Thames Delaforce: Reimagining Fine Dining

Since his start in hospitality from the tender age of fifteen working at the wine cellar at the Brisbane Polo Club, Thames Delaforce has developed his palate. While his taste buds have been more geared towards boutique wines, stints in bottleshops gave way to working with wholesale wines and spirits, setting up cafes, and working in coffee for a well-rounded education in hospitality. After a four-year spell at 1889 Enoteca, it was coming to Anise Wine Room as the owner that Thames has hit a pinnacle. Being in the right place at the right time is when dreams become a reality, and while it’s been a steady task to ride that perfect wave, Thames is exactly where he wants to be. As he prepares to celebrate the fifteen years with Anise, Thames sits down and chats Magnum Mondays, what to expect with the upcoming 15th anniversary degustation dinner and reimagining fine dining for our contemporary world.

What are you working towards with Anise?
My whole ethos behind what I want is good food, good wine, good service without that starchy fine dining feel. The old formula of fine dining is done, but that doesn’t mean we have to slack off and not step up with our food and our wine matching. We can just be a little bit more casual about our service, make it a little bit more interactive. That’s what I like about Anise. We can really showcase everything. It’s a treat for people who know everything about wine and food to people who are learning. We are there to help and educate at the same time. I think it’s something that is in the word ‘fine dining’. Everyone associates that with restaurants with white tablecloths and the waiter with the napkin across their arm; where it’s all very formal. That’s the way I was originally trained, which I’ve always enjoyed. But I think you can be a little more relaxed and a little more open. These days’ people want to interact and learn as much as they can.

Are you reimagining fine dining for our contemporary, urban world?
Definitely. I think at the moment especially in Brisbane, there are some beautiful things going on where we get enough exposure on the national stage. There are many good operators here. We are trying our best to shine, trying to push it and go head to head with the Sydney and Melbourne guys. I think we’ve got a good product and there’s a lot of good talent in Brisbane.

As a business, Anise has been around almost as long as establishments like Restaurant Two and e’cco Bistro. How does that feel?
I’m lucky enough to have run there for three years, taking on a business that was already established and keeping the name. There was an opportunity to change the name and change Anise, but I wanted to get it back to its original branding. I think we need these older venues in Brisbane. Anise is an institution in Brisbane and a great travelling ground for young talent.

Magnum Monday is a fascinating concept you came up with. How did it came about and what has everyone’s response been to it?
Magnum Monday was more to showcase all the wines in larger formats. I’ve always had a passion for drinking older wines and wines that have been aged for 10+ years. I don’t think the public gets a chance to try many older wines without having to buy a bottle first. The original concept was to put this in front of people and give them a chance to buy it by the glass in a larger format with a lot more people, rather than opening your standard 750ml bottle. With the four-course menu, the chefs keep up with creating new ideas to showcase what we can do. We play around with new ideas with Magnum Monday and it keeps everyone on their toes rather than menu going stale. I have some beautiful young talent and I really want to showcase their talents and what they can do.

With the upcoming 15th birthday dinner degustation, what message are you trying to convey?
What we can actually achieve – especially with it being truffle inspired. We are coming up to that time of the year when we have access to different truffles here in Australia – and they are stunning. It’s a good chance to put them out there and support our local markets while showing some beautiful wines side-by-side. At the end of the day, it’s fun for us. We are inspired and enjoy what we do. Everyone gets so passionate about it and really involved – that’s what I love about what I do.

How do you hope Anise will continue to shine?
We play seasonally with our products.  We try to evolve our menu as quickly as the seasons and when new products come in line, we chop and change quickly. That goes with our wine list as well. We don’t lock anything down for a long period of time. This year is going to be a big year for us. Towards the end of the year, we will be doing some really good stuff. My team has been the best. With the quality of the staff I have behind me and the collaboration of staff, I can see beautiful things for us. I just want to create something that I would love to dine at. At the end of the day, I’m just putting my ideas into a place and hopefully everyone likes what I do.

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