked to cook poached eggs without yolks by one customer – the new Terralong Street venue has quickly gathered a big following.

You can tuck into a breakfast of shashuka with labneh and sourdough (baked eggs with tomato, chilli and capsicum sauce) at Otis, and Herbert is applying to add early dinners.

Open Wednesday to Monday 8am-4pm

106 Terralong Street, Kiama, 02 4232 1135