I remember falling in and out of love every other week during my younger days
but this simple Campari sorbet got me falling in love instantly.
This dessert does not have the girly sweetness of Miss World.
It has the sultry and majestic beauty of Miss Universe.
“I have a strong feeling this lunch is going to be good” I tell Mysaucepan.
“How do you know when you haven’t even been there before?” she asks.
“Because the ex-Becasse guy is now cooking modern comfort food. Don’t you reckon a high-profile chef of his calibre would nail this mickey mouse food?” I reply. “It’s like Roger Federer playing tennis with a schoolboy.”
Originally established to mark the centenary foundation of Australia in 1888, this iconic fixture has been snapped up for a reported $6 million by prominent publican Anthony Medich who successfully revived the Woolwich Pier Hotel.
Tastefully re-designed by Luchetti Krelle, North’s vision for the restaurant is to respect its history, choosing to retain the wood-fire oven for slow roasts and pizzas.
It is a produce-driven menu designed by the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide‘s Chef of the Year for 2009. His culinary pedigree at the highest level of modern French gastronomy saw his fine-diner Becasse take out two chefs hat that same year.
This is the credentials of the chef behind the modern comfort food of
Apart from the overhead display of wines, subtle down lighting, tasteful music from a quality sound system and stylish marble stone surfaces, here’s my definition of good bar space design ~ when you can pivot and swivel forearms on the counter top without knocking over beers and cocktails.
You immediately feel at home when a dining area is warm and cosy with a selection of coffee table books.
I love the strong flavours in a Blue Moon Belgian white brewed with white wheat and oats. It has a crisp and clean finish with a lingering taste from slices of fresh orange.
“It’s a warm and beautiful Sunday and I wouldn’t mind a refreshing cocktail” Mysaucepan says.
She orders The Moffat, a concoction of Ketel One Vodka with fresh apple juice, mint and cucumber slices.
Roast pork belly with slow cooked Mediterranean octopus & pickled lemon
In recent years, the blasé pork belly and scallops combination has been flogged to a cruel death by many Sydney restaurants with little imagination.
Given the pedigree of Justin North’s modern French technique, I knew a roast pork belly with slow cooked Mediterranean octopus and pickled lemon will be a winner the moment I saw it on the online menu.
“Think about it” I say to Mysaucepan. “The French are great masters of confit pork belly, duck, rabbit and pheasant. So why wouldn’t a good French chef pair pork belly with octopus since France is right in the heart of the Mediterranean?” I add.
“This octopus is so tender, the texture feels like scallop!” Mysaucepan says while nibbling a small morsel.
The pork belly is equally tender with crisp crackling to match and preserved lemon rind as a condiment is clever in showcasing citrusy Mediterranean flavours.
The main dining room is spacious and bathed in natural light.
We arrived a little late for our 12pm booking as part of Oxford street is closed today for the Sydney marathon. The dining room is a little subdued but by 1.30pm, it is totally packed with eastern suburbs locals out for a lazy Sunday lunch with family and friends.
Whole rack of roast Milly Hill lamb with roast pepper & olive jus
“There are four reasons why we should order the roast lamb” I say to Mysaucepan.
“I’m listening” she sternly replies whilst studying the menu without glancing up.
“Firstly, we are in spring and young lamb is best during this season. Secondly, I found out the lamb comes from a very special farmer all the way up in Armidale.” I explain. “And thirdly, Justin North retained the wood-fire oven specially for slow roasts during the recent refurbishment of this restaurant.”
“So what’s the last reason?” she asks.
“Lastly and most importantly, I know you love lamb” I say with a smile.
A smile finally comes across her face.
The menu says the whole rack of lamb is to share between 2 – 3 diners. This beautiful meat has traveled from the town of Milly Hill near Armidale, some 480 kilometres north of Sydney.
Sliced into nine cutlets, the meat is daringly pink whilst soaking up roasted red pepper and olive jus reduction.
“Just as well we ordered only one entree to share” Mysaucepan says. “This platter is huge.”
“You don’t say! I think we’ll have to skip dinner tonight.” I add.
Milly Hill Lamb is the family-owned business of Peter and Sally Strelitz in northern New South Wales. Their passion in producing premium quality lamb for selected restaurants and retail outlets appears evident in their luscious and succulent looking product.
“How are we going to get through this?” I wonder.
“Eat slowly and savour the flavours” Mysaucepan says.
I drizzle roasting jus, sprinkle salt and pepper on a cutlet intertwined with lean and fatty meat. It is tender and succulent as I had expected and black olive jus adds a Mediterranean dimension to the rich flavours of lamb.
“I should eat more of this dark leafy green, shouldn’t I” I tell Mysaucepan. “Apparently it’s a great liver cleanser.”
“In that case you definitely should” she replies with a knowing grin.
Ruby grapefruit and campari sorbet, citrus & strawberry salad
Having had the large platter of lamb, we really don’t need dessert but Mysaucepan can’t resist and opt for a lighter dessert to cleanse the palate.
I remember falling in and out of love every other week during my younger days but this simple Campari sorbet got me falling in love instantly.
The bitter-sweet chill of Campari sorbet complements the tart citrus notes of ruby grapefruit, pomelo and orange wedges. Paired with luscious strawberries steeped in sticky sweet dessert wine, this is one of the most refreshing finishers I have tasted.
I am not a fan of sweet desserts but I like this one because it does not have the girly sweetness of Miss World.
Instead, it has the sultry and majestic beauty of Miss Universe.
And like they say, love fuels a passion to pursue so I’ve even tracked down a Campari grapefruit sorbet recipe on chef David Lebowitz’s blog.
This is one dessert I shall joyfully replicate come summer.
I love the theatrics of open style kitchens and count at least half a dozen busy chefs churning out dish after dish. It shows how hard these chefs work in the spirit of providing their guests with an enjoyable meal. Perhaps it’s his day off as we did not see Justin North.
Our lamb is roasted to medium rare but I would have liked the fatty bits caramelized more intensely for bolder charred flavours. Our appetite was good yet with the generous portion, we needed to doggy bag a few cutlets.
The food is on the mark and I like the Mediterranean inspiration in our two dishes. Service from floor staff today is top-notch despite a very busy Sunday lunch.
I did not go to Becasse at the height of its glory but Justin North’s take on modern comfort suits me just fine.
88 Oxford street, Woollahra
New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9362 3838
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 11.30am to 11pm.
The restaurant also offers The High Table, a space for people to sit down together to share a meal. From Monday through to Thursday the Chef will prepare a daily inspired dish for the entire table for only $24 per person.
This $24 includes one course and the restaurant donates $2 to the Holdsworth Foundation from every meal served. For the sweet tooth, dessert with tea or coffee is served for an additional $10.
Milly Hill Lamb
Milly Hill Pty Ltd
PO Box 1925 Armidale
New South Wales 2350
Tel: +61 2 6772 0300
Milly Hill Lamb is a family owned Australian business specialising in the supply of premium quality, wholesale free range lamb to recognised restaurants and retail outlets throughout South East Queensland and New South Wales.
It began in 2007 as a small local business supplying home-delivered ‘lamb in a box’ to friends and family in the New England district of New South Wales. As demand for premium lamb grew both locally and interstate, grower and professional lamb buyer, Peter Strelitz recognised the need for a lamb brand exemplifying excellence in quality, consistency and reliability.
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