When I heard through Twitter that Darren Templeman, formerly of one of my favourite restaurants Atelier in Glebe, had moved to O Bar and Dining as the Head Chef, I immediately made a booking for K and I for the next special occasion – my birthday! What I didn’t realise was that by making the booking for the weekend before my mid-week birthday, I inadvertently booked us in for a table for two at Halloween. Nothing like sky-high views with a touch of the macabre to celebrate turning 28.
With a 6.30pm booking, we were there to watch tendrils of pinks and purples work their way across the sky and the sun set over Sydney as the bright lights of the city popped on one by one. Being a revolving restaurant on the 47th floor of Australia Square Tower, you really do get to see all of Sydney as well; there are no obstructed views to be found here.
While half the level is a more casual bar space with lots of lounges, the restaurant half of O Bar and Dining is quite sleek. The tables and chairs are a bit more modern than you would find in other similar restaurants, and the restaurant is set up to take perfect advantage of the views afforded by the floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s certainly not a dining experience for those with a sense of vertigo.
In the spirit of Halloween, all the staff at O Bar and Dining were dressed up to various degrees. The restaurant manager Thomas who came over to introduce himself was dressed like the Phantom of the Opera, our waiter Frank got by with just a witches hat, and others went all out zombie-fied with crazy wigs.
As soon as we sat down, two smoking sweet fruity cocktails arrived at our table. “Compliments of the chef,” we were told with a smile. “Just make sure you don’t eat the ice at the bottom as it’s dry ice.” I was pleasantly surprised – I didn’t expect Chef Templeman to remember that I had made a booking, and certainly didn’t expect him to come out, say hello, and instruct the staff to give us special treatment!
Special treatment we had though, with Chef coming out to deliver the first palate-cleansing appetisers to start our evening, with the signature dry ice that was being used liberally that evening for spooky Halloween touches to the usual drinks and dishes.
He noticed us looking through the menu. “You could order from the menu,” he said. “Or, I could just send dishes out to you guys like we did at Atelier,” he finished with a smile. Well, he didn’t have to ask us twice, how could you go wrong with the Chef’s own recommendations?
We started with thinly sliced bresaola with sweet little baby tomatoes and curd in a dashi broth. With liberal dashings of Chef Templeman’s signature micro herbs and edible flowers, it was really representative of the type of dish that I had so enjoyed at Atelier. The balance of the dish was excellent as well – while the bresaola in dashi alone could have been quite overwhelmingly salty, it was really tempered with the mild creamy curd and sweet tomatoes.
We moved onto sashimi with homemade kimchi, pickled mushrooms, ponzu dressing and onion cress. “I can’t get enough of these pickled mushrooms!” I exclaimed to K as I stole a few off his plate. The slight vinegar crunch created through the pickling process, combined with the strong earthy tones of the mushroom itself really made it a standout element of the dish.
I ducked away to the bathroom, and walked past the ‘mad scientists’ behind the bar, grinning as they created their next dastardly concoction. Don’t let the crazy wigs fool you though, these guys know what they’re doing.
Returning to our table, we were presented with our third course of two plump seared scallops with an Asian-style quinoa salad. Incorporating zucchini, green mango, green papaya, and crunchy bean sprouts, the citrus-y quinoa salad was a really interesting blend of textures and flavours. The slight caramelisation on the seared scallops also had me licking my lips and wishing for more.
Our final entree of the evening was miso salmon with an ancient grain salad. “You could make this dish for me,” I remark to K as I roll my eyes with enjoyment of the salmon. “You know, using the sous vide machine you just bought,” I finished. The salmon’s clearly been cooked sous vide style, rubbed with miso, then quickly sealed in the frying pan. Combined with the slightly nutty ancient grain salad, it was a real flavour and texture hit.
Having finished my first cocktail and feeling slightly woozier as a result (that’s what happens when you abstain from alcohol for eight months!), I ask our waiter Frank to suggest a mocktail instead. He asks for my favourite flavour, and within minutes, a lychee mocktail is delivered by a ghoulish recently-dead waitress.
Complete with a bloody eyeball, the lychee mocktail comes with, of course, dry ice at the bottom of the glass for ambiance. It’s deliciously fresh and more-ish, with just a tinge of creepiness with the bloody eyeball staring back at you as you take a sip.
We finished off the savoury component of our meal with a big plate of rustic roast beef, roast asparagus and kale to share. As someone who’s not normally a fan of kale, I have to say that it was almost the best element on the plate – soft, buttery, and deliciously more-ish with an extra crunch provided by the slivered almonds on top. The medium rare roast beef was a big hit for K who always claims that I never cook enough meat at home! It went particularly well with the house-made spicy mustard and horseradish sauce.
This was accompanied by a simple side salad which surprisingly included the first major carbs of the meal. O Bar and Dining’s philosophy is one of healthy cooking – the owner and executive chef Michael Moore has diabetes, and the dishes served at O Bar reflects his personal healthier diet. As someone who is (ostensibly) still on a diet and exercise regime, I appreciate this approach to dining out.
Before we know it, we’re five courses down and it’s nearing 10pm. As we look out into the night, we spot the Ivy below us with lights flashing for their Halloween party. Only three weeks to go until our wedding reception there.
The first of our two desserts for the evening is a beautiful poached strawberry dessert which almost tastes like a deconstructed strawberry tart. Made up of liquor-poached strawberries, strawberry foam, citrus-tinged custard and a shortcrust-like crumbled pastry, it’s very simple and more-ish. It’s a real palate-cleansing kind of a dessert.
Which really helped to prepare us for our final course – a deconstructed tiramisu with concentrated coffee gel. As someone who isn’t a fan of coffee (I never drink it!), I was quite apprehensive about whether or not I would enjoy this especially as the coffee gel was very flavour-intense. Once I spooned my gels onto K’s plate though, I really enjoyed the rest of the dessert – the chocolate cocoa biscuit was only lightly flavoured with coffee, and it went extremely well with the cream.
When we finished our meal and asked for the bill, we were very pleasantly surprised to find that Thomas the restaurant manager had put a special birthday surprise in our bill – we were only charged for the few glasses of wine that K drank, and one degustation charge, effectively halving our bill. Now that’s a pre-birthday surprise I can appreciate – thank you Chef Templeman, manager Thomas, and O Bar and Dining for the lovely surprise and great birthday treat!
K and I are already planning our next visit to O Bar and Dining – we’re thinking of taking his parents there as their Christmas present this year, as his father was also a big fan of Chef Templeman at Restaurant Atelier. You can trust that we’ll be back soon for a creative, healthy and more-ish meal with amazing cock/mocktails and some of the best views in Sydney!
Note: Gourmanda made an independent booking, and was not specially invited by O Bar and Dining to review their menu. She did receive special treatment and a special discount when dining there as a result of her connection to the chef.