Hungry Hinch

Guillaume at Bennelong

Opera House
Sydney

Saturday night is always date night in the Hinch household. It’s even more of a special tradition because we live in separate apartments and that’s the first time we get together that day.

We’ve had great night at places like The Botannical, Taxi, Nobu, Cutler & Co, Radii, No.35. And then we found Bistro Guillaume at Crown – the new eponymous Melbourne adventure for Guillaume Brahimi.

It became our Date Night spot. Same time, same station, same table and for me, often the same meals including Yamamoto oysters from Coffin Bay.

They spoiled us. On my birthday this year, Adam Sivic, one of the best, most professional and most personable maître d’s anywhere, and Head Chef Beau Vincent, tracked down and cooked me New Zealand whitebait.

No wonder we loved the place. And then they suddenly closed down. A raging success of a restaurant shut its doors. It wasn’t a failure. To put it delicately: Doing a restaurant deal with Crown is a bit like leasing a Westfield Plaza storefront from Frank Lowy. You can be evicted or moved.

In this case Bistro Guillaume is moving. It will re-open again in 2011in the space formerly occupied by Philippe Mouchel at La Brasserie.

Mrs Nosebag and I were shattered. We’ve since re-discovered Neil Perry’s Rockpool [and will review that soon] but recently we had a classy Saturday night at Guillaume’s. Not in Melbourne but at the Opera House in Sydney.

The standards there still soar as high as those high-arched ceilings. For once, here is a restaurant where the justifiably world class view takes second place to the food.

For an appetite teaser they served small cones stuffed with sashimi and wasabi. The vegequarian, who doesn’t like raw fish, loved it. I could have had ten as a main course.

The scallops were a classic Guillaume dish. Cooked enough to seal them and served with Shiitake mushrooms, a smooth cauliflower puree and a chicken jus that shouldn’t work but always does. I’m always surprised and satisfied the way chicken and even veal stock can subtly enhance scallops or prawns.

Guillaume@Bennelong has the same intricate and exquisite baby salad ingredients as his Melbourne enterprise. You could be Gulliver in Lilliput. Tiny, tiny beetroot, mushrooms and vegetable flowers served with miniature croutons and goat’s curd. It used to be a weekly favourite at Crown.

The also do a great roast fennel with lemon and olive oil. [Ironically a plant we equated with hemlock and poison as kids in New Zealie is now one of my favourite vegetables either roasted or in a salad.

The tortellini of peas that Mrs. N ordered was a beautiful dish of broad beans and globe artichoke with a light touch of tarragon butter. A subtle touch I would call a ‘tarragon of virtue’.

The label ‘paragon of virtue’ would have to be reserved for the desserts. We tested a few in the name of research. Nougat with roasted peanuts, caramel ice cream and banana. A mini panna cotta with fresh berries and the best petit fours. They included strips of caramel toffee and the ‘in’ dessert these days – macarons (or macaroons as we used to call them). Meringues are back!

The prices are Sydney prices. Between 30 and 40 dollars for entrees and 50 for mains. They also have an eight-course degustation menu [including a ribeye of Wagyu beef] at $180 or $250 with some classy matching wines.

Overall, it is a stellar Opera House performance worth treating yourself to.

It lives up to Guillaume’s motto: ‘l’amour du travail bien fait’.

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