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Hotel Centennial

The Centennial was originally established in 1888, said to have been built as the watering hole (aka public house) for workers employed to construct Centennial Parklands, just across the road. The workers have gone, but the view remains, albeit now separated by several lanes of busy city traffic.

Howver street parking is not as difficult as you may fear, and now that new life has been breathed into the old place, it has brought much needed interest to this corner of town.

Recently there has been extensive refurbishment, and now the sleek bar at the entrance, and dining at the back (above) is drawing in locals and others from further afield as they hear what has been happening in the kitchen.

Chef Justin North is one of the best in town, and it is his skills – and the hotel's smart selling point – that brought a group of us here recently. North's culinary background has always been solidly produce-based. His forte is to produced wonderfully tasty food from the finest meats, vegetables and other ingredients, blessing them with his own touch of magic, something diners have learned to expect from him wherever he is.

Here he is at work with his team, preparing a meal for the High Table at the front of the hotel. The long narrow communal table runs the width of the room and diners can come singly, or in couples or groups, and feel like they are sharing a sophisticated yet relaxed meal with new friends. It is a dining table where anyone can feel at home.

It works like this: From Monday through to Thursday the chef will prepare a daily inspired dish for the entire table for only $24 per person. This includes one course and $2 will be donated to the Holdsworth Foundation from every meal served.  Want more than this? Dessert with tea or coffee is an additional $10. The week's menu is displayed on The High Table tumblr or simply drop in and have a lucky-dip surprise!

Or diners may choose to experience the shared High Table where a three-course menu is $75, and a four-course one is $95. 

On our visit, however, we were to experience the shared High Table, and our lunch began with marinated tuna salad with miso and toasted sesame, simply executed with intensely pure flavours.

(whole roasted John Dory)

(wood-roasted Holmbrae chicken, gravy and greens)

(5-hour slow-roasted lamb shoulder)

These three mains came together, accompanied bydeep bowls of fluffy mashed potato, tiny pots of rich jus, platters of baby turnips, carrot, zucchini, eggplant, broccoli, beans and salad greens, all placed along the table with much nudging to fit everything in.

With the heritage-style serving plates, the silver, the passing of platters and the serving of our own (rather generous!) portions, we could have been in some country farmhouse decades ago, being spoiled by a fabulous cook somewhere out of sight. Actually, the last bit was true. This is comfort food from a master of the art, at its tastiest and most generous best.

And, of course, dessert - frangipane blueberry tart with vanilla creme chantilly. The crispest base ever, and little wonder. The recipe was the chef's mother's own, we were proudly told.

(The High Table)

Hotel Centennial, 88 Oxford Street, Woollahra, NSW, +61 2 9362 3838. Mon-Sat noon-midnight; Sun noon-10pm. 

The High Table: Monday to Thursday

Keep up to date with what's happening at the Hotel Centennial ......




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