Matt Moran puts artists on the plate for the Archies

From left, Tianli Zu, chef Matt Moran, Jonathan Dalton and Jane Guthleben. Moran is collaborationg with Archibald Prize ...
From left, Tianli Zu, chef Matt Moran, Jonathan Dalton and Jane Guthleben. Moran is collaborationg with Archibald Prize finalists for a special menu at the Art Gallery of NSW. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Celebrity chef Matt Moran has long been a fan of the Archibald Prize, and even featured in Australia's most famous portrait competition almost a decade ago.

"A good mate, Vincent Fantauzzo, painted me in a butcher shop back in 2011 and we ended up taking out the Packing Room Prize," he says. 

"The competition has always been a bit special for me, and I regularly take my kids to the Young Archie. It's something I loved a long time before launching Chiswick at the Gallery six years ago." 

Tianli Zu's barramundi with zucchini, broad bean and sorrel.
Tianli Zu's barramundi with zucchini, broad bean and sorrel.  Photo: Wolter Peeters

Chiswick reopens at the Art Gallery of NSW today after closing in March due to social distancing restrictions prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Moran is taking his love of the portrait prize one step further in 2020 by collaborating with finalists on dishes for a special Archibald menu at the smart-casual restaurant.

"Gallery visitor numbers have been down because of COVID, so hopefully the collaboration will encourage people to get out and about and experience Chiswick and exhibition within the same visit. We want to book both of them out."

Jonathan Dalton's focaccia with rosemary, chilli and roasted garlic, inspired by the atist's baking during lockdown.
Jonathan Dalton's focaccia with rosemary, chilli and roasted garlic, inspired by the atist's baking during lockdown. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Moran and head chef Tim Brindley have worked with three Archibald finalists for the menu. Dishes are inspired by the artists' food memories and what they were cooking during lockdown.

For finalist Tianli Zu, childhood memories of watching her grandmother cook, plus a love of Australian seafood, led to a dish of barramundi, zucchini, broad beans and sorrel. She says her grandmother taught her "cooking is like any other art – you need to find balance".

Artist Jonathan Dalton found himself baking more over lockdown and has put his name to house-made focaccia with rosemary, chilli and roasted garlic. Jane Guthleben, who painted journalist and baking boffin Annabel Crabb for her Archibald entry, features on the dessert carte with Valrhona chocolate mousse enhanced by almond and orange.

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Priced at two courses for $64, or $72 for three courses, the artist menu also includes entry to The Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes exhibition opening on September 26. 

Entry to the exhibition will require a specific booking time in 2020 to maintain social distancing.

"We can't have a lot of people randomly show up and try to go through at the same time," says AGNSW director of development John Richardson.

Jane Guthleben's Valhrona chocolate mousse with almond and orange.
Jane Guthleben's Valhrona chocolate mousse with almond and orange. Photo: Wolter Peeters

"That shouldn't be a turn off, though. It just means people need to be a touch more organised and make a day of it. I think it should be a positive experience which means no one is coming to the gallery to find they can't get into the restaurant or Archibald.

"The collections are still open for walk-in visits, so by adding the lunch package you can really make a day of it."

Moran says Sydneysiders can expect to see more collaborations between venues, artists and restaurants coming out of the pandemic. 

'Annabel, the baker', by Jane Guthleben for the 2020 Archibald Prize.
'Annabel, the baker', by Jane Guthleben for the 2020 Archibald Prize. Photo: Felicity Jenkins

The chef's flagship Aria fine-diner will host staff from Rocks' cocktail hotspot Maybe Sammy behind the bar every Wednesday throughout October, for example. Experience-based dining will be key to getting more people back to restaurants, especially in tourist areas.

"It's a new world isn't it? We're going to keep trying as many new ideas as possible and see what people like. Everything is open for discussion." 

Announcement of the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prize winners will be live-streamed on the AGNSW's website and Facebook page from noon on September 25.