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October 02, 2017

Sydney: Totally Cured and Cultured at Bennelong

#visitnsw #sydney
 

Dream about dining inside the dramatic sails of the Sydney Opera House with its spectacular views, creative food by the supremely talented Peter Gilmore, but think you need the king's ransom? Helen Flanagan experienced the luxury without the linen.


There's just so much to drink in at the harbour-side Bennelong restaurant, helmed by Peter Gilmore and located under the Utzon sails of the Sydney Opera House, arguably one of the world's finest 'galleries'.

Gilmore's take on contemporary cuisine begins on the lower level of the tri-level layout. A private table is available on the central level; a bar with panoramic views of The Sydney Harbour Bridge is on the upper level; for those looking for an experience like no other, The Kitchen allows just four guests the opportunity to enjoy a backstage view of the chefs at work while dining from a curated eight-course menu with matching wines; and for a one-of-a-kind, full-service lusciousness with a laid-back attitude, hot foot it to Cured & Cultured. Book early evening, because the ever-evolving natural light show beats any fireworks display.

"Bennelong is all about the provenance of the food we are serving," explains Gilmore who is also executive chef of Quay, named in the prestigious S. Pellegrino World's 100 Best Restaurant list.

"All menus are crafted in partnership with farmers, fishermen, breeders and providores from across the land, who work with our chefs every day. It's a two way process: responding to what's in season and the best of what producers are bringing us, however on another level, we're planning menus a season or two ahead and working with producers to develop ingredients for us.

"Cured & Cultured has a simple focus: raw food such as beautiful oysters, cured meats, crustaceans and organic vegetable salads." It's the cream and the crunch without the starched linen.

There's a cracking wine list and polished wait staff described cocktails so convincingly, the classic dirty martini was nearly changed to a very in-tune-sounding Symphony #4 in D Minor or on-song Don Pancho De Le Mancha.

Not surprisingly the atmosphere exudes excitement and there are happy faces everywhere. Propped at the counter, right in front of you, chefs work quietly and methodically on the presentation of dishes. But happy to chat albeit briefly when questioned by this inquisitive food writer, in-between fondling shavings of various coloured carrots and squeezing tweezers to ensure incy-wincy flowers and herbs are artfully positioned.

Most dishes, chef says are prepped in a downstairs kitchen and the roast carrot salad swathed  in sticky sherry caramel, tossed with young almonds, feta, amaranth and artfully dressed with raw heirloom carrot, is the most popular dish on the menu. But what about raw kingfish with artichoke, capers, ice plant; cured black pig ham polenta, popcorn, parmesan and pine nut hotcake; Tasmanian-inspired scallop pie; twice-baked goat's cheese soufflé with seasonal crumble; and warm buckwheat pikelets, lemon jam and cultured cream with a plate of yabbies served in the shell? Oh and let's not forget the five cheese truffle toastie or the best-ever suckling pig sausage roll with black garlic. Salivation levels go shy-high when the oven door is opened and chef cuts through the pastry. But what happened to those end bits? Next time.

If you're not rushing off to a concert or the opera, or looking for a casual bite post-show and lust after something sweet, the cherry jam lamington and pavlova are irresistible. Understandably.

Encore, encore Cured & Cultured, What a triumphant performance.

If you go: www.bennelong.com.au

…in-between fondling shavings of various coloured carrots and squeezing tweezers to ensure incy-wincy flowers and herbs are artfully positioned

Go early evening because the ever-evolving natural light show beats any fireworks display

 

Captions:

1. Dirty Martini

2. Tony and Helen

3. Salad of roasted organic carrots
4. Raw kingfish artichoke, capers, ice plant

5. The Pavlova

6. Cured and Cultured

7. As evening falls

Images 1-2-3-4 Helen Flanagan

Images 5-6-7: Brett Stevens

Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au


August 14, 2017

Cruise with Silja Line between Helsinki and Stockholm


Sleek and sparkling white, the twin ferries of the Silja Line are more like cruise ships than passenger/car ferries plying the pristine waters between Helsinki and Stockholm and vice versa.

John Newton stepped aboard Silja Serenade and spent two nights sailing between the Finnish and Swedish capitals, including a six-hour whirlwind tour of Stockholm before re-joining to the ship for the return voyage.

Silja Serenade and Silja Symphony are the only vessels sailing the Baltic Sea with a ship length (142 metres), glass-roofed promenade in the heart of the ship, lined by smart shops and restaurants.

The 58,300-tonne sister ships were built 27 years ago, but you'd never guess their age as they look as elegant on the outside and they do on the inside. Each can carry more than 2800 passengers and have almost 1000 cabins – from standard to renewed deluxe and suites – with half the 40 cabins in Commodore class having balconies.

For an added touch of class, the Commodore lounge has men's and women's saunas.

According to Silja Line, which this year is celebrating its 60th year of operation, the new direction of its business lounges offer passengers the opportunity to work on board and use modern communication equipment. Each ship also features 24 conference rooms.

While their mind-boggling promenade is the eye-catcher, the on-board seven restaurants – some featuring mouth-watering Scandinavian seafood, especially in the award-winning Happy Lobster - plus world-class entertainment, giant spa and huge duty free shopping outlets, put them in a class of their own when it comes to ferry travel.

But it's not only the on-board facilities on the two Silja ferries that attract thousands of locals and tourists alike to both the Finnish and Swedish capitals. The ferries' weave their way around one the world's most spectacular archipelago's – the 6500 Aland islands - taking in breathtaking scenery on the 16-hour, 490-kilometre sailing between Helsinki and Stockholm.

The stunning island views from high on deck showcase the stylish getaway homes of many Swedes – and Finns - who spend their spare time away from their city jobs enjoying their national pastime - on the water.

Silja Serenade and Silja Symphony sail every day to and from Helsinki and Stockholm – even in icy waters during winter - that's when you'll sail through endless ice fields with jaw-dropping sculptures in the  pack ice,"The vessels are equipped with a strong ice class, which means we can sail all year round and are not hampered by ice," the company says.

Silj Line is a Finnish brand operated by the Estonian company – AS Tallink Grupp - which has a fleet of nine cruise ferries and four fast ro-pax vessels, including the new generation LNG-powered - Megastar. With seating for 2800 passengers, the Finnish-built 212-metre long vessel takes just two hours from Helsinki to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. Megastar has the largest shopping mall on the Baltic Sea, with an area of 2800 square metres on two floors.

As well as the Helsinki-Stockholm and Helsinki-Tallinn ferries, the group also run ferries between Turku (Finland) and Stockholm and Stockholm-Riga and Stockholm-Tallinn.

For more details of prices and departure times, go to www.tallinksilja.com

Scandinavia's largest city, Stockholm - with its 750-year history and rich cultural life - is built on 14 islands connected by 57 bridges. Don't miss the Abba and Vasa museums.

Originally a fishing town, Helsinki's city centre is dominated by majestic cathedrals

Written by John Newton

Feature supplied: www.wtfmedia.com.au

Images: as Supplied

1.         Symphony

2.         Serenade

3.         Commodore Suite

4.         Junior Suite

5.         Happy Lobster Seafood Platter

6.         Atlantis Palace