|Westfield Sydney's Level 5|
|Charlie & Co Burgers, Level 5, Westfield Sydney|
On opening day alone, unbelievable (and probably unprecedented for a food court) queues waited for 600-800 burgers, with 120kg of fries sold on the opening weekend. They're big numbers, and North reckons they're dishing out at about 200 burgers a day at the moment.
The most popular is the Wagyu & Co burger (wagyu pattie, beetroot relish, pickled gherkin and aged cheddar on a toasted brioche bun), followed by the Federation Burger (Angus beef pattie, aged cheddar, fried egg, bacon, sautéed onions, lettuce and tomato on a sesame sourdough bun) and then the Rustic Chorizo Classic (pork pattie with smoked paprika, chorizo, fennel, soft peppers and fried egg on a toasted brioche bun).
|Justin North of Charlie & Co|
North says a gourmet burger bar was the next logical step from his fine diners Becasse and Etch, and the sheer popularity of the wagyu burgers at the much more casual Plan B confirmed that this is what the market wanted and needed.
And as in real estate, it was location, location, location that mattered. North felt that Westfield Sydney was the right place to launch, and like me, he thinks the revamped shopping space brings back the heartbeat and genuine excitement back into the city; even going as far as to say that it's starting to put Sydney on par with the shopping experiences of Tokyo and Paris.
That said, he'll be looking for other suitable venues for the Charlie & Co brand too, with the Opera House already "pretty much agreed". But for the time being North insists on "getting this 100% first".
Charlie & Co's focus on quality, and indeed Westfield Sydney's, means it is produce driven. By using cuts from whole animal throughout his other restaurants, North is able to not only capitalise on cost advantages of using whole beef, but he's able to create what he calls the perfect burger with mince from the cow's shoulder and knuckle. I was looking forward to testing his findings.
|Wagyu burger from Charlie & Co Burgers|
Our miniature tasting burger arrives encased in a sample of the on-site baked, sesame topped bread, consisting of a wagyu pattie with cheddar cheese melted atop, pickles, lettuce and tomato relish. Cute sizing and all, it was still quite the mouthful.
|Wagyu burger cross section|
I loved the thinly sliced pickles (it may look like Maccas' but it tastes worlds away) for their tart and crunchy addition, while I'd take the sweetly spiced tomato relish over tomato sauce any day, any dish. The iceberg lettuce leaf was the only thing that could really be considered 'standard', not that it wasn't perfectly crisp.
|Parmesan and truffle fries|
When Charlie & Co ran out of chips on one of the opening days, North dropped in to neighbours Cloudy Bay Fish Co for some reinforcements, which were gladly provided.
Chatting to the guys, it's apparent that the Sydney Room is much more than just the sum of its parts - the camaraderie is palpable, especially among North, Cloudy Bay's John Susman and Eat Deli Kitchen's Michael Moore, which I think is unique to the environment. I doubt you would see neighbouring fine diners so friendly towards each other.
|Charlie & Co's dining area|
For North, Charlie & Co is not only a new brand, but a new model - and there's no set system or model for the business to run; meaning North is at Westfield Sydney more often than not finetuning things, which in turn means there's a good chance you'll see him if you head up for a burger.
|Cloudy Bay Fish Co, Level 5, Westfield Sydney|
This store fitout is pretty spectacular, yet they're still not quite finished. There's currently bar style seating and your more traditional food court seating, but soon enough there'll also be a licensed, proper eat-in section with a simple menu paired with wines by the glass.
|John Susman of Cloudy Bay Fish Co|
|Hiramasa kingfish poached in verjuice, thyme and lemon|
|Wild king prawns in a classic cocktial sauce with avocado, peppers and parsley|
|King salmon marinated in lemon, pepper and olive oil, roasted on New Zealand beechwood|
|Albacore (white) tuna braised in extra virgin olive oil, lemon and pepper|
|Gorgeous light fixtures|
I'd never had rice in a tortilla before (something about carb in carb) but the combination of GYG's soffritto cooked rice, black beans imported from Mexico, fresh and tangy tomato salsa, queso (cheese) and high quality protein fillings (chicken is my favourite) was sensational and unlike anything I'd ever had. Queenslanders should get ready for the revelation too - GYG is headed your way.
|Guzman Y Gomez, Level 5, Westfield Sydney|
Since I started eating GYG, it's always been the Byron Bay Chilli Company sauces, notably the Mango Chilli Sauce (sweet, tropical with a strong hint of heat) and the Green Jalapeno (hotter with a coriander bent). I love the mango sauce and always thought this was an ode to the locals, part Australian-ising, if you will.
But no - Marks has been waiting for the right one, the right Tabasco sauce to get here. They're here now: Tabasco Chipotle and Tabasco Habanero, and all the GYG stores will be changing over to what Marks regards as the best condiment for his burritos, tacos, quesadillas and nachos.
|Eat Deli Kitchen, Level 5, Westfield Sydney|
|Eat Deli Kitchen hot menu|
The beef is cured, pickled and then cooked for five hours, in which it is rendered down by 30%, mostly fat. Moore admits that even though he's serving high quality, fresh food, the fat levels (monosaturated or saturated, debate rages) probably mean the Reuben shouldn't be a daily meal. There's always the roasted pork leg.
|Carving up the hot, salted beef|
The Reuben is served with rye bread sourced from Schwab's Bakery (also sliced to order), swiss cheese, Moore's own cucumber dill pickles and a mustard mayonnaise - but alas, he'd sold out of rye bread that day, making a Reuben sandwich tasting impossible.
|Hand sliced wagyu salt beef|
But it's no wonder why the beef is a star - it is up there with the most succulent piece of beef ever, which is so surprising for silverside, let alone corned silverside. There's very little visible fat on the meat, but the rich mouthfeel leaves no doubt that this is wagyu - darn tasty wagyu.
It is a little on the salty side, which is where the mustard mayonnaise and pickles come in, sauerkraut too. I'm trying to imagine it on rye bread with swiss cheese - but I'm already floored by the beef. As Al Pacino might say if paid enough, this is good beef.
|Display stand at Top Fruit, Level 5, Westfield Sydney|
|White chocolate dipped strawberry from Top Fruit|
But here, there’s more variety of exotic and tropical fruits; though I wish they’d also take on board Susman’s idea of provenance – where on earth do yellow dragonfruits come from?
|Gorgeous citrus display|
|A sensational fruit salad with mango, figs, dragonfruit and more|
|Bananas and wheatgrass|
|Top Fruit fridge display|
|A good looking fridge|
|Via Del Corso, Level 5, Westfield Sydney|
|Pastries at Via Del Corso|
|Gelato dessert offerings at Via Del Corso|
|The automated gelato fridge window|
|Just one cabinet of many gelati at Via Del Corso|
While many seemed impressed with the chilli chocolate gelato, I was more a fan of the mango and the tiramisu, the former surprisingly real and the latter with actual cakey, biscuit bits within. While not all the gelato is made by them at them moment, that's the goal in the near future.
|Level 5, Westfield Sydney|
|Level 5, Westfield Sydney (looking up to Level 6 and rooftop)|
Images courtesy of Westfield Sydney
|Level 5, Westfield Sydney (looking down to Level 4)|
Images courtesy of Westfield Sydney
|Sky Phoenix, Level 5, Westfield Sydney|
|The newly decked out Sky Phoenix|
Our tour is in the evening, so instead of yum cha we sample from the dinner menu with our waiter selecting several banquet items to fill our near-capacity bellies.
|Peking duck from Sky Phoenix|
Not only duck skin, there's a generous amount of duck meat wrapped within the pancake, which makes the Peking duck quite a substantial, and of course scrumptious, starter. I wouldn't have minded a couple more and been done with dinner, but there were other items already on their way.
|Sang choi bao - pork lettuce cups|
It was definitely one of the best sang choi bao I've ever had, though admittedly, I don't really order them all that often. I think it was down to freshness of ingredients (that lettuce was so crisp) and seriously on-the-ball seasoning.
|Stir fried prawns and scallops with snow peas|
So I was really looking forward to the prawns and scallops, which for me is rather nostalgic. These prawns were superbly crisp; probably as a result of being treated with the same flash fry process. The scallops were as I remember; sweet with the taste of the sea, moist and tender. My only wish was that they were bigger, but I suppose that comes from being a small child faced with the same sized scallops all those years ago.
The seafood and well cooked snow peas, along with other vegetables including butterfly cutout carrots found exclusively in Chinese restaurants, were bound together with a clear sauce, probably of master stock - and little else is needed.
I'm not entirely sure why Pringle-like wafers appear as a garnish, but the shredded carrot and curly parsley remind me of the pages of an old Chinese cookbook I have in possession, where almost every dish was decorated with this exact garnish.
In what becomes the end, after about three hours of eating and tasting, there are sadly some leftovers but the stomach has well and truly called it a day. And how could it not, with wagyu burgers, truffle chips, corned beef, exotic fruits, gelato, Peking duck and all those Chinese dishes - all in the one very impressive place.
Westfield Sydney really seem to have pulled something spectacular off here, but it's only the beginning, Sydney. Pull out the credit card and enjoy.
Thanks to Urbanspoon and Liquid Ideas for the invite, and many thanks to Westfield Sydney's Level 5.