Robert Lechowicz Part III: Blackwood Pantry
11 June, 2020
Robert Lechowicz is a hospitality consultant and the Executive Head-Chef and co-owner of Cronulla’s Blackwood Pantry. This is Part Three of a three part feature on Robert Lechowicz and Blackwood Pantry. Part One (read here) centred on Rob’s time in the fine dining kitchens of Sydney and Europe, a precursor to the opening of Blackwood Pantry. In Part Two (read here) we asked Rob; to what extent his time as a fine dining chef help or hinder his transition into the Sydney brunch market, and how the two culinary styles differ? In Part Three we focus on Blackwood Pantry - the Cronulla local and destination café alike.
"We wanted to fill that void and give Cronulla something to be proud of, so Blackwood Pantry was created"
Cronulla presents somewhat of a puzzle for hospitality entrepreneurs. Shire locals have their ‘go-to’, but it felt as if nowhere in Cronulla had categorically cracked it for some time. Nowhere seemed capable of bringing punters from the neighbouring nor outer suburbs. Rob Lechowicz, Daniel Sorridimi and Paul Pisani all grew up nearby, and it wasn’t lost on them that Cronulla was somewhat in need of a bold brunch establishment. “We loved Cronulla and believed it was a great area with a lot of potential, but was lacking in venues with a creative edge in the brunch scene. We wanted to fill that void and give Cronulla something to be proud of, so Blackwood Pantry was created”.
Today, many locals refer to Blackwood Pantry endearingly as ‘the pantry’, and the space itself was created for them, and as a tribute to the ocean culture of Cronulla. It is an area of sun, wind and waves, and relaxed vibes synonymous with the surf and beach communities, which influences much of Cronulla’s personality. The design of Blackwood Pantry was crafted as a tribute to Cronulla’s character and is now making a significant contribution to it. The much acclaimed design group Luschetti Krelle fashioned a space which Rob describes as feeling “sheik, but at the same time relaxed and inviting with its exposed concrete and light pastel colour. It draws much inspiration from the surrounding beach area”. The concrete polished floor features a hexagon pattern which replicates that of the sea wall which runs along the main beach of Cronulla.
"I didn’t want to have criteria or guidelines. If I felt like putting a kick-ass burger on the menu right next to a dish with winter truffles, I was going to do that!"
The output of the kitchen at Blackwood Pantry delicately poses itself between cultured and inclusive. The dishes are refined, but without any tag of snobbery. Rob speaks of the Blackwood mentality which guides his devising of the seasonal menu releases, “I made a promise to myself from day one that I would ensure that every dish I put on the menu would be one I am proud of. When doing any dish I always try to sneak in an ingredient that is a little different, to get the customer thinking ‘will that really work’, and then of course to try it, and love it”. No dish better epitomises this than the Basil Yoghurt which Rob describes as “a well-balanced yoghurt combined with strawberries, blueberries, caramelised pistachios, honey and my recipe for Basil Oil”. Rob’s intent as always is to avoid the constraints of categorisation, “I set out to create a venue which provides an eclectic mix of foods that makes up what we call our brunch menu today. I didn’t want to have criteria or guidelines. If I felt like putting a kick-ass burger on the menu right next to a dish with winter truffles, I was going to do that!”
Blackwood Pantry has a rare quality and character. It is not the result of a well-run formula, but rather it is organic and authentic. The offering is genuine and unswerving. When asked what factors have the most profound impact on the success of a Sydney hospitality endeavour, Rob answers with; “if you think of all the amazing venues, they all have one thing in common. They have their own identity, they rock it and they don’t follow others. There are many factors which serve to build a great reputation over the long-term. Mainly the offering needs to be amazing, consistent but ever-changing and evolving. The environment the customer walks into must be inviting and comfortable, this not only being the setting but also the service and the hospitality. Every customer that walks through the door needs to feel as though they have been hosted with the same hospitality as if they have walked into your home. I feel as though we have done this from day one at Blackwood Pantry.”
MON TO SUN : 7AM - 3PM
5/33 Surf Lane, Cronulla