When it opened 13 years ago, Public raised eyebrows with its Down Under menu of exotic eats like kangaroo. Now, that bravado seems to be giving way to something else — but what’s really happening is the expansion of ideas that were always present, says head chef Brad Farmerie, who opened the restaurant with his brother in 2003.
“In the beginning, it was sort of a hidden secret but we always had two or three vegan dishes and tons of gluten-free options, just because that’s the way I was ‘raised’ in London,” says Farmerie, recalling the lessons of chef Peter Gordon at the Sugar Club.
That means thinking beyond taking bacon off a salad (“then it’s not really the dish that you envisioned, is it?”) or being offered seasonally grilled vegetables as an entree (“womp womp”), both a common refrain when he was dining out around the city before launching Public. “It just shows that not a whole lot of thought went into it.”
“When we set up Public, we wanted to have two really weird bookends: One was a lot of cool vegan, vegetarian options, which we never really promoted but people were excited that we had them. And then the other was offal, game and guts and that cool stuff,” he says.
“Those two big bookends were always important to Public and a lot of that hasn’t changed — we’re looking more for the lighter side of that game and guts and building up the vegetarian, vegan-friendly side of it because that’s what I eat more often and that’s what I cook at home.”