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Big-Time Chef Goes South



Chef Luke Mangam at South, the day before its big opening party.

So much of SoMa’s new restaurants tend towards big, bold, basebally and a bit brash, it’s refreshing to see South Food and Wine Bar, a chic little gem with the feel of a neighborhood spot, open on Townsend Street, right across from the CalTrans station. Owned by two feisty young women (Aussie Liz O’Connell and a Kiwi Anna Weinberg), it’s a tribute to the happening restaurant scene in Australia—the urbane Sydney kind (more “modOZ” according to one article than roo burgers).

But the funny thing about South, is though it appears cozy and unassuming, Luke Mangan, the chef behind it, is quite a celebrity—like the kind of guy that has three sponsors on his crisp chef coat (Lexus, San Pellegrino and Virgin Atlantic), a restaurant in Sydney (Glass Brasserie) as well as a new restaurant in Tokyo (Salt), as well of course, his own TV show (“Appetizing Adventures”) and three cookbooks. It would be a bit like having Michael Mina go to Sydney and quietly open a little 20-seater.

But talk to Mangan for a few minutes and you’ll start to believe what he says: He’s just he just a simple guy with simple tastes. The food at South—deliciously light, decidedly unpretentious food with good Aussie/Asian influences—is testament to that. (Let's just say get anything with barramundi and the licorice parfait with lime syrup.)

I sat down with him for a very quick chat.

What can we expect on the menu?

Modern Australian. We have a habit of borrowing from all over the world. My style is light, clean and healthy.

Why San Francisco?

This city has some of the best restaurants in the world—great bars, great service. It’s pretty much got it all.

How did you get hooked up with Liz and Anna?

I met Liz when she worked for Penfolds. We use to do a lot of dinners together. They’d fly us from Australia to pair food with their wines.

What did you do last night?

Went to my first baseball game. Bought a baseball cap, had a hot dog and a few beers.