Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sydney Restaurant Review: Guillaume at Bennelong: 23 November 2010

We were tempted to return to the Oyster Bar just one week after our last pre-theatre visit, however we needed to collect our Ballet tickets from the Opera House prior to that night's performance. A little voice from Guillaume at Bennelong was calling us.

Again: we had no booking and thought we'd just wing it.  If there was a table it was meant to be.  If not, we had a booking we'd try the Oyster Bar again.  And order the coleslaw without the onion ;-)

As our (good) luck would have it, they had just received a cancellation.  We were in! Yippee!

Our maitre'd was an absolute delight.  The type you want to be friends with.  We decided on the 2 course pre-theatre menu.  For a restaurant of this calibre, $66 we thought was excellent value for 2 courses.

Being a recent expert in the field of oysters in and around Circular Quay, my date ordered 6 freshly shucked oysters with shallot vinegar.  I tried one and OMG.  These oysters were SO fresh, so plump and so.... oysterish.
I ordered King Salmon Sashimi with a brunoise of cucumber, apple and finger limes, on a bed of white peach puree.  The salmon was melt-in-your-mouth tender, creamy and perfectly accompanied by the brunoise (small, cubed food).  The only problem was that it was such a breathtakingly beautiful work of art I was reluctant to eat it, especially the gorgeous pink translucency of the white peach puree with the micro herbs as a colour counterpoint. But I got over that and ate it anyway.  The sweetness of the peach was brilliant with the creaminess of the salmon and the bitey herbs and (dare I write this) raw onion.

Yes folks, I am sheepish to report there were small pieces of raw onion in the brunoise but it was actually perfectly balanced and didn't over take the dish.  I am a hyporcrite, I admit it.  But I'm ok with that ;-)

I'm a big fan of the 2 entree option, so I ordered an entree dish, the scallops gently sealed & served with cauliflower puree, shitake mushrooms and chicken jus.  I could have eaten a main sized serving of this dish.  I LOVE scallops and these babies were perfectly cooked.  They were seared lightly so they were cooked on the outside, but were beautifull tender on the inside.  Scallop heaven. The freshly sauteed baby spinach in the middle was a wonderful accompaniment, because I do love my greens....

My date ordered the barramundi on a bed of carrots and ginger puree, coriander and pomme allumette (potatoes, in the shape of matches).  The barra was firm yet moist, and the skin was extra crunchy.  The dish was exquisite.  We died a little that night and went to eating heaven.

And we ordered a side of green beans with pesto.  I want to learn how great restaurants do their beans so they're still dark green but they're tender and cooked right through.

Ok, so there were more raw onions perched atop the beans.  I skillfully removed these but they did remain on the plate.  I should discount half a point for the inclusion of the beans, but the beans were so heavenly I can't quite bring myself to do it.  Besides, our waiter smiled so sweetly and told us a lovely story about the Brasserie Bread they use, so how could I take points from Guillaume?

The desserts looked so good that we ordered the pavlova with passionfruit cream, mangoes, mixed berries and vanilla bean ice cream to share.  Needless to say, there was a bit of push and shove over the pav.  I just can't go past a pav at the best of times.  And these were certainly the best of times as far as pavlova was concerned.

So Guillaume was an absolute stunner, especially considering it was such an unexpected surprise.  And although I feel unfair comparing the oysters at Guillaume with the Oysters at the Oyster Bar, the oysters at Guillaume definitely win.  Hands down. By a long way.  However Guillaume offers a different dining experience.  It's definitely more formal and more grown up, and doesn't offer the immediate harbour view like the Oyster Bar.  And the Oyster Bar is probably better for a group of people who want a more relaxed, casual experience right on the harbour.  But I do know where I'll be going again, very soon.  Next time I'm anywhere near the Opera House....

Guillaume at Bennelong
Bennelong Point, Sydney
Phone: +61 2 9241 1999

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