Set back from the hustle and bustle of Glebe Point Road, protected just enough by a veranda and front garden to be private, you’ll find a wide-frontage house slightly at odds with the surrounding late century commercial properties.
The exterior – quaint and unassuming, and the interior – cozy and comfortable, give nothing away to the passerby regarding the food or the chef contained within. Until you sit down, and the dishes begin to march out of the kitchen, you have no idea about the fantastical plates filled with intriguing flavours that will take over your evening.
Way back in March, RJ and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary, in May we finally went out to dinner to mark the occasion, I started this post in July, and yes, it is now November. I’ve mentioned this milestone before but it is worth another, 10 years, 10 YEARS. 10+ years ago I up and moved from Denver to Sydney, I told my flatmates I’d be back in 6 months, ha!
When we started to plan this dinner I of course asked Twitter where we should go. After many of the expected answers [Quay, Arras, Momofuku, Tetusuas] a recommendation came through for Restaurant Atelier in Glebe. In the two months it took us to get around to actually doing anything, this gem of a place sped across my radar and number of times.
I finally DM’ed Chef Darren and booked us in for the 7-course degustation – tailored meaty for RJ and vegaquarian for me. We headed over on a chilly Thursday evening, not sure what to expect but secure in the knowledge that it would be delicious.
The platings started simply. A stack, a few leaves here and there, a schmear on the plate. But then they developed into Alice in Wonderland-esque landscapes with textures and flavours that kept you guessing at every turn.
From the vintage 100 year-old Royal Soy Sauce, so round and complex [and expensive!] that it is dripped over the food at the table with an eyedropper, to the dill sprinkled over a hot plate so the aroma hits you as the dish is put down. We quickly learned to lean in and smell each course first, in an attempt to catch hints of what would tantalise our taste-buds.
On to the food…
The evening started off with warm Sourdough Bread served with Pepe Saya Butter, Black Olive Tapenade, Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar.
It was our anniversary after all so I treated myself to a glass of bubbles and RJ had a crisp Kronenbourg 1664 beer.
1. First up was a silky Miso with Kombu Stock, Smoked Tofu & Sweet Corn. RJ’s version was accompanied by a Suckling Pork Rib.
2. A Sumac-cured Hiramasa Kingfish with Heirloom Tomato & Spring Onion Salad, Greek Basil puree and whipped Feta was topped with an Ox-Heart Tomato Sorbet. While the entire dish was wonderfully matched in both flavour and texture I could not get enough of the tomato sorbet. So unexpected and silky.
3. Poached Marron Tail, Pink Grapefruit, Apple, Marron Bisque Gel & Puffed Rice was a peek into the artistic flourish that would get more pronounced with each course.
4. An abstract masterpiece of Kandinsky on a plate, the Seared Bonito, Shaved Fennel, Yuzu, Coral Tenax, Soy Flakes, Radish Sprouts, Baby Choy Flowers and Secret Dressing teased us mercilessly – none of the elements particularly stunning on their own but practically singing when tasted together.
5. Perched jauntily upon it’s Nasturtium Leaf lily pad the Abalone with Enoki, Asparagus and Shaved Kombu – Pork Jowl on RJ’s, Smoked Tofu on mine – was dressed at the table by two drops of the aforementioned vintage 100 year-old Royal Soy Sauce.
The abalone is cooked at low heat for 10 hours to both preserve texture and ensure it is meltingly tender. It was recommended to wrap the filling in the leaf and eat with your hands, the dish would only have benefited from a hot towel being provided beforehand.
6. A lovely transition from entree to main saw John Dory filets rolled, poached and served with Mushroom, Potato and Celerac cubes, Celerac puree and a Bernaise Sauce. The rich dish was punctuated with little bursts of caramelised garlic and micro greens.
7. RJ was hoping for pork or red meat of some kind. I’d regaled him with twitter stories of suckling pig and salt bush lamb, so when the Caramel & Szechuan Pepper Glazed Duck Breast and Confit Leg with Heirloom Vegetables arrived he sighed and whispered to me that he wasn’t fond of duck.
Then he took a bite – and didn’t utter another sound until he had devoured the entire plate and scraped up the sauce to the point of inappropriateness. A few weeks later we were at a restaurant that had a lovely sounding duck dish on the menu, I suggested he try it and the response I received was along the lines of ‘I only eat duck if it is at Atelier’ – enough said.
7. My main was a scene straight out of Alice in Wonderland or perhaps Dr Seuss. A royal throne constructed of Skate and Okra, looking down on a kingdom of Broadbeans, Mushrooms, and Cauliflower Puree.
8. Buttermilk Panacotta topped with Crunchy Granola & Chocolate Sorbet came sealed in a jar. When the foil top was peeled back I almost expected a puff of smoke to appear. It was a tease, two bites at most, that left you wanting more.
9. Luckily ‘more’ arrived in the form of a Chocolate & Olive Oil Delice with Raspberry, Sheeps’ Milk Yoghurt, Caramel, Vanilla Salt and Chocolate Balls. Read that again… Then marvel over the stunning presentation… Then sigh.
10. The piece de resistance. The famous souffle. That evening it was a Strawberry & Black Pepper Souffle with Fraise de Bois Sorbet and Basil Milkshake with a Chocolate Straw. The instructions were simple – make a hole in the centre, pour in a bit of the shake then eat. Divine.
I jotted down notes for most of this post that very evening to capture some of the words floating through my head. Funny enough, at the time I noted ‘I can imagine a intimate cocktail party or a slightly raucous dinner party taking over the entire premises‘.
Not two months later we found ourselves back at Atelier as part of a slightly raucous dinner party that took over the entire premises – imagine that! The pics of the dishes served on that evening are below if you are still hungry but lets wrap this up first.
- Value: At $90 for 7-courses this is one of the better value degustations around and the ‘menu is individually tailored to your table, reflecting the a la carte menu, seasonality and any dietary requirements’. With a la carte entrees at $24, mains at $36 and desserts at $15, pricing is on par with many upscale Sydney restaurants and the quality is impeccable.
- 5 Senses: The food is visually stunning and the plates were perfectly suited to each dish – canvas on which the artist creates his work. The atmosphere is relaxed and intimate, more ‘dining at a friend’s home’ than in a ‘too-cool-for-school glitterati haunt’. Everything was [obviously] delicious. In addition to the main dining area there is a private dining room for 10-12 upstairs and a lovely little courtyard that gets used when the weather is behaving itself.
- Service: Prompt and attentive, explaining each dish as they are presented.
- Boomerang Effect: We’ve already been twice, and if it weren’t for the $100+ price tag it would definitely be a more regular occurrence. I’d love to attend one of the Sunday Lunch Master Classes but as the themes are meaty with some meat and some more meat, I’ve yet to book – thinking about sending RJ on one though!
As mentioned above, not two months after our first visit we found ourselves back at Atelier as part of a slightly raucous dinner party that took over the entire premises. It was a dinner organised by Mel that started as 10 of us in the private dining room… and expanded to 40 bloggers and partners booking out the place on a Friday evening.
Below are the dishes from the #fancyfrenchdinnerparty take-over… As with pretty much any low-light shots, all of the photos here have been post-processed, but while the ones above have been done within an inch of their lives, the ones below weren’t too bad to start with. When you have 40 food bloggers in a restaurant you forgo romantic ambiance and give in to the demands for more light, more light! [Sorry Bernie, step away from the dimmer, sloooowly]
The evening began with House-made Potato Chips, Sourdough Bread served with Pepe Saya Butter, Black Olive Tapenade, Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar.
An amuse bouche of Yellow Fin Tuna, Coral Tenax and Red Capsicum Jelly started us off – I do love that coral, so unique.
Next came a board of Marron Tempura with Crisp Pork Belly served alongside a tangy sauce [maybe yuzu, I didn't note it down, it was gorgeous]. A terrarium of Miso with Microgreens made us all giggle as it landed on the table.
Master Kobe Wagyu Beef Tartar was garnished with a Crisp Quail Egg, Pea and Broadbean Salad and fresh Black Truffle. I managed to steal a taste of the perfectly cooked egg but left the beef to RJ.
In place of the tartar, my second course involved a Nasturtium Leaf with Enoki, Asparagus, and Shaved Kombu topped with Chili Threads. Fresh and savory, it unfortunately did not contain one of those crunchy, runny eggs…
Poached John Dory filets with Potato, Celerac, Onions and a Bernaise Sauce served as the entree to main transition course.
RJ was treated again to the Caramel & Szechuan Pepper Glazed Duck Breast and Confit Leg with Sweet & Sour Baby Turnips and Radishes and Szechuan Vinegar Sauce.
While us non-meat eaters had a twist on the same but with Crispy Skin Fish.
The petite jars were back for our first dessert of Vanilla Custard with Coconut Crunch and Sheep’s Milk Yoghurt Ice Cream, I have to say I preferred the combination with the Chocolate Sorbet from our first visit.
And then we mingled, pretending not to be hovering food bloggers while the kitchen was hard at work churning out 40 souffles. It is probably worth noting that I knew roughly 30 of the 40 people there that evening and while table hopping and chatting managed to not take a single photo of a person. Oops.
The evening ended with a Caramelized Pistachio and Cocoa Nib Souffles with a Sweet Miso Milkshake and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.
RESTAURANT ATELIER – GLEBE, SYDNEY
22 GLEBE POINT ROAD
GLEBE, NSW 2037
We paid for both meals ourselves, however there is a distinct possibility that we were a bit spoilt by Darren – thanks mate, it was all stunning!