Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The High Table at Hotel Centennial

The very recently renovated and revamped Hotel Centennial, opposite Centennial Park in Woollahra, has seen former fine dining chef Justin North head up the pub's restaurant kitchen.

His high-profile return to the restaurant game has attracted as much media attention as the relaunched posh pub itself, which targets the well-heeled locals with a modern approach to comfort food.

The High Table meal at Hotel Centennial, Oxford Street, Woollahra
Having not been your average, dingy pub in recent times anyway, Hotel Centennial's new look exudes a luxe casual feel, spanning several large, airy spaces.

The main dining room and bar, which will soon serve weekend breakfasts, are light and bright, with leather furniture and modern art upping the comfort factor.

Pre-lunch dining room at Hotel Centennial
Here, the extensive menu reads of pub classics with a modern touch, joined by Woollahra's must-have salads. The kitchen's grill and wood fired oven is put to good use especially across the mains and share mains, not to mention the flat breads/ pizzas and pre-ordered roasts (currently whole suckling pig, pheasant(!) and Indian spiced goat - 48 hours' notice required).

The cocktail bar, past the warm open kitchen where chef North holds charge, has a gentlemen's club and lounge feel, and more leather, with an extensive menu of bar food on offer, while the front room features The High Table.

The High Table
Seating 30 diners on one continuous, custom-made table, The High Table concept aims to bring people together to sit down and share a meal - whether it's with friends, family, workmates or complete strangers.

The High Table is offered from Monday to Wednesday nights where at 7.30pm the kitchen serves a daily full course for the entire table for $24 per person (an additional $10 gets dessert and tea/coffee and $2 from every diner at The High Table is donated to the local Holdsworth Community Centre).

With a changing menu, Mondays are 'Meat and Three Veg', Tuesdays themed as 'Favourites' and Wednesdays are 'By Request' where chef North will cook up a diner's dinner suggestion for the entire table.

Marinated tuna salad with miso & toasted  sesame
Inspired by the perhaps increasingly alien idea of eating at a dining room table, and in the days of everyone's overly busy lives and the emergence of mobile technology - everywhere and all the time - it seems that Hotel Centennial wants us to remember the ritual and sense of sharing food at the dinner table.

At a preview lunch, we got a peek at Hotel Centennial's dining room menu in The High Table style, shared amongst a large group. We started with flutes of Chandon Rosé NV and an additional small entrée of raw, marinated tuna slices with a soba buckwheat noodle salad, served on custom Hotel Centennial plates.

Whole roast John Dory
For mains, we were treated to three of the menu's main dishes designed for sharing, all emerging from the wood fired oven.

I dug straight into the whole roasted John Dory, bones and all but served headless and prettily with a lemony herb butter. The thick, succulent fish flesh was well cooked, with plenty to go around.

Wood roasted Holmbrae chicken, roast gravy, greens
The aroma of the wood roasted chicken was the epitome of comfort food, served with the best roast gravy and wilted greens. Served pre-cut into portions, the tender chicken was so full of flavour, all the way from the bronzed skin down to the bone, it was one of those dishes I could have for dinner every night.

5-hour slow cooked lamb shoulder
When the roasted lamb shoulder came to the table, it was hard not to draw comparisons to another restaurant in the same suburb, not that any one restaurant 'owns' a cut of meat.

Falling from the bone with ease, the lamb was a hearty dish that would certainly please several carnivores (although it's listed on the menu as serving two) and was lovely with Cloudy Bay pinot noir.

Royal blues roasted in duck fat
We had a range of sides to complement our shared mains, with the easy favourite being the crisp, duck fat-roasted royal blue potatoes, followed closely by the creamy and surely naughty potato puree.

Aromatic wood roasted vegetables, cardamom & goats' curd
The wood roasted vegetables presented baby beetroot and radishes as some more unusual roast specimens, with a delightfully creamy addition of goat's curd to the colourful vegetables.

Salad leaves with classic vinaigrette
The classic leaf salad apparently paled in comparison to a broccoli and almond salad that I'll have to try next time, as with all the passing and sharing of plates and dishes I seemed to skip it.

And that's the thing about communal dining like this, there's chatter and hospitality between diners that is perhaps, more and more, missing from our dining tables at home. Indeed, things and times change but it's nice to see the intimate act of breaking bread between humans conserved in some way, shape or form.

Raspberry frangipane tart with crème fraîche Chantilly
Our dessert was probably something I'd request again next time: a slice of crumbly-centred raspberry frangipane tart with lots of sauce, served with the most perfect quenelle of vanilla bean Chantilly crème fraîche, whipped lighter than any cream I've ever had.

The High Table at Hotel Centennial
Good food, good wine, shared with good company - it's the makings of a great meal, and chef North doesn't seem to be aiming for anything less at Hotel Centennial. See here for more details and bookings.

Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Hotel Centennial as a guest, with thanks to Drysdale Communications.

Hotel Centennial on Urbanspoon


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Good to see that he has come back. I always enjoyed the food at Becasse :)

Charlene@aus2usa said...

Potatoes in duck fat? personal favourite. that is some lovely meal!

I love photos of people dining, it makes the entire place looks just so much warmer.

Thanks for sharing!


Trisha said...

Wow that is some serious long table! The fair looks awesome, glad to hear he's back!

Unknown said...

Wanted to try the foods serves at Hotel centenial especially the Marinated tuna salad with miso & toasted sesame.

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

Love wood-roasted dishes. And that frangipane tart looks so delicious!

Vivian - vxdollface said...

lots of rustic dishes! good to see Justin back in the game, I've always liked his food

Tina said...

Hi Lorraine - Yes, it was nice to see Justin in the kitchen :)

Hi Charlene - I love the people shots too, but sometimes I feel funny about taking pics of strangers... :)

Hi Trisha - It's such a gorgeous table and setting.

Hi Helen - Wood roasting and comfort food seem to go hand in had :)

Hi Viv - Yep, rustic food we all want to eat :P

Table Bar Cuisine said...

The High Table meal at Hotel Centennial, Oxford Street, Woollahra ... tablebarcuisine.blogspot.com

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