Larissa Fuller
Sydney, Australia

Flames and Flavours: Journey with Lennox Hastie to Australia’s Culinary Sanctuaries

Where there's smoke, there's fire! And thats exactly where you will find Australia's iconic firebrand chef.

Acclaimed chef and fire connoisseur Lennox Hastie is as familiar with the rugged Australian landscape as he is with the heat of a blazing kitchen.

As the culinary genius at the helm of Sydney's Firedoor, Lennox has positioned his restaurant as a jewel in Australia's gastronomic landscape. Its storied reputation, bolstered by accolades and a feature on Netflix’s 'Chef’s Table', marks Firedoor as a destination not to be missed. The restaurant's unique approach, where Lennox and his team skill-fully use fire to enhance the flavour of seafood, vegetarian dishes, and top-quality meats, promises an experience that's both mesmerising to watch and indulgent to taste.

Recently, Hastie expanded his touch to Sydney’s bar scene with the launch of Gildas. This more intimate and informal venue presents some of the finest pinchos and snacks, drawing inspiration from Spain’s Basque Country. While Firedoor continues to shine brightly in Sydney's culinary scene, Gildas emerges as its charming companion — an unassuming haven that offers a superior experience in both innovative plates and refined drinks.

In our latest conversation, Lennox chats with Locay about his most memorable Australian hideaways—those local destinations that ignite inspiration for his renowned culinary masterpieces. Whether you're a gourmand, a traveller, or simply someone in search of authentic local escapes, Lennox Hastie reveals some of the country’s most unique culinary hot spots that are well worth the visit.

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There is no denying that you have a love for the Australian outdoors. With such inspired menus centred on sourcing the best Australian produce, it’s no wonder we see you working in some of Australia’s most impressive natural settings.

If you could design a 3-stop Australian travel itinerary based purely on culinary experiences, which destinations would top your list and why?

Sydney, New South Wales: While I may be showing my bias in choosing my home city, Sydney has such a vibrant food scene, with beautiful produce and a diverse population creating an incredible choice of restaurants and bars at every level. Combined with the beauty of the harbour and the beaches, it’s a city that truly has it all.

Hobart, Tasmania: Tasmania is one of the most beautiful places in the world and home to an amazing array of ingredients, from award-winning cheeses, native oysters, beautiful wines, and even whisky! The Agrarian Kitchen is one of my go-to places while visiting.

Kuku Yalanji Country, Far North Queensland: I love to go off-grid and get outdoors, and this unique area combining the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef has a lot to offer. A walkabout cultural adventure with Juan Walker would have to be a highlight, catching your own mud crab, followed by a cook-up on the beach. A visit to Oaks Kitchen and Garden for a Thai cooking class or a long lunch is also a must.

What’s the most adventurous or unusual food you’ve tried in your Australian travels, and let’s be honest, did it ever make the cut in one of your culinary creations?

Some of the Indigenous foods I got the chance to experience whilst on a bush tucker up in Kakadu National Park, such as witchetty grubs (which is a mental challenge), green ants, wattleseed, and native honey, were super interesting. While we don’t barbecue grubs at Firedoor or Gildas, we have used green ants for special events, and we currently make a woodfired wattleseed flatbread brushed with native honey at Firedoor. There is so much to learn from the original people of the land.

When selecting a travel destination, what order would you place the following?

Food (1)

Nature (2)

People (3)

Comfort (4)

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Hot tip to finding the best food whilst travelling: Chat to the locals – no one knows the area better than those who live in the region. - Lennox Hastie

What is one of your most memorable local food experiences when on the road in Australia? What made it unforgettable?

Brae, Birregurra

An incredible experience well worth a detour. Set on a regenerative farm of 20 acres, chef Dan Hunter has created an iconic Australian restaurant with rooms where the food and service are next level.

One highlight was a dish of barbecued beetroot, fresh honeycomb, and rainbow trout roe together with a smoked eel doughnut, which I could eat a thousand times over.

For more details on the incredible dining experience at Brae, be sure to check out Locay's listing of Australia's Hottest Hotel Dining Rooms!

It's been said that the best life is one you don't need a vacation from; hence, we are eager to immerse ourselves in the local scene of Sydney’s Surry Hills, home to your ultra-successful Firedoor restaurant. Could you share with us some of the top local highlights this neighbourhood has to offer for an out-of-town visitor?

Single O for coffee and breakfast; City Edge for the best sandwiches; a bowl of pasta at Alberto’s; a fritto misto and a Campari at Pellegrino’s 2000; delicious Levantine food at Nour; great wine and snacks at Bar Copain.

For guests who may like to stay nearby for their dining experience at Firedoor, are there any top boutique hotels in the area you would recommend?

Paramount House or the Ace Hotel Sydney.

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Are there any niche destinations you would consider rising stars in Australia's local food and produce scene that we should keep an eye on?

The South Coast of NSW is turning out gem after gem—from Austinmer/Thirroul down to Berry and Gerringong, there’s some really exciting things happening.

And finally, for those of us who may not be as familiar with some of your roots and career highlights to date, has there been a particular experience in your travels that led to a turning point or evolution in your career as a chef?

I spent my early career working at Michelin-starred restaurants across the UK, France, and Spain. While I learned a great deal at this time and was so appreciative of it, I began to lose sight of what I loved most about cooking—the ingredients. Having grown captivated by the Basque country, I found myself helping out at a local pintxos bar. It was here that I overheard a mention of a grill restaurant in the Basque mountains, Asador Extebarri.

Etxebarri, a small asador with a strong tradition of wood-fired grilling, was a game changer for me—it’s where I worked with Victor Arguinzoniz, pushing the limits of what could be cooked over an open flame. Here I was exposed to a form of cooking that was so completely different, beautifully complex, yet simple—one that highlighted ingredients in their most natural state. What began as one year at Asador Etxebarri soon grew into five and set me on the path to create Firedoor in 2015 and then open Gildas in 2022.

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