Guillaume Brahimi has announced on the 2 July 2013 that Guillaume at Bennelong will be shutting its doors by the end of 2013. Read here for further details.
Guillaume Brahimi has had a formidable career to date. Born in Paris, his star was on the rise taking on various roles at three michelin restaurants.
Moving to Australia, Guillaume earns a record breaking two chef hats within 6 months of opening his restaurant Pond. He is later invited to turn around Bilson’s at Circular Quay (now Quay) with no chef hats and 11/20 rating, remarkably taking Bilson’s to receive the coveted three chef hats.
In 2001, Guillaume is awarded the highly sought after contract to take over the restaurant at the Sydney Opera House. Within a year of its debut, it is recognised as one of the top 50 new restaurants in the world. The restaurant has a long list of accolades under its belt. Awarded year in and year out, it reaches the pinnacle (three chef hats) and today sits as a two chef hat restaurant with a 17/20 rating.
With his culinary prowess set against the backdrop of the most breathtaking views of our iconic foreshore. It is hard to believe that Guillaume at Bennelong is not on anyone’s hit list. This may be more the case than ever before, now that the space for the restaurant is up for tender with rumours that it may transform it into a cheap eats venue.
That said, I was able to pay Guillaume a visit for my birthday before any major overhaul thanks to my sister – agirlhastoeat.
We decide to go ahead with the al la carte menu (4 courses for $150) available after 8pm. Prior to this, the pre-theatre menu is offered between 6pm-8pm. (2 courses for $72 & 3 courses for $89).
Our night begins with a pumpkin velouté – filled with lovely air pockets it is light and fluffy. The piece of seared foie gras tucked inside makes it lovely, fatty & rich. On top, there are tiny sprinkles of candied ginger. You know it’s good when your caught scraping from the bottom.
The royale with pea, speck, croutons & truffle makes me gush with fervour. Underneath the surface is a pea puree reworked into a pea custard. The texture is a pure anomaly with its smooth, gooey yet firm shape.
The textural play continues with the crunchy croutons contrasted with the chewy stick-to-your-teeth cubes of speck tangled in a nest of greens. Finished with truffle oil, the experience in each mouthful is magnificent.
I was advised that the yellowfin tuna has a long history of being one of the best signature dishes in Sydney. Despite its claim to fame, I felt slightly underwhelmed by this entree. There was no mistaking the quality of the produce but the flavours are simple and understated. I like the perfume of the basil but I didn’t love it. I also wasn’t overly excited with the contrast in temperatures of hot and cold.
Sweetbreads and tongue can be a bit of a wildcard. I’m pretty partial to offal but it can always present a risk. Still, I highly recommend it if you are into that sort of thing.The veal sweetbreads and tongue are panfried with a beurre noissette (clarified butter) creating a lovely pool of sauce for mopping. The almonds are diced to precision, creating bite and a nuttiness that enhances the veal butter sauce.
At the table, the veal offal is covered with an incredible gingerbread sauce. This is made from baked gingerbread that is reconstructed into a sauce base. This is then placed inside a creaming canister to create its luxuriant café au lait gloss.
The combination of each element in the pine mushroom make this dish absolutely soar. Beyond it simplicity, it has the harmony of flavours and execution that take this dish much further.
The mushrooms are buttery, spongey and bouncy made richer with the lovely goo of that egg yolk (oeuf mollet). Gnocchi is firm and has an outer crust encasing a soft centre. The unsung hero is surprisingly the salsa verde – refreshing and full of character.
The tortellini is expertly crafted with gifted hands. The pasta is firm and coloured with a striking red centre.
Whilst I really enjoyed the flavours, I would have preferred a little more goat’s curd and a touch more parmesan to lift it away from the intensity of the beetroot.
This is one of the best steaks I have had in a long while. The beef was butter soft, (sous vide I’m sure) with lovely morsels of mushroom, spinach & shallots dotted around. The merlot jus was beguiling, reduced to a lovely richness creating a lovely sticky residue, remaining longingly to the roof of my palette.
Our mains were served with a gorgeous side of buttery mash – velvety and smooth.
Excited by the concept of this pre-dessert, I was taken aback by the tartness of the grapefruit. It was simply far too bitter and harsh, forsaking the other subtleties of this dish.
Nougat glace was an exceptional way to end the night. The centrepiece had various layers to crack through. On top presents an inviting fan of caramelised banana which is crunchy and soft. Take it down a notch, there is a wafer thin caramel mille-feuille disc protecting a nougat and peanut semifreddo which again sits on top another mille-feuille piece (plain). Crack, crack, crack. Ugh.. Caramel ice cream is delicious and sits on top of a patch of dehydrated caramel. Which is a first for me, and feels like crystallised caramel crumbs.
The dark chocolate cigar encases a chestnut mousse creates an emphatic crack on impact. It is rich and light and is accompanied with blackcurrant and pear sauce, chestnut ice cream and dehydrated caramel.
Overall, the food was spectacular. Service was friendly and knowledgeable. The night was almost perfect despite some minor blemishes but hey, it was pretty spot on.