Along with his partners, president and owner of Parched Hospitality Group, David Orr, and have imported a uniquely Texan version of their successful New York City restaurants into Bishop Arts.
Isla & Co. started as Hole in the Wall, a destination that has become one of the most popular brunch spots in NYC’s Financial District. As Orr’s team created the restaurant, they added dinner to the menu and, since it had evolved significantly, changed the restaurant’s name to Isla & Co. Isla is one of the most popular names in Australia, and is also short for “Island,” as in the island continent of Australia. “It’s a nod to our roots,” Orr tells Eater Dallas.
The goal for Isla was for it to feel a lot like Orr’s hometown in Mulwala, Australia. He determined through research that not many spots here served high-end coffee, breakfast, and brunch, with dinner and cocktails in the evening. “That, along with being connected to the local community and the people, makes for an engaging, fun environment,” Orr says. So far, the first few days it has been open have been indicative of that spirit of community, according to Orr. “We take product really seriously, but I think what will really bring people back is the Aussie hospitality,” he says.
Isla & Co. moved into the space formerly occupied by Lucia, one of the city’s best restaurants. Orr tells Eater Dallas that was also the result of carefully getting to know the city. “Texas is very different, [in] the weather and the business environment. It’s also a very cool state, particularly for Aussies,” he says. After hitting half a dozen neighborhoods, the sense of community in Bishop Arts ultimately won him over. The team felt that Bishop Arts had enough elements of New York and Australia to fit the restaurant, with a Texan accent — of sorts. “There’s a great energy on the streets that’s rare in other parts of Dallas,” Orr says. “The walkability and neighborhood feel, plus the welcoming people, felt familiar to us.”
The menu at Isla is Australian with global influences. Orr explains, saying, “The best way to think about it is like how Latin America influences the U.S. — Australia has that same kind of exposure to Asia. A large portion of our population comes from there and it influences both the culture and the cooking.” Speaking of the menu, Orr pointed to the octopus and the halloumi dishes as his favorites. While most dishes on the menu are the Australian version of others, the lamb shoulder and the sausage rolls in particular are the most authentically Australian items. In fact, in Australia “you can get sausage rolls everywhere from gas stations to the nicest restaurants. Like a hot dog here in the U.S.” He tells Eater Dallas that they sold out of them on opening weekend.
Parched Hospitality Group has tapped Jeremy Ortiz, formerly from the Standard Hotel, to lead the bar program. Highlights from Ortiz’ seasonal cocktail menu include the Smoke Show, created especially for Dallas, that combines mezcal, passion fruit, and chia seeds. It is smoky and topped with chili threads, to help it resonate with the Texas palate The ubiquitous and incredibly popular espresso martini is also a signature cocktail that uses Isla & Co.’s own roast.
“We take coffee very seriously,” Orr says. “It’s one of the few things we take seriously, in fact. We roast our own beans, working with a partner to source sustainably and with fair trade practices.” In addition to coffee, Isla & Co. offers tea (including sweet tea for Texans) as well as an Aussie-style iced coffee, which is a sweet latte with chocolate and vanilla ice cream. “Coffee culture in Australia is quite different to that of the U.S. In America we get a coffee on the run like from 7-Eleven or something, and it’s like a dollar. In Australia it’s a routine and a ritual and everyone knows the barista at their weekday coffee spot,” Orr says. It goes without saying that he wants Isla & Co. to model the latter.
Something else it’s bringing to the neighborhood is a relaxed sense of time, which is extremely Australian. While the kitchen closes for dinner at 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends, the bar will stay open for a couple of hours afterward, Orr says, “depending on the vibe.”