Crown’s latest and greatest.
MENU HIGHLIGHTS Potato and roe; beef and oyster; Maremma duck; all desserts
AMBIANCE The pinnacle of dining; relaxed, confident, clever and considered
WOULD I GO BACK? With pleasure, to try the rest of the menu
Clare Smyth’s first Australian restaurant faces no competition. Her famous restaurant in London, Core by Clare Smyth, has three Michelin stars. More stars than can be offered under the Southern Cross – but three Good Food Guide hats would be appropriate.
To employ a well deserved cliché, this restaurant experience is unparalelled. The dishes were so complex (in a meaningful way) and delicious, but far from heavy and rich (while still flavoursome) that one left doubtless of the magic being performed in that kitchen. Clare Smyth’s team all looked up from their benches to unanimously greet each arriving guest – “welcome to Oncore”. This is a team who will spend three days triple baking their bread – a complimentary bonus and one of many signs of attention to detail. Hard work and concentration is omnipresent.
Get the à la carte menu and share. Two of us ordered three courses ($210 each) but then shared each dish, which made for a wonderful and satisfying experience (because we didn’t feel like we’d missed out on too much of the menu).
The experience was significantly enhanced by the complimentary ‘Core apple’, one of Smyth’s signature dishes which appears only on the tasting menu.
Don’t be put off by the ostentatious, casino situation. As soon as you move through the gold ‘VIP’ doors serving as the ‘Crown Residence’ entrance point, you are transported back to civilisation.
I usually do not focus on service, but service here was outstanding and could not be faulted. The waitstaff were polite, concise, friendly, attentive, unfussed and nicely uniformed. If you’re expecting white tablecloths and stiff pomp, you’ve come to the wrong place.
I would definitely recommend coming for lunch, as the view cannot be understated. The unique position of Crown makes for a new outlook on the city and revives faith in Sydney Flavours.
First come the ‘snacks’, which are precursors to the substantial courses.
The bread was outstanding – we had a second helping. Made using a 20-year old starter and a rye-based starter, its malt flavour is nursed by a ‘bread stock’ constituting malt powder, treacle and Horlicks (a British sweet, malty, milky drink).
Marron was the most show-off dish of the day, and, boy, is this genuinely sophisticated. Fresh peas are underrated and played a main role on the plate and palate. The would-be star was the poached and roasted Marron tail – slightly overdone – encircled by alternate pipings of wasabi and almond gel/purée. Fresh wasabi leaves were toned down by a rose geranium foam spooned on top at the table.
The potato itself is a testament to Clare Smyth’s Irish heritage. The singer here, unsurprisingly, was the pool of seaweed beurre blanc. Herring and trout roe salted the potato to life.
Beef and Sydney Rock oysters are not your everyday combination. Shiro Kin wagyu beef melted delightfully on the tongue, without being unpleasantly fatty. The real point of interest was whether the oysters rode the wagyu or the wagyu rode the oysters, wrapped around their flesh in cured form. As usual, I call for more beef sauce (around the oyster-emulsion island), made with wagyu trim, mirepoix, Guinness, and stock.
The beef and oysters also came with an oyster chip (made of dehydrated oysters and seaweed), hiding a beef ragu, in turn hiding a killer fancy version of mashed potato.
The duck with red grapes was a major highlight, given its extraordinary execution. Crispy but not overcooked. We couldn’t get enough of the jus, sprinkled with Tasmanian mountain pepper (hits different to normal pepper in its slight sweetness and intensity). The boat of duck ragu rocked from the party of thyme and honey.
Here comes Smyth’s signature dish. Would you believe each side of the apple (red and green) tasted like a red or green apple accordingly? Mainly filled with a vanilla mousse. It was subtle and relatively simple in flavour, and a work of art we were reluctant to demolish.
A hemisphere of meringue was virtually weightless and impressive. Smyth delightfully demonstrates she’s not all show, though. The pear was championed and, again, the mint-like quality of the lemon balm rendered a luxurious dish light and complex.
I have no doubt, judging by the name of this dessert, that is has a story left unexplained (although we discovered carrots were substituted as a sweetener “during the war”). Carrot sorbet was not too sweet, and was made interesting by grated ginger and (perhaps a misnomer) sweet cicely folded into the cake and used as a garnish. The glistening ‘carrot’ lay on a bed of (effectively) carrot cake and was spiked with cream cheese and walnuts.
We could not taste any lavender in the tarts, but who doesn’t like a chocolate-y petit four?
The only dislikable item served were these wine gums. They were intensely alcoholic – one of chardonnay and one of muscat.
Visit time: December 2021