Monsieur Poisson and I were lunching at Young Alfred when I whinged to him about having never been to Café Sydney, and made him promise to take me one day. For Customs House plays home not only to Young Alfred but also to Café Sydney up on level five, where there are panoramic views looking out from Circular Quay incorporating Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.
Monsieur Poisson has reserved us a table and the evening has an air of promise about it. We make our way there separately after work which gives it a definite ‘date’ atmosphere. I am made-up and dressed-up and, my goodness, it is mighty cold and gusty when I get there.
We take the lift, passing through deserted floors of the library, up to level five where it opens to face Café Sydney’s lounge area with their open kitchen up the back. The place is decorated in deep chocolate-toned wood panelling and the lighting is, um, romantic (read: very dim). I wonder whether this is to enhance the visibility of the harbour view.
We are led up some stairs by a waitress to the landing where the tables are, but we do not have the fortune of securing front row seats to
. Our table and a few others are up an extra little step and the waitress warns us to be mindful of it. (An elderly lady subsequently trips upon this step later in the evening as it really is not visible, even with a younger person’s level of vision and contrast appreciation.) Sydney Harbour
Monsieur Poisson orders a ‘Kiwi Crush’ mocktail which is refreshingly limey and has chunks of kiwi fruit throughout. I choose to admire the fine tingly bubbles in a glass of Brown Brothers prosecco instead. We browse the menu over drinks and find we are more interested in the appetisers than the mains. Nevertheless, we order two of each but of course we end up sharing everything.
As an appetiser we have the herb-crusted tuna carpaccio with baby leaves, radish, horseradish cream and green peas vinaigrette. The tuna is thinly sliced and tastes fresh but hardly tastes herby despite being coated in a fine layer. The radish is shaved and tastes like it’s been briefly soused in some sort of dressing but still retains its crunch. The horseradish cream adds some lubrication and bite while the pea vinaigrette is pleasantly sweet.
Our other appetiser is the
bugs with avocado, kipfler potato salad with coddled egg dressing and ocean trout roe. It is a wonderful combination of springy crustacean meat with creamy avocado and creamy potato salad topped with salty roe to bring out the taste of the ocean. My only gripe is that the dressing is quite limey and is just managing to overpower the flavour of the other ingredients. Moreton Bay
Monsieur Poisson chooses for mains the grilled beef tenderloin with braised beef cheek galette, Brussels sprouts, bone marrow and jus. The beef is nicely charred, cooked to his request and tender within. For me, the beef cheek galette and the jus outshine the tenderloin itself – there is such a depth of beef flavour. The Brussels sprouts hearts sit happily in a pool of jus which negates any bitterness usually associated.
I order the de-boned spatchcock with Swiss brown mushroom, leek and thyme pithivier and jus. The spatchcock is moist and tender with a lovely layer of seared skin sitting on some wilted greens. The pithivier sitting atop a thin layer of potato mash is buttery and flaky. The whole dish serves to aptly warm our wintery souls.
Somehow after all this food we decide that we can accommodate chocolate macadamia tart with praline ice-cream and a serve of petits fours. The tart is silken and deeply chocolately, and I especially enjoy the pairing of praline in the ice-cream with nuts in the tart.
The petits fours (from the bottom up) include coconut praline, blueberry frangipane tart, mocha slice and a pistachio friand. The praline is crunchy and tastes more of coconut than toffee. The frangipane tart and friand taste quite similar due to their nutty ingredients and texture. The mocha slice is quite fudgey but not too sticky in the mouth. I really enjoy these little bites as it means a sampling of everything.
To accompany our desserts Monsieur Poisson has a café latte which is served in a Bodum insulated glass while I order a Madagascan vanilla tea when I discover T2 teas featured on the menu. The tea is fragrant and especially comforting when a mouthful is sipped whilst inhaling its vanilla aromas.
Overall we feel the meal is enjoyable but not fantastic, especially when factoring in the price. Although not exorbitant, it is nudging the pricier end of average which we feel, in part, is attributed to Café Sydney’s location and view.
And despite its name, Café Sydney does not actually serve café food. It did turn out to be a promising evening though, as Monsieur Poisson proposed to me after we got home.
And, my answer was yes.
Level 5 of Customs House,
31 Alfred St (cnr Young St), NSW Sydney
Tel: (02) 9251 8683
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 12pm til late
Sat 5pm til late
Sun from 12pm for lunch only
PS. As you are reading this, I am currently out having fun on my hens day in the unseasonably cold