I’m old enough to remember the days when the Sydney and Melbourne Hiltons first opened in their current guise and ran a clever series of black-and-white half-page ads that tongue-in-cheek mocked the other — and particularly the cultural status of the other’s city of origin.
I don’t know so much about Melbourne but in Sydney the arrival of this quite brash, yet eminently classy newcomer served to totally change the landscape of the city’s accommodation scene.
Sydney suddenly had digs that could comfortably be rated alongside New York’s, London’s and Paris’s best. You could almost hear the Peter Stuyvesant cigarette commercial playing in the background.
But that was more than 40 years ago, and these days the Hilton is very much an established part of the Sydney landscape. Staying at the Hilton is just what the well-heeled do, isn’t it?
So it’s quite right that the Sydney Hilton’s kitchens should be in the hands of Luke Mangan, one of the country’s best-known chefs, and that its showpiece should be his Glass Brasserie, complete with a splendid view of the historic Queens Victoria Building, even if that view doesn’t stretch down to the city’s fabled harbour itself.
Quite frankly, Mangan is a culinary genius who has proved his worth in the kitchens of places such as Salt, Luke’s Kitchen and Chicken Confidential, and a bevy of cookbooks.
It somehow seems appropriate that Luke has teamed this winter with the Barossa Valley’s Maggie Beer, undoubtedly the country’s best-known cook — she won’t call herself a chef because that implies a level of formal training that she’s never had — to produce a special lunch-time menu in Glass Brasserie.
The duo are serving up a collaborative winter menu that features a series of delicious seasonal dishes packed full of fresh, quality produce from around New South Wales and Maggie’s home state, South Australia.
Maggie’s signature dishes including her mustard-pear-stuffed chicken breast with crushed parsnip and jus, made with pears from her orchard in the Barossa, seville-marmalade-glazed pork belly with verjuice, potato purée and cavolo nero, and her cumin-roasted sweet potato and black barley with tahini and Persian feta.
Those with a sweet-tooth can upgrade their experience to include Maggie’s signature verjuice custard with bergamot-braised raisin clusters, from the dessert menu.
On a recent visit, I tried Maggie’s dishes of pork belly and vanilla custard, plus a small serving of Luke’s mushroom fettuccine, all washed down with a bottle of his signature Yarra Valley pinot noir.
The simple verdict. All delicious thanks, in a gorgeous venue and with an impeccable standard of service.
And if you’re thinking of baulking at the $29 lunch charge, then think of where you are and about who’s been responsible, ultimately, for preparing the food.
You’re having lunch in one of central Sydney’s few hatted restaurants, and your meal has been designed by two of the country’s leading culinary advocates.
The menu is on offer available Monday to Friday from 12-2pm until August 31. Visit www.hiltonsydney.com.au