A shopping center isn’t necessarily the first place you’d think of when fine dining is involved, but Westfield Sydney is establishing itself as quite the food destination in recent months. With the most fancy food court you’ve ever seen on Level 5 and a whole host of new restaurants opening up on Level 6 including Xanthi, Chat Thai, Spiedo and Chinta Ria Mood for Love, there’s no denying that Sydney is loving having an amazing selection of world-class restaurants under the one roof.
I had been hearing amazing things about the new Becasse, but before I could book myself in, I was thrilled to be invited to SAXA Salt’s 100th birthday, an intimate lunch with a menu created by the incredible Justin North. Not a bad way to spend a few hours away from the office on a Thursday afternoon! A long hallway transports you from the food court, through all of the seasons. It’s just stunning, and really sets the mood for Justin’s seasonally inspired menu. The dining room is surprisingly small but friendly and intimate, with stunning decor almost feminine in style, a hybrid between Etch and Circa The Prince. Inside the restaurant, you’d have no idea that hundreds of busy city workers were lunching in the food court just outside.
Salt is on the menu today, and I am fascinated to see all the ways it will be used throughout the meal. Justin tells us that the role of salt in cooking has changed in the last 100 years – from being a means of preservation before refrigerators were common, to these days being an amazing flavour enhancer in both savoury and sweet dishes. The canapés are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, especially the glamorous squid ink chips with caviar.
The first course is like an artwork on the plate, although I expected nothing less after the gorgeously plated dishes that we had at Etch last year. The ocean trout has been cured and coddled (cooked in water below boiling point) a nod back to traditional preserving techniques, and served with preserved Buddha’s hand, artichokes and spring almonds.
I was intrigued by the Buddha’s Hand, an oddly shaped fruit that I had never encountered before, but it was delicious and citrussy, a wonderful match for the ocean trout, which was cooked to perfection. The almonds had a completely different texture than you would expect – soft and almost chewy, but it was lovely with the other elements.
I was blown away by the Roast Saddle of Suckling Lamb, it was amazingly juicy and so tender, served with delicious white asparagus, kohlrabi, confit pepper jus and herbs. A gorgeous spring dish that was full of colour, flavour and texture, and a lovely match to the 2010 Oakridge Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley.
It was served with a Becasse signature side dish, the Forgotten Vegetables, served with a smoking pine cone, which added some theater at the table, as well as a subtle smoky flavour. I love that Justin has almost single handedly made these little-used vegetables sexy and glamorous again.
I was intrigued as to the ways Justin might use salt in the dessert, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed. The Zokoko Chocolate and black cumin cadeu looked stunning on the plate, but it begged to be cracked open to reveal the gooey chocolate innards within. It was served on a bed of pain d’epice crumbs, which tasted almost like a fruit mince pie and gave the dessert an almost Christmassy feel.
It was served with the most magical ice cream, made from milk that had been reduced right down so the sweetness was concentrated, with a sprinkling of charcoal on top. An absolutely magical dish, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone in being pretty darn tempted to lick the plate clean!
You can’t have a birthday without cake, and 100 years is a pretty special occasion! The Becasse team made a wonderful birthday cake, which was cut by SAXA brand representatives. This was one amazing cake, with layers of meringue, raspberry and peach. I wish I could have beautiful cakes like this for my birthday!
Thanks again to Becasse, SAXA and Impact Communications for inviting me to take part in this special celebration. I was blown away by the attention to detail in all aspects, from the 3 kinds of house made bread, to every single element that had been carefully placed onto each plate, everything there for a reason. I can’t wait to come back. But there was one more surprise before we left, a goodie-bag containing different varieties of SAXA salt and pepper and some absolutely lovely little petits fours by Becasse. I wish every Thursday could be so amazing!
Spicyicecream dined as a guest of SAXA
Becasse – Level 5, Westfield Sydney, Corner of Pitt and Market St, Sydney (02 9283 3440)