Dramatic design meets high-spec technique at Woodcut, Ross and Sunny Lusted's new harbourside restaurant at Crown Sydney.
All eyes have been fixed on the gleaming tower that is Crown Sydney, the city’s newest and tallest foreshore development, since well before its chrome-and-glass doors swung open in time for New Year’s Eve.
And while its casino status continues to be controversial, there’s no questioning Crown’s food and beverage pedigree. Guillaume Brahimi is the culinary ambassador; the Japanese-Peruvian global success story, Nobu, is solidly booked out; Alessandro and Anna Pavoni’s a’Mare is a terrific showcase of Italian tradition; Britain’s Clare Smyth is set to open Oncore, a highly anticipated offshoot of her three- Michelin-starred London restaurant, Core; and then there’s this – Ross and Sunny Lusted’s (ex-The Bridge Room) spectacular homage to art, design and technique.
“I’ve designed the whole restaurant around cooking methods,” says Ross. “And a couple of pieces of equipment,” he grins. New toys include a Japanese-inspired ash grill and a row of custom-built steam kettles, each its own stand-alone cooking station. Built within backlit timber frames, the stations progress from ice (a raw bar and salad wall) to ash, fire, smoke and steam.
Then, of course, there’s wood, plus a list of meat breeds and cuts to keep carnivores returning. (Word is a few Hollywood celebs in town have been doing just that.) But grill fuel is not the only reason behind the name.
“Woodcuts were the original form of storytelling,” says Ross, who is also an artist. He tells his own travel tales here via Japanese-aesthetic ceramics, an engraved binchotan-charcoal ceiling and works by local artists (including Sydney floral sculptor Tracey Deep) displayed throughout.
Once you finally drag your eyes away from the design and dozens of chefs at their benches, the menu is an overwhelming list of must-orders. A raw fish plate dressed with tiny capers and a dice of pear is a fine start, as is shiitake mushroom with shiso and seaweed. The feistier flavours of grilled octopus on skordalia with a dressing made punchy with diced cured meats segue nicely into the deceptive simplicity of king prawns with melted orange butter. Then there’s pipis on their shells in a lick-the-bowl broth of chickpeas and vadouvan.
It’s a cliché to say, “Leave room for dessert” but from acclaimed pastry chef Lauren Eldridge come seasonally driven inspirations – pressed figs with Jersey milk, grilled mango and citrus ash – that are nothing short of extraordinary. Just like the setting.