Tucked away next to the William Vale Hotel, Isla & Co (107 N 12th St.) has been serving up Australian-inspired fare since opening this past March (and would go on to expand to two other locations with four more on the way nationwide) as the latest venture from Parched Hospitality Group, who is also the team behind Hole in the Wall on Bedford Ave.
Since the restaurant’s inception, Corporate Executive Chef Matt Foley (who is also PHG’s director of operations) has been bringing his culinary passion to the forefront of everything Isla & Co has to offer. His résumé boasts impressive range, from a background in business finance to stints at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Marea and fast casual chain DIG
If you’re not looking out for it, Isla & Co can be easily missed. However, stepping inside reveals a bright and inviting space (with no shortage of windows for Williamsburg people watching) for a dining experience punctuated by dishes featuring simple ingredients and impressive flavor profiles, well-crafted cocktails, and friendly, knowledgable staff. Personally, I can’t recommend the charred octopus starter, roasted half chicken, and tequila-based King’s Cup enough, but if you’re on the fence, bartenders and servers are happy to share their own suggestions.
Greenpointers caught up with Foley to chat even more about Isla & Co’s journey, his personal menu favorites, and how fun it is to eat in North Brooklyn.
Greenpointers: What brought you to Isla & Co?
Chef Matt Foley: I’m a career changer, I actually started in business finance, but restaurants have always been something I’ve seen myself working in. I grew up in having family working in restaurants and growing up in an Italian family, food was always around in the center of what I do. I went to the Culinary Institute of America and then I’ve sort of been in the restaurant business ever since. And [working my way up] really made me passionate about what I do in the culinary world.
I was able to find Parched Hospitality [Group] where I’m at now and between the culture and the team that’s here, I’ve really been able to bring sort of my business background and my culinary background into this. We have everything from Hole in the Wall and we have a fine dining spot Isla, and Isla & Co sort of meets in the middle bringing elevated cuisine and service to something that’s very approachable in a casual atmosphere. So I’m really excited about this concept and I think the team is, too.
Greenpointers: What’s different about Isla & Co compared to anywhere you’ve worked previously?
Chef Foley: [Isla & Co] is great because I got to start it from scratch and had full control over this piece. So being able to create a menu that was mine, that I’m proud of and got to change the menu seasonally. It allows me a lot of creativity, which is different from joining a restaurant group that’s already open and sort of has their mindset on how the structure of a menu looks. I was able to do that myself for Isla & Co and that makes me really excited, not only for our opening menu, but for everything to come as we change it throughout the seasons.
Greenpointers: What is your philosophy in the kitchen?
Chef Foley: My philosophy is thoughtful and intentional dishes. So really putting a lot of thought and intention on how they’re created, from textures to flavor profiles, but also just cooking with intention and passion and building a team so that everyone from the line cooks to anyone running the restaurants, they feel that in the food and the service.
In terms of the menu creation and philosophy, we’re an Australian-founded group and we sort of hold to it as we create menus as well. Australia is a blending of cultures and cuisines, and I like to make sure we can see that in the menus, so it pulls in everything from European to Southeast Asian. It’s a big blending of cuisines, but something that’s also very approachable for the everyday diner.
Greenpointers: If you had to choose, what’s your favorite dish on the menu?
Chef Foley: I love all of our starters. Some of my favorite happens to be the clams with nduja, white wine — it’s really delicious and you soak it up up with some crusty, charred bread (editor’s note — sourdough, to be exact). Also the octopus and the halloumi dish I think are great. I’m a big fan of the starters, small bites for people and something to share. But you also can’t go wrong with the fish and chips and the short ribs and the chicken.
Greenpointers: What are some of your favorite places to eat in Greenpoint and Williamsburg?
Chef Foley: I find myself dining out here all the time, so I’m excited to be part of that group. I’m a big fan of Chez Ma Tante, Di An Di, I think those are fun places to eat at.
If the above isn’t enough to convince you to stop by, Isla & Co just announced a daily oyster special from 4 to 6 p.m. featuring six oysters and the martini of your choosing for just $16 (yes, 16 dollars for seafood and a cocktail in Williamsburg).