Feed your Bumble date caviar, order secret meat and more with Matt Moran's inside guide to Barangaroo House.
With 900 seats spread over three floors on the edge of Sydney Harbour, Barangaroo House is a big punt for Matt Moran and his backers, and opening it barely more than a week out from Christmas does nothing to alleviate the pressure. But they're putting all the experience from the chef's Aria flagship and all the muscle from the vast empire of pubs owned by his partner, Bruce Solomon, behind it. And then there's their not-so-secret weapon, Cory Campbell, a gun chef with a glowing CV and an eagerness to make his mark in the big city.
Cory Campbell and Matt Moran
Moran has said he's a restaurateur and co-owner this time around, and that the food is all up to Campbell. With a free hand in the kitchen, the Newcastle-born chef has produced three menus, one for the street-level House Bar, one for the first-floor restaurant, Bea, and another for Smoke, the bar and eatery on the rooftop, each more exuberant than the last.
We sat down with Moran on the eve of the restaurant's opening to get his game plan.
So, Matt, you're not cooking at this new restaurant? Who has impressed you so much that you've been willing to hand over the reins of this shiny new machine?
Cory Campbell is one of the most intelligent chefs I've ever met. He's humble - there's no ego - and he just gets it. It's very different from his other gigs [at Noma, and heading the kitchen at Vue de Monde]; he calls this "fun dining". We gave him a narrative on all three floors - I'm an owner and the restaurateur here, not the chef - and he just ran with it. I couldn't be happier and I really want you to try it for yourself.
It's a big venue with lots going on and a lot of options - where do we start? Let's say we're on a first date with someone we met on Bumble, on Tinder, Grindr or what have you. Where do we take them?
It depends on how much you want to lay it on. Whether it's the house bar for a casual drink and a bit of salty bar food to get to know them or whether it's the fun dining of the middle level at Bea where you can be looked after, or if you want to really impress them, there's the restaurant bar on the top floor, Smoke, where you can have quite elegant small plates. I think Smoke is the go. You sit up there, you've got great cocktails, table service and really interesting food, I think you'll do all right. Go there at sunset, have a tequila cocktail, something infused with smoke, then you sit down and have some oysters (obviously) and some Moreton Bay bug and calamari skewers. If you really wanted to test their palate and see if you're compatible you could do the sea urchin and orange jam toastie. Finish off with a Martini and then see where the night takes you. If things get off to a really cracking start you could feed each other Beluga caviar.
Sea urchin and orange jam toastie
And what about something a bit more platonic - what if we're out with a gang from work? Can 10 of us roll up and have a good time?
That's what the House Bar is all about. Matt Dunne, who does the wine for Aria, has overseen the wine list, so you can't really go wrong with it. We've been buying wine for this list for nearly two years now, and there's some really interesting stuff on it. There are about 480 bins on there, so it's not small. There's plenty of easy, delicious stuff that you don't have to think about, but it's the same list available across all three floors, so if you've had a great year and the boss is waving the credit card around, there's a whole page of Mount Mary with some vintages on there you won't see anywhere else.
There's a massive Champagne list, lots of beer on tap and plenty of rosé. There's something for everyone. Grab a spot for the afternoon, share a few bottles and watch the sun go down.
Smoked brisket doughnuts
What about when we're at Barangaroo House with mates who want to roll up the sleeves, put the nosebag on and really make a day of it?
You want the middle floor, Bea. If it was me I'd get there an hour before so we could have a couple of beers downstairs first, no question. Go upstairs, start with some grilled marron, some steak tartare, the smoked bone marrow, and for the main courses you've really gotta go for whole roast duck. Mate, it is just awesome - more of a Chinese style, with a glaze. There's a whole flathead to share, and then, if you like a challenge, the 1.5 kilo tomahawk steak from Rangers Valley.
We've got a Feed Me menu, too, where you just tell us how much you want to eat and the kitchen takes care of it.
I've also been breeding some Belted Galloways - I call them Oreos - and we've got five that have been aging for four weeks already and there's more going in and they're going to be specials. There's ribs, there's T-bones - we've got all the primals. It won't always be written on the menu - look your waiter in the eye, tap your nose and say 'I'd like some of Matt's special meat, please' and see where that takes you."
Barangaroo House opens Friday 15 December, 35 Barangaroo Ave, Sydney, NSW, (02) 8587 5400, barangaroohouse.com.au.