If there was a more anticipated reopening in the Sydney restaurant scene than Guillaume Brahimi’s self-titled Guillaume I have not seen it. After 12 years at Bennelong the December 31st closure was quite a public affair but thankfully ‘only’ 8 months later the French inspired Modern Australian establishment was ready to reopen.
And open just in time for Em’s birthday it did. Our group of six secured a table two weeks after opening. As is the norm nobody even glanced at the à la carte menu, it was the degustation all round. It was quite pleasing to see the emphasis on the source of key produce noted on the menu. All that was left to decide on were drinks. Negronis and glasses of champagne started the evening off brilliantly and it was time to get the show on the road.
Degustation – $175.00 per person / with matching wines $255.00 per person
- Yellowfin Tuna (Coffs Harbour, New South Wales), basil, soy, mustard seed
- Royale of Globe Artichoke (Werribee South, Victoria), truffle, mud crab, barigoule vinaigrette
- Marron (Donnybrook, Western Australia), pork cheek, broadbeans, cauliflower, sea spray
- Patagonian Toothfish (Glacier 51, Heard Island, Australian Antarctic), salsify, Jamón ibérico, endive, globe artichoke
- Truffle Risotto (Manjimup, Western Australia)
- Robbins Island Full Blood Wagyu (North Western tip of Tasmania), shimeji mushrooms, baby spinach, merlot sauce
- Blood Orange Sorbet (Griffith, New South Wales)
- Vanilla Bean (Madagascar), crème brûlée, green apple, doughnut
With the menu in front of us we could see some of the classics had made the cut but a lot less than we first thought. Ahead of the first dish a lovely little amuse appeared in two parts. Firstly a steamed Crystal Bay prawn wrapped in basil leaves and adorned with sterling caviar. Indeed there was that luxurious salty tinge of caviar but this was all about the prawn; bursting with juices and flavour it was a great way to start.
Not only did we have an amazing prawn there was a spanner crab, finger lime, coriander and avocado mousse to accompany it. With an instant vibrancy from coriander and popping finger lime followed by light, sweet spanner crab. The smooth and creamy avocado brought it together to form the perfect match that was simply stunning.
Yellowfin Tuna (Coffs Harbour, New South Wales), basil, soy, mustard seed.
Probably the most well-known Guillaume at Bennelong dish to make the move to the new site was the yellowfin tuna. A dish that epitomises the food at Guillaume – purity and precision. Such a harmonious balance between the fresh sweet zest of basil, textural sweet meaty tuna and light vinaigrette with hints of mustard. Surprisingly even the lettuce had its place, adding freshness plus some extra crunch. It is easy to see why this dish remains on the menu after so many years.
Royale of Globe Artichoke (Werribee South, Victoria), truffle, mud crab, barigoule vinaigrette.
Another classic Guillaume at Bennelong dish is the royale of globe artichoke, but this time it had additional decadence of black truffles. As we expected the royale of globe artichoke was out of this world, an insanely smooth mousse; both creamy and fluffy yet dense at the same time. Although quite sharp the vinaigrette was never too dominant and worked well with the velvety mousse. Once more we were amazed by the incredible brunoise vegetables, but it was the truffle that truly pulled everything together and made this one of the stand-out dishes of the evening.
Scallop, Jerusalem artichoke, truffle, chicken jus.
Continuing on the truffle theme was a little something extra not on the menu. Swimming in a sea of incredibly silky chicken jus was a small mound of supple Jerusalem artichoke with a perfectly pan fried scallop, a disc of black truffle and a sprinkling of chives for good measure. This dish could do no wrong – there was not a single component I wouldn’t happily stuff myself silly with and everything went so well together – faultless is the best way I can put it.
Marron (Donnybrook, Western Australia), pork cheek, broadbeans, cauliflower, sea spray.
While a tad sad there weren’t more truffles to devour with the marron all can be forgiven with the inclusion of pork. It was a long time before I experienced a pairing of pork and seafood but when I did it was a revelation. This dish was no different. Texturally the pork cheek and marron tail were a complete match, yet the marron was sweet and had great bite while the pork was salty and ever so soft. Extra bursts of salt where added by the sea spray and the cauliflower purée brought a much loved pepperiness.
Patagonian Toothfish (Glacier 51, Heard Island, Australian Antarctic), salsify, Jamón ibérico, endive, globe artichoke.
Not having eaten Patagonian Toothfish previously I was quite curious about the fish I have heard of many times before by one of its trade names, Chilean Sea Bass. Grilled to utter perfection with a golden, crispy outer the white waxy flesh surprised with its smooth buttery texture and clean flavour. Jamón ibérico sealed the deal giving a salty richness that would otherwise be missing from the fish. My favourite touch was the Pedro Ximenez jus that worked equally well with the jamón as it did the toothfish.
Truffle Risotto (Manjimup, Western Australia).
Although I was saddened there was only a shaving of truffle on the scallop dish the luscious risotto made up for it. Wafting from afar the warm earthiness of the truffles encompassed the whole table and I was trying hard to not jump in as soon as it hit the table. Expecting only truffle in the risotto it was a pleasant surprise to see quite a generous pile of fresh truffle on top. Velvety and ever so creamy the risotto was superb. Hearty and truly something I would eat every night of the week, the fresh truffle only accentuated this, making this my number one risotto of all time.
Robbins Island Full Blood Wagyu (North Western tip of Tasmania), shimeji mushrooms, baby spinach, merlot sauce.
The way to my heart is with beef, and Full Blood Wagyu is pretty much the perfect way to get my attention. Red wine jus is a sauce I only order at restaurants I am confident will do it justice as I’ve had many bad renditions that have nearly scarred me for life. A very pleasant looking dish made even better by the addition of a large dollop of infamous Paris mash – the quintessential side for a dish of this calibre. Soft and delicate the Wagyu came apart with ease, buttery mushrooms and spinach worked wonders with it. Big and intense the merlot jus was teetering on being overpowering but when used sparingly it really did hit the spot.
Blood Orange Sorbet (Griffith, New South Wales).
With one amuse, six scripted courses and one additional surprise dish done and dusted it was clearly time for a palate cleanser, and boy was the blood orange sorbet just what the doctor ordered. Crisp and fresh with a fragrant sweetness but also bitter and tart as you get with Campari. It went down a treat and really set us up for the final dish of the night.
Vanilla Bean (Madagascar), crème brûlée, green apple, doughnut.
Upon first seeing the menu I was a little disappointed we wouldn’t be getting a soufflé but I have a soft spot for crème brûlée so I was able to cope. Split into three very distinct parts we had silky custard in the wonderfully set crème brûlée that was bursting with the pure flavour of vanilla; a tiny doughnut that was heavily crusted in cinnamon sugar, crispy on the outside and fluffy in the centre; and an incredibly soothing sorbet of green apple resting upon Granny Smith batons. It was all stunning but my favourite part was combining the custard and sorbet to get that zing you do from a Splice ice-cream.
Of course no degustation is complete without coffee and petits fours and the selection that came to the table was quite comprehensive, although it did create some tension with everyone vying for their favourites. There was a lemon tart, pistachio macaron, opera cake, passionfruit jube, salted caramel, vanilla macaron, chocolate tart and blackcurrant jube.
As it was Em’s birthday the jubes were all hers and the rest of us were left to fight over the remaining treats. Each and every one was well executed setting the bar quite high in the petits fours arena. For me it was the salted caramel that shone through as the winner and Lex definitely agreed.
Full to the brim and with smiles on our faces we took stock of the evening and in my opinion this topped our experience at Guillaume at Bennelong with ease. Yes the dining room still had the occasional waft of fresh paint come along but that is the only bad thing I have to say about the space. It is fresh, vibrant and inviting and doesn’t suffer from feeling too formal or a place you cannot sit back and relax to enjoy your evening.
Happy Birthday Em!
92 Hargrave Street
Paddington NSW 2021
(02) 9302 5222