Thursday, June 28, 2012
Day 1 Sydney: Cooking Class at Quarter Twenty One
I love the strikingly macabre sight that greets you near the entrance of Quarter Twenty One in Sydney. Will you choose to view this display of carcasses as deathly or delicious? Mmmh, ribs...you know what I'm thinking.
Destination NSW arranged for the media arriving on Scoot's inaugural flight to Sydney to visit Quarter Twenty One for a cooking class. It was the first thing on our itinerary after landing in the morning.
Quarter Twenty One is a gourmet store, a restaurant, a cookery school and external catering/take-home meals. That's the four quarters that "Feed the Soul", and the Twenty One refers to the weight of the soul (that 21g that mysteriously leaves the body upon death).
It's owned by celebrated chef Justin North and his wife Georgia, and is part of a group that also includes three-hatted restaurant Becasse, casual eatery Etch (at InterContinental Hotel), Becasse Bakery and Charlie & Co burgers, and Le Grand Cafe at Alliance Francaise, Sydney.
There are certainly lots of enchanting treats here at Quarter Twenty One to capture your soul.
Fine foods, epicurean finds and handmade products, many of which are fresh and locally sourced from artisanal producers. You can also take home ready-made meals which they prepare daily.
Here's our cooking school in session with Chef Michael Robinson.
A few quick bites first to calm the lunchtime stomach. From left to right - a fritter sitting on the most amazing aioli, petunia ocean trout on a delightfully ethereal cracker, and a sinful cube of caramelised pork belly. Oh we were told it was Tetsuya Wakuda who made petunia ocean trout famous by including it in his menu.
Our entree: salad of heirloom carrots, goats' curd, hazelnut and cocoa. This is the plating as demonstrated by the chef. We would later be given the chance to plate our own salad.
We dealt with five kinds of heirloom carrots - golf ball, Dutch, purple, white and yellow.
It's the first time I've seen purple carrots in real life, and yet I learned that most carrots were originally purple. Apparently, mankind has tweaked them to become orange because we have been conditioned to see blues and purples in nature as "not food" or possibly poisonous, and the warm orange colour is much more appealing as a food.
This is my plate - I'd like to say my vision was a garden-like setting, but really I started with a blank plate and a blank mind, improvising as I went. But plating didn't really matter. The salad was as tasty as it was colourful, and the produce really spoke for itself.
Our main was prepared by the chef - roast and braised suckling pork leg, caramelised scampi and wild mushrooms. The sauce was insanely delicious, and I really loved the mushrooms.
On the restaurant side, Chef Michael Robinson serves modern European cuisine. The setting is casual yet elegant.
We also got a tour of the kitchen. Here's the stock section, with huge vats boiling.
There is a separate and smaller kitchen area for Becasse, a degustation-only fine-dining restaurant.
This is what Becasse looks like.
We ended things on a sweet note - chocolate fondant. Too bad we didn't have time to actually try and make this, but I do have the recipe!
It was lovely meeting the folks at Quarter Twenty One, and we enjoyed the cooking class. I was sad to read that the whole group went into administration just a few days later. It's too early to tell which venues will close but hopefully Quarter Twenty One will survive the restructuring.
QUARTER TWENTY ONE
LEvel 5 Westfield Sydney
Corner Pitt Street and Market Street
New South Wales 2000
Tel: +61 (2) 9283-3440
For the cookery school, contact Libby Travers (Director) at +61 (2) 8064-7900
or email email@example.com