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Jpb Restaurant, Swissotel, Sydney

Swissotel Sydney could never be accused of flaunting itself. Once you locate the modest Market Street opening under the eaves of Myer, opposite the State Theatre, you need to take the  lifts to the eighth floor before finally entering the foyer with all the accoutrements of a city hotel.

Swissotel has plans for change, though, and foremost are those taking place in the kitchen and dining areas of the hotel, under the leadership of their smart new Executive Chef, Joshua Askew.

Our lunch begins with oyster leaves. That's what they are, named because these seaside-growing plants transmit an eerily oyster-ish flavour to their leaves. And while they have been around for a while, Swissotel's Executive Chef Joshua Askew takes them a step further - with great restraint - by topping them with just a few perfect spheres of lemon myrtle 'caviar' for our amuse bouche.

The result is magical. It is going to be one of those lunches, we can see. One that none of our group, gathered here for an informal tasting of the upcoming summer menu at Sydney's Swissotel's Jpb Restaurant, will forget!

It's soon clear that Chef Askew, who is relaxed and happy to be called Josh, is passionate about flavour and freshness. He has developed the discipline of choosing the finest produce then doing as little as possible to it, adding just a touch of his own ideas  to finesse the dish. This beetroot and gin-cured New Zealand Mount Cook salmon is silkily perfect with a brief scatter of wild rice puffs adding a necessary touch of crunch.

Huge and meaty South Australian Spencers Gulf prawns with a green salsa and stylish bulls-eyes of watermelon radish, have another surprise. That succulent garnish is actually beach bananas, another coastal delicacy.

Josh makes it his business to get on with his team, and laughs when we ask if he is one of those 'tantrum' chefs. Here he and his sous chef plate up the next course.

Rather than a 62-minute egg, this is a 74-minute version served atop a mound of potato foam, which mercifully is more puree than bubbles. Spoonfuls of chimichurri and chorizo crumbs add spice and texture, respectively.

Josh's pièce-de-résistance is shortribs which have been brined then smoked in paperbark and flavoured with Australian mountain pepper and lemon aspen. It has then been cooked oh-so-slowly for 48 hours.

The result, when it is plated up with a dab of beetroot gel, a sunny fresh zucchini flower, mustard and onion rings, is unique, and one that is sure to be a great hit on the new menu. Our meal finishes with orange blossom polenta cake, drizzled with tangy blood orange curd, fresh cream and a splash of chopped pistachios.

Josh has a confession to make here. "I love pistachios," he says. "I could eat my bodyweight in them."

It's my guess his diners will have the same feeling about these dishes, and Josh's cooking in general.

After various roles as chef with major hotels and restaurants throughout Sydney, Joshua Askew commenced with the Swiss-otel in March 2013 as Sous Chef, becoming Executive Sous Chef the following year. Recently promoted  to Executive Chef,  Joshua Askew (30) is the youngest Executive Chef throughout the Swiss-otel brand.

Swissotel Sydney, 68 Market Street, Sydney, (opposite the State Theatre) +612 9238 8888

- reviewed by Sally Hammond




0 #1 MsNot Quite Nigella 2016-02-07 21:58
It's funny, I don't really think of the Swissotel very much even though it has a great location in the city. Thanks for reminding us of it.

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