Ace restaurateur Jamie Webb has opened a Korean-style diner on Caxton Street, with a slightly unusual inspiration.
“I wanted it to look like a place where the characters from M*A*S*H would hang out,” says Jamie, who’s also the man behind Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall, Sonny’s House of Blues, Gordita, Peasant and Los Villanos.
Of course, M*A*S*H was set during the Korean War, and Ginger’s Diner certainly has a Korean flavour.
“There has been a real European and American food influence [in Brisbane] in recent years, but I think it’s swinging back towards Asian and that really suits the climate here,” he says.
“Asian food is spicy, garlicky and very moreish. For Ginger’s, we’ve taken Korean food and westernised it a bit. There is nothing like this, food-wise, in Brisbane.”
Seating roughly 65 patrons, the cocktail bar and casual diner takes inspiration from M*A*S*H in ways both obvious — there’s a cocktail called Klinger’s Closet, for instance — and subtle. The snack-filled menu includes wasabi peas and nuts, kimchi pancakes, fried chicken and bibimbap. It’s the sort of place an American GI would have frequented during their R&R in Seoul.
“We’ll be getting a jukebox and playing a lot of old Motown songs, so it’s going to be a noisy and fun place,” Jamie says.
“My philosophy on restaurants and bars is that you should treat them like your house; you’re letting people in and you need to give them a great experience. You go to a restaurant to have a fun time, not just to eat, and I think a lot of restaurants forget that.”
From co-owning an Aussie-themed restaurant in New York to running the French-Vietnamese Libertine and Spanish restaurant Peasant in Brisbane, it’s clear that Jamie has always had a fascination for different foods and cultures.
“The basis of food is great culture, having great food is an integral part of who they (different cultures) are. Australia doesn’t really have their own food culture; we have a hybrid and mixture of different cultures and cuisines,” he says.
“I love taking bits and pieces from different foods and cultures and modernising them a bit. There is something great about traditional foods, but there is also something great about modernising them.”
Jamie says his favourite part about his job is meeting new people and making sure they enjoy themselves.
“Restaurants should be about much more than just having a meal,” he insists.
“I want to make sure everyone has a good time. It’s really nice to watch people have fun and enjoy themselves.”
Ginger’s Diner is now open daily from 4pm to midnight. You’ll find it at 19 Caxton Street, Brisbane (next to Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall).
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