Cuisine - - CONTENTS - Kelli Brett trav­elled to Syd­ney as a guest of Desti­na­tion NSW and QT Ho­tel Syd­ney.

Kelli Brett sam­ples Syd­ney’s hat­ted win­ners from the Aus­tralian Good Food Guide 2018

TRIPS TO AUS­TRALIA now find me con­stantly com­par­ing their restau­rant of­fer­ings to what we have in New Zealand, try­ing to get a mea­sure on what we do well and what op­por­tu­ni­ties might ex­ist to in­crease our rat­ing as a must-visit culi­nary desti­na­tion. With the Cui­sine Good Food Awards 2018 fast ap­proach­ing, I took ad­van­tage of a quick trip to Syd­ney ear­lier this year and turned to the Aussie Good Food Guide for 2018, look­ing at some of their best din­ing ex­pe­ri­ences that have earned those all-im­por­tant hats.


Fab­u­lously cen­tral, sur­rounded by the very best of Syd­ney cul­ture, fash­ion, the­atre and art and full of edgy in­trigue and city swing, QT Syd­ney was the per­fect base for my ex­treme eat­ing tour. A blend of Gothic, art deco and Ital­ianate-in­flu­enced ar­chi­tec­ture teams with a luxurious ac­com­mo­da­tion ex­pe­ri­ence that pro­vides just the right mix of re­lax­ation and fun. Par­lour Lane Roast­ers is the ideal spot for your early morn­ing barista cof­fee or late af­ter­noon aper­i­tivo and Gow­ings Bar & Grill is a buzzing Euro­pean-style brasserie with a menu that hits the spot should you de­cide not to stray too far from your room. If, like me, you are on a mis­sion to hit as many of the lo­cal restau­rants as is phys­i­cally pos­si­ble on a three­and-a-half-day trip, you’ll be pleased to know that QT Syd­ney also houses a se­cre­tive, late-night plea­sure cen­tre, the Gilt Lounge. Be­fore you get too car­ried away, I’m talk­ing cock­tails…

49 Mar­ket Street, Syd­ney qtho­tel­san­


18.5/20 The bad news for Syd­ney is that Sepia will de­liver its fi­nal ser­vice on 15 De­cem­ber. The good news for Mel­bourne is that the mas­ter­minds be­hind Sepia, Martin Benn and Vicki Wild, are Mel­bourne-bound with their award-win­ning team, to open a new ven­ture that will be “very dif­fer­ent”. Un­for­tu­nately, I was not able to pry any more out of them so it re­mains to be seen whether Benn will con­tinue with his deep con­nec­tion to Ja­panese cui­sine.

Benn is a ma­gi­cian. My first ex­quis­ite dish re­sem­bled sparkling bite-sized jew­els. A tem­pura oba leaf in­tri­cately dec­o­rated with smoked-prawn may­on­naise. What ap­peared to be a licorice all­sort turned out to be smoked egg­plant dashi gel and egg white tofu. A mini plea­sure bomb of raw bonito with dashi cream crowned with vi­brant pur­ple linaria flow­ers. Salmon with smoked roe and sour cit­rus per­fectly crafted into a shiny bliss ball. Renowned Aus­tralian Good Food Guide re­viewer, Terry Du­rack, de­scribed these same morsels as “culi­nary bling”. Per­fect. Un­til they reach their last sup­per Benn will present small sea­sonal dishes that change fre­quently in what he calls his own style of kaiseki. One word – mag­i­cal. No wait, a few more words – get there be­fore 16 De­cem­ber.

201 Sus­sex Street, Syd­ney sepi­arestau­

Benn is a ma­gi­cian. My first ex­quis­ite dish re­sem­bled sparkling bite-sized jew­els.


17/20 Peter Gil­more (of Quay fame) took the reins at Ben­ne­long in 2014 and along with chef, Robert Cock­er­ill, presents a defini­tively Aus­tralian menu in an un­de­ni­ably iconic venue. Go early. Head to the mag­nif­i­cent lower level un­der the small­est sail of the Opera House, where the view at sun­down is spec­tac­u­lar. Gil­more and Cock­er­ill have given the Ben­ne­long menu a taste of ev­ery­thing that is great and good about the Aussie food story. More­ton Bay bugs in a dumpling with hispi cab­bage, buck­wheat, fin­ger lime, nori udon, and brown but­ter; crispy egg­plant, sea scallops and an XO streaky ba­con that is dis­tinc­tively deep and spicy; prime lamb from Mar­garet River, WA ac­com­pa­nied by Jerusalem ar­ti­choke and broad beans in scorched leaves; whole roasted Tiger flat­head tail with grilled cu­cum­bers, ver­juice and coastal greens. Re­sist the ob­vi­ous pavlova (I hear the Ki­wis do it bet­ter) but don’t leave with­out try­ing the crème caramel vs mille-feuille. A clever bat­tle of the clas­sics that is for­ever on my last sup­per menu. Syd­ney Opera House, Ben­ne­long Point ben­ne­


Head to the mag­nif­i­cent lower level un­der the small­est sail of the Opera House, where the view at sun­down is spec­tac­u­lar.

17/20 Syd­ney will tell you it does Aussie seafood bet­ter than any­where else. I’m not en­tirely sure about that, but if it’s a Syd­ney seafood restau­rant you are af­ter, Cir­rus is one of the best. Lo­cated in the in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar wa­ter­front din­ing precinct, Baranga­roo, chef Brent Sav­age and his multi-award win­ning team de­liver an in­cred­i­ble spin on all of your fishy and crus­tacean favourites. And that wine list! Co-owner Nick Hilde­brandt, one of Aus­tralia’s most awarded som­me­liers, of­fers more than 500 wines from around the world with a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus on wines that en­rich seafood. Cham­pers, chardy, sau­vi­gnon, semil­lion, chenin blanc and es­pe­cially chablis. Hav­ing been the re­cip­i­ent of many a good seafood plat­ter over the years, I’d say Cir­rus serves up one of the best. Be pre­pared to pay $160 and be pre­pared to say, “WOW”.

23 Baranga­roo Av­enue, Baranga­roo cir­rus­din­

OP­PO­SITE TOP Gow­ings Bar & Grill at QT Syd­ney BOT­TOM RIGHT Ben­ne­long’s stone pot Koshi­hikari rice; wild Cape York bar­ra­mundi; whole roasted Tiger flat­head tail BOT­TOM LEFT Lumi Din­ing’s hand-made pasta BE­LOW Seared king prawns with goat’s cheese tortellini at Rock­pool


17/20 Oh my lord, if you are a tra­di­tion­al­ist Lumi Din­ing is not for you and, sadly, you’ll be miss­ing out.

Tra­di­tional Ital­ian plates are turned up­side down with the ad­di­tion of miso dashi and shiso, and carpaccio moves dan­ger­ously close to sashimi. Although in­spired Asian-ital­ian fu­sion is a fo­cus, it’s not the whole deal. My views of Pyr­mont Bay were a lit­tle trau­ma­tised by the un­de­ni­able pres­ence of the Fair­fax build­ing but that’s another story. You do need to know that a tast­ing menu di­vided into small, lunch or the full Lumi ex­pe­ri­ence is your only op­tion. The snack-sized bowl of Ital­ian-style chawan­mushi will make you wish that Lumi had an NZ

equiv­a­lent. The tra­di­tional Ja­panese steamed cus­tard is served up by chef, Fed­erico Zanel­lato, with a parme­san con­somme base topped with shred­ded but­ton and enoki mush­rooms dusted with porcini pow­der. While still re­tain­ing that must-have silken touch, Zanel­lato’s ver­sion de­liv­ers a flavour in­ten­sity that is un­for­get­table.

56 Pir­rama Road, Pyr­mont lu­mi­din­


16.5/20 I knew I was off to a good start with the ar­rival of the off-menu Rock­pool wagyu slider (usu­ally re­served for reg­u­lars) and glad to be back at one of the most deca­dent din­ing rooms in Syd­ney. Art deco at its best with abun­dant mar­ble, crisp white linen nap­kins and, dare I say it, sil­ver ser­vice. Yes, sil­ver ser­vice de­liv­er­ing food by Neil Perry and Corey Costel­loe to a room packed with the young and trendy as well as the long-term play­ers, so don’t start down the old-school track. I loved the co­conut wa­ter and curry-leaf ce­viche of tuna, king­fish and yel­low-eye, but the Rock­pool menu leaves you in no doubt that steak re­mains their holy grail. Iconic steak­house that it is, I hear that Perry tried to re­move the seared king prawns with goat’s cheese tortellini, burnt but­ter, pine nuts and raisins from the menu and put it back on for fear of lynch­ing. I tried them – per­fect pil­lowy parcels of com­fort. I’m glad they have stood the test of time.

66 Hunter Street, Syd­ney rock­pool­barand­


16/20 Chef Josh Ni­land has Saint Peter pitch­ing firmly as another one to watch in the Syd­ney seafood heavy­weight stakes. As my night started with the Saint Peter ver­sion of an Aperol Spritz made with all Aussie in­gre­di­ents, I re­alised that I was in for a level of flavour lay­ers that were not the usual. Ni­land’s menu changes daily and I was hooked from the start with the Flin­ders Is­land cala­mari with BBQ enoki and ink sauce. Coorong pipis, nas­tur­tiums, shell­fish dress­ing and fried bread fol­lowed, and then blue mack­erel with sweet and sour radic­chio and macadamia. Don’t ex­pect spa­cious and su­per-com­fort­able sur­round­ings, but do ex­pect fish-to-tail, sus­tain­able ge­nius and a very good time. 362 Ox­ford Street, Padding­ton saint­


16/20 Fire­door was my last stop for lunch be­fore head­ing for the air­port. Sit­u­ated in a 1911 her­itage build­ing, the ur­ban space fea­tures an open kitchen cen­tred around two cus­tom­made wood-fired ovens, three grills and an Aus­tralian-made hearth.

Len­nox Hastie honed his im­pres­sive wood-, smoke- and fire-cook­ing tech­niques over the coals at Asador Etxe­barri, just out­side Bil­bao in the Basque coun­try, a place where the art of fire cook­ing is taken to ex­treme lev­els. I sat at the counter in front of the open kitchen and it was hot, (but not un­com­fort­ably so) smoky, pure Aussie flavour heaven. No airs and graces or rock star at­ti­tudes here. Con­ver­sa­tion and in­ter­ac­tion flowed freely across the kitchen from Hastie and his team as they worked with pre­mium Aus­tralian in­gre­di­ents to present them in their purest form. Shishito pep­pers flashed over the coals with guan­ciale and pep­per­berry were the start to a lunch that was one of the best I’ve had in a very long time. The most beau­ti­ful mar­ron were pre­sented live in a bas­ket, to show their pre­mium con­di­tion, then halved on the bench in front of me, grilled and served with fin­ger lime and fresh na­tive herbs. Oc­to­pus served with smoky potato and red pep­per, pipi’s and gar­lic shoots was tossed through an in­dige­nous salad veg­etable called mun­yeroo. A 43-day dry-aged grain-fed rib of beef was served sim­ply on its own in all of its smoky good­ness, an ex­per­i­ment that Hastie was work­ing on that needed no apol­ogy for the lack of sides. I left wish­ing

I had al­lo­cated more time for chef Len­nox Hastie and his pas­sion­ate and im­pres­sive team. They blew me away. 23-33 Mary Street, Surry Hills fire­ ■

THIS PAGE Ben­ne­long OP­PO­SITE Bal­main bug, charred tan­gelo, pi­men­ton at Fire­door

BE­LOW Sepia’s sea scallop, macadamia nut cream, quail egg, ume­boshi, scallop crack­ling OP­PO­SITE FROM TOP LEFT Oaked QT Old Fash­ioned; chef Len­nox Hastie at Fire­door; Cir­rus restau­rant in­te­rior; Fire­door’s hay-smoked quail; in­te­rior of Ben­ne­long

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