Restaurant News

Watch: chef Tom Haynes on pineapple pizza, gardening and Bea’s new menu

The low-down on what to order at Barangaroo House's produce-driven restaurant, where vegetables, seafood and a Milo-inspired dessert receive top billing.

By Yvonne C Lam
Forget the leaders' debate. At Bea, the middle-floor restaurant at Sydney's Barangaroo House owned by Matt Moran's Solotel group, there's a fiery argument about how one should best prepare a Milo beverage.
"Do you put a little bit in the glass first, milk on top, then stir? Or do you just heap it all on top? We had a big debate in the kitchen," says executive chef Tom Haynes.
But from conflict arises creativity. Towards the end of Bea's new menu, you'll find the Milo dessert – a brownie base, chocolate-malt ice-cream, popping candy and cashew nuts covered in house-made "Milo" powder. "It's not about being delicate," says Haynes. "Crack it, make a mess and go to town with the Milo."
It's been three months since Haynes moved from his posting at Chiswick to his current exec chef role at Barangaroo House, overseeing House Bar on ground level, rooftop bar-eatery Smoke, and Bea (ranked 92nd on in the Gourmet Traveller 2019 Restaurant Guide) sandwiched in between.
It's on the middle level that Haynes injects fun and energy into the kitchen. The new Bea menu runs the gamut of seafood, meat and vegetables cooked on the kitchen's woodfire grill, with a mix-and-match menu for diners to share or eat alone. And don't be surprised if the sous chef ferries the grilled garfish to your table.
"We want the restaurant to learn and evolve," says Haynes. "You can't do that in a kitchen that's a bit twatty." Here, he's assembled a hitlist of his favourite dishes from the Bea menu.
Bread, butter (Photo: Nikki To)
Bread, butter
On paper, it sounds quotidian but Haynes is effusive about this simple staple. "Sonoma bake this bread for us using heritage bok grain. It'll be in fashion soon," he says. "It doesn't have the crust of a normal sourdough, but it's quite soft and very fragrant. We serve it with house-made butter and charcoal salt for that smoky flavour."
Calamari, chilli, ginger (Photo: Nikki To)
Calamari, chilli, ginger
"Sydney is a melting pot of culture – there's so much happening," says Haynes. To that end, he's added some Korean-inspired flavour to whole-grilled South Australian calamari with a vinaigrette of gochujang, fermented chilli and ginger. "We get it charred, take it off, chop it up and finish it with the dressing. It's on the table in minutes."
Butterflied sea bream, tomato, oregano (Photo: Nikki To)
Butterflied sea bream, tomato, oregano
Though the fish is pinboned, it comes to the table with its head and tail still attached. "At the garden at Chiswick, we showed people where cucumbers came from – it doesn't come on a tray with Cling Wrap," says Haynes. "In the past, food was too neat and tidy and uniform. This one is a bit messy and fun – we add blistered tomatoes from the fire, dress it with an oregano and basil vinaigrette, and it's good to go."
Charred tiger prawns, lemon, dill (Photo: Nikki To)
Charred tiger prawns, lemon, dill
The UK-born Haynes knows how much Australians love their prawns – and their prawn heads. "If you're not quick enough, the person across from you might pick up the heads and suck the brains out," says Haynes. His Queensland tiger prawns are shelled before being thrown on the grill and finished with a lemon and dill dressing. "It's a simple dish that really shows off the big, juicy prawns."
Market vegies, olive oil
"There's steak of the day, fish of the day, so why can't we have vegies of the day?" says Haynes. The dish changes week to week, depending on what new produce is on offer – broccolini and kale one week, say, and roasted heirloom carrots the next. He's looking forward to an incoming harvest of baby cauliflowers from a Newcastle farm. "If we've got them, we put them on the menu."
Whole roast duck, barbecue plum sauce (Photo: Nikki To)
Whole roast duck, barbecue plum sauce
The Chinese-style glazed duck has been on the menu since Bea opened, and it's the one dish that Haynes wanted to keep. "We've added a few modifications to keep it fresh," he says. "The legs are crispier, the meat falls apart a bit easier and it's easier to share. It's not a revolutionary change, but these subtle adjustments make the biggest difference."
Wattleseed caramel koala (Photo: Supplied)
Wattleseed caramel koala
"In the UK we were into Freddos. Here, it's all about the Caramello Koala," says Haynes. The bite-sized marsupial-shaped chocolates come filled with a syrupy caramel. "I want it to be the last memory diners have of this place. 'I went to Bea and had a caramel koala'".Bea, Barangaroo House, 35 Barangaroo Ave, Barangaroo, NSW, (02) 8587 5400, Monday to Sunday, noon–3pm. 5.30pm–midnight.