Well, it’s a success. Barangaroo I mean. Last time I wrote to you from this smart 24-hectare harbour foreshore precinct it was still under construction and barely open for business. It was also winter and very windy. The jury was out, frankly. But that was then. It’s been a long, lovely Sydney summer and ten thousand financial services workers, tourists and foodsters can’t be wrong. They’re ramming Barangaroo’s cafes, bars and restaurants at lunch, at the cocktail hour and at dinner. It’s Day of the Locust every day.
Beautifully realised by H & E architects, I’ve heard Barangaroo House referred to as ‘The Spaceship’.The big news for Barangaroo in 2018 is the completion of the Solotel group’s Barangaroo House development, with celebrity chef/restaurateur Matt Moran steering the business and head chef Cory Campbell (ex-Vue de Monde) at the hob. After four years of budget blowouts, deadlines missed and licensing issues, the only standalone building in Barangaroo was launched in December last year.
Beautifully realised by H & E architects, I’ve heard Barangaroo House referred to as ‘The Spaceship’. Other folks I’ve spoken to think it looks like an office letter tray or a smart three-tier indoor plant hanging. I see it as an elegant stack of dinner plates with a curvaceous flow that recalls the Guggenheim on Fifth Avenue NYC.
It’s a big unit with a seating capacity of 900 over the three levels. On the bottom level there’s the House Bar, with its wrap-around outside deck serving craft beers on tap and bar food that can take some unexpected turns (crisp fried fish wings anyone? Vegemite ricotta?). In the middle is Bea, a sprawling 180 seater restaurant hewn from dark timber and divided into indoor booths and outdoor dining. Above it, on the third layer, you’ll find a rooftop bar called Smoke, with good views across to the working end of the harbour.
The three occasions when The Real Review has visited Barangaroo House have been different each time. One 30-degree day we chilled in the House Bar, with a glass of Provencal rosé and a bucket of very fresh sweet king prawns. Those cute crustaceans were helped along by a classic Marie Rose sauce for swiping through, and two brioche rolls (AUD $28). It might have been the perfect summer lunch, but for stale brioche rolls: a simply understood detail missed, that should have been remedied by an alert, interested staffer.
Roast spatchcock, preserved lemon sauce and riberry, with an electric current of citrus buzzing through the dish, is a masterclass in how to ramp-up the flavour of the bird.The next occasion was for dinner. Smoked bone marrow, given the Fergus Henderson treatment with onion, capers and parsley (AUD $14), promised deliciousness, but was bloody enough to require more than my usually open mind about offal. Likewise, a marron gratin – fresh WA marron split and dressed in a mustard foam – arrived pretty as a picture, but that marron meat was clinging stubbornly to the shell, as if it was determined to be called sashimi (AUD $48). At the price point, it was dispiriting having to send it back to the kitchen for a second try.
On the same visit, upstairs at Smoke, high above Barangaroo, with a flute of excellent Chandon sparkling NV (AUD $17) and the wind in my hair, it took some persuading the kitchen staff that the cloth-bound cheddar (cheese platter AUD $32) tasted more of cloth than cheddar. At first, we were helpfully counselled by a manager that cloth-bound cheddar is ‘an acquired taste’. Now that was undoubtedly true, but acquiring a taste for musty cheese seemed bonkers. It was cheerfully removed from the bill, eventually.
At first, we were helpfully counselled by a manager that cloth-bound cheddar is ‘an acquired taste’. Now that was undoubtedly true, but acquiring a taste for musty cheese seemed bonkers.Well, all businesses have bad days, so we’re back in tonight, for a further sweep across the Bea menu. And we’re glad we are. King George whiting rolled in burnt leek ash, seared and sliced, finished with an oyster emulsion and a side of snake beans (AUD $38) is the assurance of things hoped for, showcasing the quality and execution of the hero ingredient. Roast spatchcock, preserved lemon sauce and riberry (AUD $40), with an electric current of citrus buzzing through the dish, is a masterclass in how to ramp-up the flavour of the bird. Thank you, chef.
Hand-chopped steak tartare (AUD $28) – a tasty mix of superb Galloway fillet and blade, seasoned with a kick of Tassie black pepper – tests our love with the fruity, sweet addition of blackberries. Not the best friend a steak tartare ever had. After that minor creative overreach, a dessert of grilled pineapple and mango (AUD $18) has a clarifying effect.
Bea’s wine list, assembled with intense curiosity by the elegantly afro-coiffed Jean-Paul Wilkinson, is smart and interesting – a mélange of diverse international regions and styles. If your palate doesn’t rock to the beat of new-wave natural and skin-contact wines, or you’re unfamiliar with the brilliant Grillo from boutique Sicilian producer Alessandro di Camporeale, there’s a good selection of domestic and imported crowd pleasers. For the plutocrats, various levels of burgundy and a vintage selection of iconic Oz wines, such as Mount Mary Chardonnay, are also offered. And don’t be backward asking Wilkinson about the right wine for the food and for your price-point.
Barangaroo House stands as a shiny vote of confidence in a still-growing precinct. Like most great hospitality projects, it’s involved a lot of money, plenty of faith and an uncertain payoff. Moving forward it would be a shame if that’s how diners began to describe a typical visit to The Spaceship.
Ground control to Major Moran…
Rating: 18 /30
- How good was the food? 6/10
- How good was the wine list? 3.5/5
- What was the service like? 3.5/5
- How was the atmosphere? 3/5
- Does this place have the X Factor? 2/5
- Address: 35 Barangaroo Avenue Barangaroo, NSW 2000
- Telephone: +61 2 8587 5400
- Website: www.barangaroohouse.com.au
- Open: 12:00 – 3:00pm, 5:30pm – 12:00am
- Price: House Bar: AUD $9-$28; Bea: Entrées AUD $9 -$48; mains AUD $32-$190; desserts AUD $17 – $19