Birthdays seem to be the best excuse to tick off restaurants from our wish list and this year for Em’s 29th she chose Guillaume at Bennelong, a place that has been on all of our bucket lists for many years.
Born in Paris, Guillaume worked at several highly regarded French restaurants, including four years at Jamin with Joël Robuchon, before moving to Australia. Guillaume found success early on in Sydney at his own restaurant Pond and later gaining three chefs hats at Bilson’s at Circular Quay (which was later renamed Quay) until he took over Bennelong at the Sydney Opera House, calling the restaurant Guillaume at Bennelong.
Guillaume at Bennelong was opened in November 2001 and has won numerous awards and accolades in the decade since. The restaurant currently holds two chefs hats in the SMH Good Food Guide and came eighth in the 2011 Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards with three stars.
Having started the birthday celebrations on Friday (Em’s actual birthday) we spent most of Saturday chilling out, and were excited when it was time to head into the city. We arrived early to enjoy a few cocktails in the bar before dinner and if you’re looking for a place to have a few drinks then the Bennelong Bar is definitely worth consideration with a tapas menu, several cocktails to choose from, an extensive wine list and a stunning view it is pretty special.
Degustation $180.00 per person / with matched wine $260.00 per person
- Yellowfin Tuna basil infused with soy and mustard seed vinaigrette (2009 Paul Blanck, Riesling, Alsace, France)
- Royale of Globe Artichoke with mud crab and barigoule vinaigrette (2009 Domaine Bourillon Dorleans, Vouvray, La Coulee d’Argent, Loire Valley, France)
- Scallops with lemon emulsion, watercress velouté and Sterling caviar (2009 Mont Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc, Rhone Valley, France)
- Sealed John Dory served on a bed of carrot and ginger puree, coriander and pomme allumette (2008 Patrick Piuze Terroirs de Fleys, Chablis, France)
- Roasted Barossa Valley Chicken and Yabbies with deglazed celeriac and celeriac puree, fresh Manjimup truffle and jus gras (2009 Domaine La Ligiere, Vacqueyras, Rhone Valley, France)
- Poached Rangers Valley Beef Tenderloin served with pickled vegetables, shiitake mushrooms and bone marrow in a beef consommé with an English mustard emulsion (2005 Chateau Tour du Haut-Moulin, Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux, France)
- Soup of Seasonal Fruit with lime marshmallows and pineapple sorbet
- Passionfruit Soufflé served with banana and passionfruit sorbet and crème chantilly (2005 Alain Brummont, Les Larmes Celestes, Pacherenc, France)
Coffin Bay Oyster with cucumber jelly and yuzu cream.
The amuse bouche arrived and I was surprised to see an oyster resting on a bed of salt placed in front of me as I’m used to the more common soup based starters. The Pacific oyster from Coffin Bay in South Australia was plump and sweet, not overly briny and sitting in a pool of refreshing cucumber jelly and a dollop of yuzu cream. Although the birthday girl couldn’t bring herself to try the oyster, Mr O. quickly demolished two serves and we were all rather keen to see what other surprises would be in store.
Yellowfin Tuna basil infused with soy and mustard seed vinaigrette.
I was really excited when I saw the tuna so glossy and raw on the inside, having been lightly poached in an outer wrapping of fresh basil leaves. The tuna lived up to our expectations and simply melted in the mouth with a lovely basil note to the fish. The vinaigrette was mild which suited me just fine as mustard is not my friend. Dylan did find a small piece of plastic/cling wrap on his piece, but all was forgiven as the flavours were so amazing.
Royale of Globe Artichoke with mud crab and barigoule vinaigrette.
None of us knew what a ‘royale’ was so we weren’t quite sure what this dish was going to be like, but as soon as we dug in we were all hooked. It turns out a royale is a custard of sorts and had a mousse like consistency with an intense artichoke flavour, lightened by the vinaigrette and sweetness of the delicate mud crab. And we were all suitably impressed with the brunoise vegetables; a great display of superb knife skills.
Scallops with lemon emulsion, watercress velouté and Sterling caviar.
Ooooh the scallops were as pretty as a picture and cooked beautifully. I loved the earthy watercress velouté (a velouté is a “mother sauce” made from butter, flour, stock, salt and pepper) and acidic lemon emulsion. To be honest I didn’t really taste the caviar as it was a little overpowered by the salty potato crisp it was perched on (though as Em said, those crisps were divine!).
Sealed John Dory served on a bed of carrot and ginger puree, coriander and pomme allumette.
The last seafood course was the fish; a piece of John Dory pan sealed to perfection, the sweet fish lifted by the zing of the ginger in the puree and coriander butter. I loved the creamy parsnip, while the carrot and beetroot brought more colour to the plate. What better way to finish of the dish than with a moreish side of pomme allumette – crispy, salty, potato matchstick fries.
Roasted Barossa Valley Chicken and Yabbies with deglazed celeriac and celeriac puree, fresh Manjimup truffle and jus gras.
There was quite a bit of discrepancy in the size of the chicken pieces and I actually swapped with Dylan to give him the larger portion. With my smaller piece I also received less truffle than the others – they all had a shaving on top as well as a shaving under the crispy skin. Nevertheless, the chicken was succulent and I thoroughly enjoyed this course and wanted a whole bowl full of the celeriac puree. Oh and the little morsels of crispy celeriac were in their own league, just brilliant.
Poached Rangers Valley Beef Tenderloin served with pickled vegetables, shiitake mushrooms and bone marrow in a beef consommé with an English mustard emulsion.
Beef! We all love our beef and our eyes opened widely when it arrived. I was a little scared though… pickled vegetables and mustard emulsion, I wasn’t sure if it would be Lex friendly. The waiters poured over the consommé and then were about to drop a large dollop of mustard emulsion over the beef when I quickly intervened and requested mine go without. I don’t normally ask for degustation menus to be changed as I really like to try the dish as the chef intended; but in this case when I saw the amount of mustard emulsion that was to be added to the dish I just couldn’t do it.
The beef was poached so it was incredibly succulent and just fell apart as the knife touched it. I left the pickled beetroot on the plate though I did enjoy the leek, and I have to say I’m still undecided on bone marrow. Yes it’s rich and lush but I’m not sure I would swoon over it like so many do. The rest of the table agreed I wouldn’t have been able to eat the dish with the mustard emulsion, so it was my lucky day. Instead I turned to our special order of Paris Mash – we couldn’t come to Guillaume and not order the famous mash! Buttery, buttery, buttery, there is nothing like creamy luscious mash and this was a spectacular mash.
Soup of Seasonal Fruit with lime marshmallows and pineapple sorbet.
There was quite a bit of debate around our table as to how this dish would be constructed, the word ‘soup’ the source of much contention. All was soon revealed as the pre-dessert was brought to the table.
The waiters finished off the dish at the table by pouring the soup over the pieces of fruit and quenelle of sorbet. We all really enjoyed this palate cleanser, especially the sweet-sour pineapple sorbet, though by this stage of the night we were starting to get rather full.
Passionfruit Soufflé served with banana and passionfruit sorbet and crème chantilly.
Soufflé is just one of those desserts that has the table gasping with joy. We couldn’t wait for the end of the degustation to come so we could tuck into one of the beauties of French cooking. By the time the soufflés arrived we were all struggling, kicking ourselves for falling into the trap of eating a second helping of the fluffy sourdough earlier in the night.
We just loved how the soufflés were presented in individual copper pots and marvelled at how pretty they were. Digging in we were all struck by how sweet the dessert was, the soufflé light, fluffy and full of passionfruit flavour but really really sweet. The crème chantilly did its best to cut through the sweetness but sadly the banana and passionfruit sorbet was also extremely sweet and I just couldn’t finish it. I loved the flavours, but I struggled with both the size of the dessert and its sweetness.
Somehow, no matter how full I am I just cannot say no to cute little petits fours. The plate of petits fours included caramel macarons, orange jubes, raspberry tarts, madeleines and orange truffles. There were three of each of the five different petits fours, so we took it in turns to choose our mini sweets. While I’m not a huge macaron fan I do love caramel, and salted caramel is even better. There wasn’t a lot of filling in the macaron but it was delicious. The raspberry tart was delicate and light, and a nice break from the ultra sweet dessert we’d just had. Not usually a big truffle lover, the orange centre took me by surprise, it was like a soft jaffa with gooey innards. My last petit four was the orange jube and unfortunately had me finishing on a real sweet note. Give me more of those macarons and tarts please!
I loved the food throughout the evening and was quite impressed with the wine matching. I was seated in a bit of a thoroughfare and noticed a few of the waiters whenever they walked by due to the movement in the floorboards which was rather audible. My view was back towards Circular Quay and wasn’t all that impressive and I felt the restaurant may be in need of a fresh fit out, it just didn’t have the glam or wow factor of some of the other fine dining establishments in Sydney. Nonetheless the food was what we were really there for and it did not disappoint. I would definitely go back and I’d be keen to check out Bistro Guillaume in Melbourne which seems a little less cost prohibitive (even though it is in another state, I love Melbourne and will no doubt be back there soon for a mini-break).
Happy Birthday Miss Emilee! xx
Guillaume at Bennelong
Sydney Opera House
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9241 1999
Guillaume at Bennelong Website