Thursday, April 28, 2011
Becasse and Quarter 21 open
To get to Becasse, you now have to zip up the escalators at Westfield Sydney and walk through an Alice-in-Wonderland-style passageway. It's a little magical (like the rabbit hole in the fairytale, but minus the head bumps). You pass through the seasons, each step marked by a spectrum of changing leaf colours. And you end up, a little dazed, in a restaurant that only fits 25 diners, surrounded by plush lounges and intricate chandeliers suspended above you. It does not feel like a shopping mall at all.
But it is, and it's part of Justin and Georgia North's expansion into Westfield Sydney. Joining the new Becasse is Quarter 21, which moonlights as a new cooking school, fine-food grocer and restaurant. I only know this 'cos I somehow got invited to the launch yesterday and also did some extracurricular snooping around today, when both places opened. They join the Becasse Bakery, which has been marking its corner of Westfield's Level 5 with its croissants, bread and sweets for a week now. (And, across the floor, there's Charlie & Co., the Norths' gourmet burger venture and first Westfield outing, which had its debut last year.)
With the relocated Becasse, it'll be interesting to see how people take to fine-dining in a Sydney mall. The cost is no less high-end – three-course a la carte is $120, a five-course tasting menu is $150 and nine-course degustation is $190. I guess the pricing is the premium you pay for eating in a place with such limited seating, like the idea of first-class.
Evocative ingredients seem to get top billing on the menu ("forgotten vegetables, Coorong pipis, cranberry red potatoes, watermelon radish") and featured dishes include Bespoke Autumn Vegetable Garden, Marinated Local Yellowfin Tuna, Abalone Ham, Earl Grey Jelly, Wakame and Celeriac and Silken Lemongrass and Lime Caramel, Passionfruit Crunch with Vanilla Yogurt Sorbet. I'd love to know how it translates in this new, cosier space. (It's a beautiful spot and I imagine it'd be like dining in a really fancy hotel suite.)
Quarter 21 has more elbow room and is less of a special-occasion restaurant – although don't expect food-court prices (an Autumn Vegetale Lasagna with Beurre Noisette and Charred Pumpkin Puree is $32). I guess for the average Westfield shopper, though, a gateway Becasse purchase is more likely to be a small baguette at the bakery or a take-home meal from the Quarter 21 shop.
It's an interesting experiment and you can only wish the best to anyone who takes the instance of dining in a shopping centre – an experience usually freighted with low, grumbly expectations – and tries to inject it with originality and ambition.
Becasse, Level 5, Westfield Sydney, Cnr Pitt St Mall and Market St Sydney NSW (02) 9283 3440, www.becasse.com.au. Quarter 21 is next to Becasse. For details on cooking classes at Quarter 21, visit www.quartertwentyone.com.au And opposite is Becasse Bakery, where you can watch pastry chefs through the window while having a pastry.