Quiet achiever takes a new direction.
One of Australia’s most gifted chefs reinvents himself with a menu that celebrates the Antipodes, as Anthony Huckstep discovers.
IT STARTS WITH crab sauce. Offered as a dip to accompany the housebaked bread, the glistening, buttery swoosh of the sea signals a joyous depth of flavour that runs throughout my entire meal.
The Antipodean Restaurant & Bar is a celebration of Australia and New Zealand’s most flavourful produce, but it’s also the result of a kind of metamorphosis.
Change doesn’t come easy – it’s not only hard to accept, but difficult to activate, too. Especially if you’ve had a good track record. Chef and restaurateur Grant King had his fair share of accolades at the food Ferris wheel that was Gastro Park (this site’s last incarnation) in Sydney’s Potts Point, where he challenged the realms of gastronomy with breathtaking culinary feats.
Spheres, foams and smears manifested in fantastical feasts. But as our food culture evolved, that world of consumable smoke and mirrors dissipated and the demand for a more relaxed approach and deeper connection with produce came to the fore.
King took note, turning the lights out on Gastro Park to place an emphasis on stellar produce (99 per cent of it local) with The Antipodean.
It’s a gorgeous space: floor-to-ceiling wraparound windows, floating floorboards, dark contemporary furniture, dim lighting and Australian natives as decoration.
Although it may be a little more relaxed than Gastro Park, believe me when I say King is one of the best cooks in the country. He may be slightly left of centre, and lack the celeb status of his contemporaries, but his palate and technical aptitude are the envy of many. In short, his food is bloody delicious.
A large bowl houses seared slivers of abalone, Blue Mountains shiitake and poached eggs that beg to be tossed and bound together. It’s like the best breakfast you could ever imagine.
Then a plump hand-tied burrata asks the same: burst it and combine with fried cabbage leaves, vincotto, mint and fresh peas. Good lord, it’s lovely. Whole, roasted John Dory flakes beautifully off the bone; I like the barbecued leeks that accompany it, but the fermented shiitake’s slippery texture is a bit overbearing. Strips of blushing duck breast are masterfully cooked and, though a great pairing, the persimmon on its side should be added sparingly for the best bite.
Then a celebration of new-season mandarins leaves a long, lasting impression. Fresh segments are torched, while others are freeze-dried and provide pops and crunches of pleasure when paired with a floral marigold ice cream.
The Antipodean may be sold as a more casual dining affair, but King’s technical prowess underpins every delicious layer. This is a castle to come back to. Yes