4’s give Colin Fassnidge a winning Hand

An eight-year plan by Colin Fassnidge has finally become realty.

4Fourteen has taken over the venue that was once Le Pain Quotidien.

Based on San Francisco’s A16 restaurant and wine bar 4Fourteen borrows from A16’s rustic feel, a sharing menu and lots of drinks choices including cocktails, beers, ciders and wine – a broad selection of Australian wines alongside a few choice Italian and French wines. And wine by the carafe! …Really good wine by the carafe leaves diners feeling they are getting value for money while experiencing food from one of Sydney’s best chefs.

The space at 4Fourteen has been broken up into individual and intimate surrounds. There is a central bar; an open kitchen in one corner encircled by a dining bar and along the far side a series of tables running the length of the wall.

Opening to a lot of interest and publicity including a 15/20 glowing report from SMH’s Terry Durak the restaurant is already flat out doing over 1,200 covers in its first week. Says Colin’ “ it’s a shock to be this busy so early. On the first night we did 120 covers and it’s been crazy ever since”

4Fourteen sits nicely next to Colin’s other ventures, the Four in Hand and Paddington Arms. Comparing the two ‘Four’ restaurants Fassnidge explains, ”Four in Hand is a more serious foodie destination. It’s where business people or friends gather to have a long and relaxing meal with a bottle of wine in a venue that really is fine dining as Sydney has determined it should be.”

4Fourteen has its finger on the pulse. Nailing the new trend in ‘sharing’ along with recognizing what the Surry Hills dining crowd are looking for. “4Fourteen, a younger crowd to Four in Hand. It appeals to busy inner city types who tend to eat out up to five times a week. Like all Sydney diners, they have learnt what good food should look and taste like and they vote with their feet if you don’t deliver. We certainly don’t fall into the cheap eats category at 4Fourteen but we do offer a value experience. That’s why we are getting a regular set of diners already.”

I took this opportunity to ask Colin about was has made him the success he has become. Quite frankly 4Fourteen is great and there are plenty of glowing reports about the restaurant. Enough of the review I say!

BISTRO:Your thoughts on fine dining in Sydney?

COLIN FASSNIDGE:Well I can make an observation about Sydney and anywhere in the world for that matter when it comes to what is referred to as fine dining. Not so long ago I took my mother to one of Sydney’s top ‘fine dining’ restaurants. Mum asked the waiter to explain what John Dory was. Fair question. The waiter snickered leaving my mother uncomfortable. I was pretty upset I have to tell you. When customers feel so intimidated by a restaurant they feel uneasy asking about menu items then they can never really enjoy the restaurant. I’ve seen people so overwhelmed by stuffy waiters that they wouldn’t order a cheese board selection for fear of being seen as not being a cheese expert.
Take away the pretense and you get customers relaxed enough to ask questions and explore your menu. Eating out is supposed to be fun and a great chance to try new things. Take away the attitude and let it happen!

B:So with a young family and three restaurants all doing well how do you balance your time.

CF: I am far more relaxed these days and I have new priorities. I put that down entirely to having two children. I decided I wanted to be around to see the kids grew up so I have made myself learn to delegate.
The kids make me see what’s important. In my previous life I was a total stress head! One time I literally chased a cook out the door and up a hill because he overcooked some asparagus! That’s what stress can do for you.
How you create the time to spend with your kids is about delegating – which I was really bad at but have learnt to do. That has plenty to do with a great team. Four in Hand has gone from three chefs to ten chefs – all really hard working and talented people. Neil Thompson at the Paddington Arms arms is doing a great job. Carla Jones my business partner and head chef at 4Fourteen is fantastic. Yes I have learnt to delegate but that is all about building a great team and learning to let go…a bit

B:The 4Fourteen menu has a lot of pig.

CF: The economics of running a restaurant makes nose to tail really important to the business side of things as well as giving customers the chance to try really creative and great food. Pig is absolutely ideal. When I came to the Four in Hand the place was losing money hand over fist. Breaking down an animal in house and learning how to use every component is a must to running a profitable restaurant. You really can use all parts of a pig and not only does it provide profit but theses ‘secondary cuts’ can actually be a driver to the business. People travel across Sydney to Four in Hand so they can eat a pig’s ear. Cool!

B:You are a big user of social media. In particular a Twitter maniac. Does it help business?

CF: Absolutely. I recently cooked a whole pig. Took a picture and posted a Tweet – ‘this pig is looking for ten customers. $800’ I had three people ring me in five minutes all wanting to take up the offer. So that Tweet was worth $800 to me.

B:Have these cooking reality shows effected the restaurant business

CF: They are have been good for the consumer. People understanding more about food and prepared to try new things. The problem is that they paint a very distorted view about choosing a career to be a chef. These shows don’t show what’s involved in becoming a chef – the hard work, long hours and little pay! I interview kids who want to be apprentices and expect wages that are just unrealistic.