I’m not new to dining at the InterContinental Sydney. It was one of the favourite places that we went as a family with mum for high tea. Earlier this year I discovered Cafe Opera. On that first visit for the buffet, I also first met the man that provides the culinary vision for that restaurant, InterContinental Executive Sous Chef, Julien Pouteau. We wandered the buffet exchanging dialogue and discussed our mutual passion for French food. Pouteau though has taken the cuisine of his homeland further, and encouraged me to return and try his a la carte menu.
French-born Julien trained in the country of his birth, where he began his culinary career of more than 15 years. Since then, he has worked at five-star hotels and restaurants (including a one Michelin-star venue) all over France, as well as in the US, French Polynesia, the Caribbean and Morocco. Most recently, he was Executive Sous Chef at the five-star La Villa des Orangers (Relais et Chateux) in Marrakech, Morocco, prior to which he was executive sous chef at the five-star Sheraton Lagoon Resort and Spa in Moorea, French Polynesia.
Julien joined InterContinental Sydney in August 2010 and has developed a cuisine style combining French-influenced dishes with a Mediterranean flavour and a twist of Asian spice. He aims to create fresh, contemporary dishes which have a home-made feel, using local ingredients and quality produce.
And so it was; on a girls’ night out earlier this year two writers from Inside Cuisine caught up over a white table cloth, and enjoyed exquisite and innovative food. Pouteau understands it all. There’s a fascinating mix of flavours, and great use of contrast and texture on the plate. (By the way the sommelier knows his stuff too.) Definitely one of our picks for an excellent Sydney dining experience: whether you choose from the a la carte menu, or like us, go all the way … with the Tasting Menu and matched wines.
We oooed and aahed all through dinner with groans of sensory delight. Particularly enjoyed was the combo of liquorice oil with the perfectly seared rare tuna; the other contrasts of mud crab claw, puffed rice and lemon curd made this a touch of genius. Similarly the king brown mushroom, wakame and fresh horseradish worked extraordinarily well with the lobster. It was great to see that each ingredient is sourced with care and provenance is shown on the menu.
The return of the sorbet as a palate cleanser is being enjoyed at all of our better Sydney restaurants, along with a new fashion for pre-desserts. Here at Cafe Opera, Pouteau took a more classical approach in menu placement with the sorbet preceeding the chargrilled grass fed beef. The use of mangosteen leant a contemporary note.
Natalie and I finished on a high note too. The Tasting Menu dessert is to share, which makes this menu a loving option for a romantic dinner. Though we definitely weren’t on a ‘date’ it was still great to dive in together and devour the different Valrhona offerings: strawberry, marshmallow, ice cream, molten and mille feuille. Chef was playing. He was using the new Valrhona P125 (designed especially by Valrhona for pastry chefs.)
We decided to play too. Instead of the suggested sticky we asked the sommelier to be a little more adventurous with our final beverage. The Matilda Bay Dogbolter dark lager made a very fine chocolate match indeed.
Bravo Chef! We won’t be able to stay away for too long …
117 Macquarie St Sydney NSW Australia
+61 2 9253 9000