Saturday, November 5, 2016

Banksii Restaurant in Barangaroo Sydney

“Those dandelions in the snapper are foraged and we ferment our own chillis.” Angelica, our waitstaff told us, pointing towards the rows of jars on the shelf in the Banksii Restaurant, one of a few restaurants that have recently opened in Barangaroo. Barangaroo has become quite a food scene. I’ve seen the development of Barangaroo from the beginning, having heard endless drilling and cranes, gone through several fire drill (and one real fire) evacuations, as I worked in one of the neighbouring office blocks before moving into the International Towers. It was hard to imagine at the time that it could become a village, a foodies village, where people would want to hang out. Well now it is the latest hipster place in Sydney to eat, drink and shop with David Jones opening last week. Barangaroo is the New Sydney.

There are so many restaurants now that have opened up along the Wulugul Walkway in Barangaroo and working in the International Towers means all these restaurants are right at my finger tips. There are so many excellent dining options I now have to entertain colleagues and clients within a few minutes away from my desk. Another good way to try them all was to find another foodie who would go on a progressive lunch with you in Barangaroo. I went with food blogger Simon from Simon Food Favourites blog who likes to snap away at food as much as I do. Banksii wasn’t our first restaurant we tried at Barangaroo but it is close to being one of the last as we wait for a few more restaurants to pop up.

The concept at Banksii is easy to understand. The name of the restaurant is derived from a man by the name of Sir Joseph Banks, a British naturalist, botanist and patron of natural science who accompanied Captain James Cook on his first voyage, a great one, to Australia. A lot of the dishes and the cocktails have a botanical influence. Angelica advises us that the dishes have some sort of Mediterranean inspiration. The signature cocktails are the vermouth, which is technically a fortified white wine (think port and sherry) which is flavoured with aromatics and botanicals, like herbs, barks, flowers and various spices.

The venue is handsome, airy with lots of bright natural light, open space and the botanicals hanging from the ceiling enhance the fresh feel of the restaurant. It is a beautiful restaurant to dine at on a balmy November day. The tables are well spaced out to suit business dining for the office workers nearby too.

Banksii has a set menu, which is great for business dining if you don’t want to spend the time choosing dishes or alternatively, their menu is divided into small plates and large plates with an indication of how many plates you should order depending on the number of people dining. This is useful guidance and I have not seen this guidance on other menus before. Everything that was served seem to have the same criteria of a botanical influence.

The plates, with the kitchen headed up by Hamish Ingham, are exquisite, simple and yet the flavours thought through and I was delighted by the transparent flavours. This is what we ordered and took our advice from the waitstaff Angelica on what to order which were all excellent choices for our first visit.
This is a drop of one of Angelica's favourite vermouth I tasted. I can't remember its name but it was exquisitely light and refreshing.

We started with small starter dish of Crispy WA sardines which had simple favours: the saltiness of the sardines and crispiness of the crumbs and dipped in roast garlic aioli. This would make a great Friday evening nibble dish too with a cocktail just by itself. Even the simplest of dishes, I'm sure this deliciousness doesn't happen by accident.         

"Have you tried the creamed macadamia dish?" Angelica, our waitstaff, came over to ask us. "You've got to try the creamed macadamia dish!". "Ok, add it to the order. We'll try it".  This dish comes with little toasties and you dip the toastie into the creamed macadamia, fried sage, sweet and sour currants. Delicious creamy and sweet dip and another excellent starter. The starters are so diverse you could just graze on a series of light starters for your meal and skip the mains. The cream was stunningly delicious.

Simon Food Favourite's Negroni
Simon says "I heard the broad bean dish is good". And it was. On the plate contains broad beans, young peas with aged goats cheese. Again this dish was simple and but the flavours of each ingredient are complementary and deliciously fresh.

We also tried the small dish of grilled prawns that sits on the marriage of flavours of curry leaf butter and pickled turmeric. The pickled turmeric makes excellent dipping sauce for your bread too once you have eaten all the prawns. The bread is from Sonoma.

We moved onto the mains and to be honest we probably could have skipped it and ordered dessert instead. We had an elegant 'fish and chips' so this was the seared snapper fillet with their foraged wild fennel vinaigrette, fermented chilli, and dandelion and we had a nicely salted chips as a side. The snapper is from New Zealand and a nice firm fish. The fish was still quite warm even after we spent a few minutes photographing it.

Simon had to head off so I finished off with a Rosehip tea and Banksii's signature dessert and isn't it a pretty one to look at. Angelica said that if I felt something light and not too heavy I should try the Banksii trifle - vermouth sponge, burnt vanilla custard, rosella jelly ($16). I must say the Rosehip tea is a nice pairing and an excellent finish to a wonderful dining experience at Banksii. Banksii delivers on food elegance.

There are a lot choices on the menu pegged at snacking or you may choose full-fledged dining, and you'll pay according to your appetite. Starters as low as $5 with an oyster or $14 for a starter and goes up to $24. Mains started from $27 and can go up to $79. You can go with the $65, $75 or $85 set menu too which has a good selection of dishes of their menu suitable for corporate dining.

All dishes I tried were memorable and had an elegance about them, and that's the thing that stands out at Banksii Sydney in Barangaroo.

Banksii Vermouth Bar and Bistro
33 Barangaroo Ave, Barangaroo South,
Sydney - NSW 2000

Banksii Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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