Dive into the menu at Syd­ney’s Bert’s, where Jor­dan Toft de­liv­ers a glam­orous take on coastal dining.

Words MAG­GIE SCARDIFIELD Recipes JOR­DAN TOFT Pho­tog­ra­phy BEN DEARNLEY Styling LISA FEATHERBY Drink sug­ges­tions ADRIAN FILIUTA

Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - Food -

Jor­dan Toft’s all-time favourite film is Dirty Danc­ing. It was a ma­jor inspiration in the lead up to open­ing Bert’s, a grand brasserie over­look­ing Pittwa­ter on

Syd­ney’s north­ern beaches. “I kept think­ing about Keller­man’s re­sort and the all-Amer­i­can coun­try club,” says Toft.

“Nos­tal­gia is a re­ally im­por­tant part of my cook­ing, and at Bert’s we re­ally wanted it to hark back to an era gone by.”

But don’t ex­pect cha­rades in the lobby. While there’s plenty of nos­tal­gic de­tail at the New­port restau­rant – lemons clothed in muslin and Jer­oboams of Cham­pagne – Toft’s food is firmly in the now: great pro­duce, cooked with pre­ci­sion. The Bert’s kitchen has two Josper ovens pow­ered by char­coal, fruit woods and iron­bark, and four Basque-style grills. “Live fuel and char­coal are al­most in­gre­di­ents them­selves,” says Toft. “Buy a small Kroger or Ja­panese yak­i­tori grill, light it, get to know it, and work to un­der­stand the dif­fer­ences in heat. You can do won­ders with it.”

Won­ders such as ha­puku, grilled over em­bers un­til the white flesh turns scal­lop-like, ready to be served un­adorned save for a driz­zle of pre­served-le­mon olive oil and a scat­ter­ing of fried vine leaves. Or grilled zuc­chini, dusted with sumac and luxed up with strac­ciatella. Or coal-roasted mud crab picked and dressed with its own juices, then en­livened even more with mayo and Basque spices. “I want what you read on the menu to be what you see on the plate,” says Toft. “Not over­com­pli­cated, but al­ways en pointe.”

As well as lead­ing the charge at Bert’s, Toft is ex­ec­u­tive chef for Merivale’s Coogee Pav­il­ion, along with The Col­laroy and the newly opened Bar Topa. Raised in Syd­ney’s western sub­urbs, he has lived in France, Italy, the Balearic Is­lands and Cal­i­for­nia, and his food treads a sim­i­larly sunny Mediterranean path. At Bert’s there’s glam­our and grandeur in spades, but not hau­teur. “It’s Don Draper on hol­i­day,” says Toft. “Where the white shirt’s still on, but the top but­ton’s un­done.”

The menu here – re­plete with a head-turn­ing lob­ster tagli­olini and a grown-up Splice crowned with torched meringue – will cer­tainly wow guests. “I don’t want peo­ple to have anx­i­ety about what they’re do­ing,” says Toft, “but some­times lunch should be an event.”

“Spring brings out the best in peo­ple, and a menu like this brings a bit of life,” he says. “It’s a meal, but more than that it’s an ex­pe­ri­ence.” Bert’s Bar & Brasserie, 2 Kalinya St, New­port, NSW, (02) 9114 7350, merivale.com

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