jones the grocer (its name spelt with alphabets all in lower case) launched its first eponymous store from a converted terrace in Sydney’s prestige eastern suburb of Woollahra in 1996.
After eighteen years in the food and retail sector, the ‘food emporium’ is forging a new chapter in Australia and internationally with new stores in New Zealand, Singapore, Qatar and United Arab Emirates.
The launch of Westfield Sydney as its flagship shopping centre in the heart of Sydney CBD three years ago is showcasing luxury brands Armani, Prada, Zara and many more. To keep up with the Joneses, jones the grocer is eyeing food and retail synergy, having taken up valuable space in the upmarket food precinct on Level 5. With its exciting business concept, it is no surprise global luxury powerhouse LVMH has taken an equity stake in jones the grocer.
And with a kind invitation from the PR team at Cav Con, we are here this Thursday evening to check out jones the grocer’s retail store and restaurant, occupying the space vacated by Justin North’s now defunct Becasse and Quarter Twenty One.
Opened since April 2013, this flagship store features a wide range of fine foods both local and imported.
Artisan products include fine cheeses, olive oil and a host of cooking ingredients all of which could make this place seem like a toy shop to the enthusiastic home chef.
There is an European style deli, in-house bakery, patisserie and walls featuring Australian wines, olives, anchovies, relishes, chutneys and many more that could make a charcuterie plate the centre of attention at your next home party.
jones the grocer’s own food products are said to be hand-made, natural and free of preservatives and additives to ensure a high quality of taste and flavour.
Customers can sample products through in-store tastings, cooking classes and workshops aimed at creating an interactive, diverse and unique food experience.
Designed by leading international architects Landini Associates, the dining room and retail area are spacious and modern with a minimalist feel, using a black and white palette to contrast against natural sandstone, grey concrete pillars, blackened steel, white marble and glass.
The open style kitchen gives diners an unobtrusive view of the entire prep and cooking process. The occasional flames of the burners from tossing Italian pasta is similar to a Thai chef tossing stir-fried noodles.
The theatrics of busy chefs at work can be fascinating. It allows one to appreciate the cooking process and the transformation of raw ingredients right before your eyes.
The restaurant is not too busy for a Thursday late night shopping so before settling at our table, I observe Chef Tom Byron marinating big slabs of beef ribs with what appears to be horseradish and black pepper. The sight of those chunks of marbled beef in all its meaty and fatty glory is beckoning me to order the slow-cooked beef short rib from the menu.
Chef Marcello Fergnani is coating barramundi fillets with egg-wash and breadcrumbs.
All this while the visuals are complemented by enticing aromas from cooking pots simmering on the burners.
Although the wine list specifies a 2012 vintage, Mysaucepan‘s glass of Isabel Estate Sauvignon Blanc from the Marbourough region in New Zealand is a younger 2013 vintage.
Nevertheless, most sauvignon blancs can and should be drunk fairly young and this particular one exhibits its grassy characteristics with floral aromas and a relatively dry finish.
Similarly, my glass of Shelmerdine Shiraz is a 2009 vintage on the wine list but turns out to be a 2010.
This wine takes on the typically bold, spicy and peppery characteristics of a Heathcote red matched with subtle tannin and oak.
Whether it is an oversight or otherwise, a restaurant that boasts an international presence and high quality ingredients in its cooking needs to ensure its wine list is accurate and updated regularly. This is especially so when the list is relatively short with just thirteen white and red varietals, a couple of rosé, five sparklings and three stickies.
The chilli factor in an angel hair pasta with blue swimmer crab is subtle and for someone who loves a good chilli hit, I personally prefer this pasta to be a few notches higher on the spice dial.
The angel hair can and should be a lot more al dente because texture-wise, I feel as though I am having a rather bland, stir-fry sambal bihun goreng or spicy stir-fried rice vermicelli with prawn paste that is one of the most popular, cheap and tasty dishes found in the streets of South East Asia.
However, the generous grating of grana padano stamps this dish Italian though the imagination of it being a meek Asian cousin is inevitably lingering on.
A barbeque free-range quail appears pan-seared rather than cooked on a BBQ grill, some parts of the bird still pale in colour.
The amount of bois boudran sauce is just a puny dollop and the combination of Worchestershire sauce and tomato ketchup is a taste of 1970s style cooking. The quail lacks flavour and seasoning although this can be easily fixed with a few pinches of salt.
I would have preferred the quail on its own without a sauce – butterflied, marinated with bold and moorish spices like turmeric, garam masala and seared more intensely on the barbeque to bring out those charred, smoky aromas would be my idea of how this dish should be.
Alternatively, if a sauce is a must, then an Asian-inspired spicy chilli and lime juice dipping sauce is definitely more exciting to the palette.
Mysaucepan‘s duck leg confit is crisp with its gamey and succulent meat. The grapeseed dressing is slightly tangy with sweetness from julienned green apples.
After seeing Chef Tom Byron work on those huge chunks of meat, I could not resist the slow-cooked beef short rib, roasted eye fillet with mushooms and red wine sauce.
The rib is served on the bone with a roasted eye fillet medallion and whole peeled garlic cloves still beige in colour. I pop one clove into my mouth and it melts like a creamy garlic tablet. This is a good sign the rib would have been cooked in a low heat oven for at least a few hours.
The medium rare roasted eye fillet is pink inside and the red wine sauce a classic complement. Tender and juicy, I finish this small medallion first so I can pay full attention to the chunkier cut of beef on the bone.
The soft strands of meat is falling off the bone. The dollop of chimichurri sauce adds a beautiful herb and garlicky dimension to the meat.
Sauteed enoki and shitake mushrooms give an earthy flavour. This slow-cooked beef is the standout dish this evening.
A classic warm sticky date pudding with salted caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice-cream tastes even better than it looks.
The citrus panna cotta is mild and the classic combination of strawberries and basil is hard to go wrong.
The two entrees we had tonight need more thought although I have no hesitation in recommending the slow-cooked beef rib.
So dear readers, what do you think of a cafe and restaurant where you can also buy fresh ingredients and grocery for you to cook at home?
ChopinandMysaucepan dined as guests of jones the grocer. All prices are for readers’ information. All views and opinions are our own.
jones the grocer
Shop 5018 Level 5
Westfield Sydney (Cnr of Castlereagh and Market street)
New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 8072 7755
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday 8am till late Sunday 8am to 7pm.