For many of us, not much beats a beautiful wine served alongside a delicious dinner, with delectable desserts to follow. It’s the epitome of a ‘complete’ dining experience and doubles as the perfect way to unwind after a busy day.
These dinners mark a superstar collaboration between The Gantry’s Executive Chef Chris Irving and everyone’s favourite watermelon cake pioneers, Black Star Pastry.
Originally from Canada, Irving (pictured below) has refined his culinary skills for a vast, international audience. He has worked alongside Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing, has served meals to the Queen of England and the Spanish Royal Family, and has acted as personal chef to the Beckhams.
Image credit: Jarrad Seng
Despite enjoying these incredible opportunities, Irving says he missed “the camaraderie and the day-to-day kitchen life of having a team.” Leaving the personal chef roles were “about restepping into making a name for myself and getting out of the shadow of somebody else’s profile,” he says. And no one can deny this is working well for him. After his time as a guest chef at the new Marriott Hotel Sukumvit in Bangkok (where he also prepared a number of wine-matched dinners), Irving was offered the position of Executive Chef at The Gantry, Pier One (which had been acquired by Marriott Hotels). Needless to say, Irving seized the opportunity to get back into the kitchen with his own team behind him and now Sydney-siders can benefit from his decision!
Here are some snaps of what you can expect at The Gantry…
Above images credited to: The Gantry Restaurant and Bar, Pier One Sydney Harbour
Irving says the idea for these wine-matched dinners with Black Star Pastry emerged when they realised they share the same mantra for how they respect food and the way they choose to serve it to people. The Gantry’s menu under Irving’s leadership stays loyal to the true flavours in different ingredients, and uses fresh, local produce from sustainable sources.
Irving’s passion dates back to his younger years in Canada, where he was exposed to a large focus on wild, foraged ingredients such as mushrooms. “Bringing it back to Australia, there’s just so much amazing produce and things that are available within the region,” he says. “It would be silly not to want to exploit that.”
The first dinner took place at the end of April, with six courses matched specifically for six diverse Lowe Wines from the Mudgee region. Winemaking has been passed through multiple generations of the Lowe family, and this passion for top quality produce and innovation is no more apparent than in the current head of Lowe wines, David Lowe.
Chris Irving and David Lowe discussing their creations.
We were lucky to experience the first of The Gantry’s collaboration dinners with Black Star Pastry, which showcased the diversity of talent that goes into creating The Gantry’s seasonal menus, Black Star Pastry’s signature sweets and some of the finest wines that New South Wales wineries have to offer. Believe me when I say that the photos in no way do these dishes justice (also in part because of the low image quality and dim lighting)!
To kick off the night, we were served 2013 Bobby Lowe Organic Sparkling Merlot which is a light, pleasant wine that just lets you know you’re in for fun times. We had this alongside Farm fresh crudite with housemade smoked baba ganoush, hummus and taramasalata, with fresh Black Star Pastry breads and Pepe Saya Butter. I can honestly say I’ve never tasted such fresh produce before. The vegetables are packed with so much more flavour than what you would get from a local supermarket.
The second course – and probably one of my absolute favourites from the night – was the Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Blue Mountain chestnuts and bay oil, made to complement Lowe’s 2014 Nullo Mountain Chardonnay (a pre-release!). It’s hard to imagine a soup being so divine that it leaves you craving it weeks after, but that’s exactly what this soup has done to me. It was amazingly smooth and indulgently creamy, with the slightly crunchy texture of chestnuts throughout. I don’t think I can rave about this soup enough, but the good thing is that it is a new winter addition on The Gantry’s current menu so you can all try it for yourselves! Trust me, it’ll warm up your winter.
The next dish has been a solid and well-deserved regular on the Gantry’s menu – the Venison Tartare with crispy garlic and shallots, Hawkesbury kaffir lime and blackcurrant puree. I’m a massive sucker for textures and was more than pleased to find the softness of the venison tartare combined with the crispy garlic. While venison is usually quite gamey, this dish was very smooth and easy on the palate, and worked well with the 2013 Nullo Mountain Pinot Noir served with the course.
Of all the dishes, the Petuna Sea Trout Wellington in Black Star Puff Pastry was probably the best display of Irving’s skills in collaboration with those of Black Star Pastry’s chefs. The soft trout was wrapped in a buttery pastry and topped with tamarind and warrigals, pickled fennel and golden beetroot. This course, coupled with the 2014 Headstone Primitivo Organic Rose, seemed to feature a dance between a range of different flavours, which somehow all worked together in unison to produce a delicious, holistic dish. The Petuna Sea Trout is a main on The Gantry’s current menu, but without the addition of Black Star’s pastry. Even still, it’s definitely worth a visit to the Gantry for!
At this point, my stomach felt like it was going to burst and my head was happily feeling a little woozy from all the wine. But I’m a determined person and so I soldiered on for the final two courses, which thankfully were the desserts (meaning I could move on to my figurative second stomach).
First up was the Pistachio and Coconut Mousse, served alongside Lowe’s Nullo Mountain Pinot Grigio. This dessert was divine. The mousse was cradled between delicate layers of crispy pastry and surrounded by chunks of rose jelly and dollops of confit lemon. Black Star Pastry managed to tip its hat off to its famous watermelon cake through the use of pistachios and roses, whilst still creating a delicious dessert capable of standing its own ground. This dish was fairly sweet (but not at all unpleasant!) and was perfect alongside the Pinot Grigio, which acted well to break up its sweetness between bites.
The second dessert, and final course of the night was the Meringue with Raspberry and Black Sesame, matched with the 2013 Nullo Mountain Late Harvest Riesling. As soon as it was placed in front of me, all I could think was: wow. And this thought stayed with me until the very last bite. Not only did this dessert look spectacular, but it tasted incredible as well. It had a perfectly balanced sweetness, courtesy of the white chocolate mousse being encased in shards of raspberry scented meringue and resting under a dollop of raspberry gel. As if this wasn’t scrumptious enough, the addition of black sesame truly made this dessert a clear standout across my twenty-something years of dessert tasting.
Overall, the night was a spectacular display of the high quality that diners can – and have – come to expect from Irving’s menu at The Gantry and from the team at Black Star Pastry. These wine-matched dinners are the perfect way to see these amazing chefs at their best, with an array of diverse and delicious dishes matched to a collection of New South Wales’ best wines.
The next dinner is slotted for May 27 (featuring wines from Cupitt and Coolangatta Estate), with another dinner planned every month after that until the end of the year. Spots are limited and go fairly quickly, so make sure you keep posted on the details of each event. And even if you’re just looking for an unforgettable place to dine, Irving’s eye for high quality produce and his undeniable skills in matching flavours are on show daily for lunch and dinner at The Gantry. You’d be silly to miss it!
To see regular updates about The Gantry x Black Star Pastry’s monthly wine dinners, visit The Gantry’s ‘What’s On’ page.
The Gantry Restaurant and Bar
11 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay, Sydney
Phone: (02) 8298 9777