Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Taste of... The Dairy at InterContinental Sydney

Hotel restaurants aren't necessarily top of mind when dining out as a local, but after sampling the A Taste of... menu at Cafe Opera in the InterContinental Sydney recently, it seems I've overlooked the fact that five-star hotels have five-star restaurants too.

InterContinental Sydney's executive chef Tamas Pamer likes to think the restaurant merely sits within a hotel rather than being a hotel restaurant, and initiatives like the A Taste of... themed dinners promoting local Australian produce push this line.

Canapes for A Taste of... launch at Cafe Opera, InterContinental Hotel, Macquarie Street, Sydney
Until 30 April 2014, it's A Taste of... The Dairy, featuring cheeses and milk products from a range of local producers. Certainly not for the lactose-intolerant, this is a bit a heaven for cheese lovers, especially when matched with local wines.

As a launch event, we were treated to canapes that aren't normally a part of the three- or five-course degustation: creative dairy-focused morsels like seaweed crackers with ricotta and Yarra Valley salmon caviar whipped up by Pamer and his buddy and executive sous chef Julien Poteau.

Executive Chef Tamas Pamer (right) and Executive Sous Chef Julien Poteau (left)
Both of European backgrounds (Pamer is German while Poteau is French), both chefs were very complimentary of Australian dairy produce and produce generally, noting that Australian producers don't have the customer support and associated financial backing of European producers.

This is part of the reason that the InterContinental Sydney strongly supports local producers in events like the A Taste of... dinners and throughout the hotel's food offerings. It makes sense that a tourist staying in the hotel might like to be enlightened as to our fantastic local produce, as well as us locals too.

Table settings for the A Taste of... The Dairy degustation
We were treated with dining in Cafe Opera's ambient private room, differentiating the degustation experience from the restaurant's usual buffet offering.

G.H. Mumm Champagne
We started on Mumm Champagne with the canapes, which is as lovely a way to start a meal as there is.

Pepe Saya butter and bread
At the table, we were delighted to find large, drilled out, smooth river stones at each setting, filled with Pepe Saya butter and re-labelled with the brand's signature sticker.

Some of our country's best cultured butter doesn't taste much better served in a rock - it's so good anyway, slathered thickly onto a crusty seeded bread roll, that I managed to get through most of my stone's serve.

Logan Vintage 'M" Cuvee
Following champagne, our first course was matched with the Logan Vintage 'M' Cuvee; a sparkling blend of equal parts chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier from Orange.

Gorgeously coppery in colour with a nice, dry palate, it was described as an adventurous wine pairing with our first course of cured trout.

Beetroot cured trout, fromage frais, chive, pickled cucumber
It was a stunning dish to look at featuring a beet red-tinted block of firm ocean trout resting in a verdant pool of creamy chive puree.

On top was a cute pink meringue wafer, flavoured with a native peach, sandwiching fresh, herbed fromage frais from Pokolbin's Binnorie Dairy.

Together, the sweet meringue, creamy fromage frais and salty cuts of ocean trout were delightfully light, making for a sophisticated layering of unexpectedly complementary flavours.

Jannei goat milk pudding, young pine needle, caramelised turnip, buckwheat
Our next course was of the nature-mimicking food trend that's popular in many restaurants now. Served in a jar was a forest floor-like crunchy mixture of puffed buckwheat and blitzed, crisped porcini mushrooms, hiding juicy cubes of soft, caramelised turnip.

It all came topped with a foamy pudding of Jannei goat's milk from a farm near Oberon and then crisp young pine needles; the distinct flavour of the goat's milk lifting the rest of the dish's mostly crunchy, brown components.

The savoury pudding was served with Polin & Polin John Rook's Rose; an amazingly dry, even savoury, rose from the Hunter Valley.

Butter milk roasted Barossa chicken, chestnut mushroom, potato maxim, cheddar emulsion
To the main meal we were presented with a spectacular composition of chicken that definitely took it out of boring poultry territory.

The golden-skinned breast portion featured an artistically layered stuffing between juicy chicken flesh which was roasted in Pepe Saya butter milk, joined by a myriad of accompaniments on the plate.

Butter milk roasted Barossa chicken, chestnut mushroom, potato maxim, cheddar emulsion
There was a Pyengana cheddar foam atop deep fried enoki mushrooms, braised chestnut mushrooms, little roasted potato silos and the crisp potato maxim ring that pretty much tasted like chips.

There wasn't a dull moment to be had with this Barossa chook, served with Montrose Stony Creek Chardonnay from the Mudgee region.

Ross Hill Pinnacle Series Cabernet Sauvignon
The spicy Ross Hill Pinnacle Series Cabernet Sauvignon from Orange came out with the cheese course in a stunning Plumm decanter.

In fact, the InterContinental Sydney now uses the full range of Plumm glassware throughout the hotel in another significant vote of support for Australian brands and producers.

Baked Reblochon (The Mountain Man), confit fig, walnut bread
The cheese course was easily my favourite featuring an organic French-style cheese by Victoria's L'Artisan Cheese Timboon called The Mountain Man, made in a French Alps Reblochon fashion.

A whole wheel of the cow's milk washed rind cheese was baked and served at the table, in its full oozing, stringing cheese glory.

Serving the baked Reblochon
This glory also made it into a goodie bag to take home - pretty much the best goodie bag ever, with a whole wheel of The Mountain Man cheese, plus Pepe Saya butter and crème fraîche, the lush Country Valley natural yoghurt and a mini loaf of brioche.

Baked Reblochon (The Mountain Man), confit fig, walnut bread
Baking the cheese seemed to reduce much of the washed rind's stinkiness, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The gooey melted cheese was simply divine with the sweet, yielding half fig while the toasted twig of walnut-studded bread was the perfect finishing touch.

Brie custard, apple, thyme honey, brioche, macadami
While the cheese could have been the end for me, the proper dessert course was one I'm unlikely to ever encounter again: a pot of thick, warm custard made of L'Artisan brie cheese, with lumps of the cheese's skin even.

The creaminess and slight saltiness of the cheese were apparent, highlighted against soft cooked apple, caramelised macadamia nuts and honey. The ice cream on the side consisted of Country Valley milk from Picton, cooked down to a dulce de leche state to form the sweet, milky ice cream.

Dessert was matched with the Small Acres Cyder Pommeau which is a fortified cider from the state's central west, though its potent taste makes it more like an apple brandy.

House made Easter eggs
We ended the amazing meal with house made dark chocolate Easter eggs, not part of the usual offering but so deliciously timely.

As a Sydney-sider I've got limited experience of our high end hotels from a guest point of view, but given a taste of what the InterContinental Sydney and Cafe Opera have to offer - a fine dining atmosphere and interesting, relevant produce on the plates - the A Taste of... concept has a unique drawcard for locals and tourists alike.

The Taste of... The Dairy dinners are on until 30 April 2014 at Cafe Opera. It will be followed by A Taste of... Head to Tail and Forest Foraging, respectively, in later months this year. Bookings are essential - see here for more details.

Food, booze and shoes dined at Cafe Opera at the InterContinental Hotel as a guest, with thanks to Pulse Communications.

Cafe Opera on Urbanspoon


missklicious said...

that beetroot dish is almost too pretty to eat!

Kath said...


penny said...

MIssed out due to this stupid cough and cold! Will have been great to catch up and eat cheese!

Unknown said...

I really love going to this kind of place to stay in. These foods look delicious and mouth watering. I must try their menu. I'd taste butter milk roasted chicken when I went to Bayview Eden in Melbourne with my friends. I missed the taste and smell of chicken. Thank you for sharing this.


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