Sepia Sydney: A Sublime Performance of Senses by Martin Benn

Rachel Bajada falls head over heels in love with the food and ambience at Sepia in Sydney.
By Rachel Bajada

sepia-sydney-degustation
Sepia Degustation: A sublime perfomance of senses

Have you ever caught yourself starring unabashedly at someone you just met who was so strikingly beautiful, you were almost searching to find a single imperfection, just to reassure yourself that sheer human perfection does not exist? Well that was kind of how I would describe my recent meal at Sepia.

A few months ago I escaped the cold of Paris’ minus 8 degree baguette queues and icy streets, happily swapping it for a bit of R&R with family and friends in Sydney, armed with a long list of exciting new Australian restaurants to check out.

Whilst living in one of the gastronomic capitals of the world for the last two years, I have always maintained that Australia boasts some of the best food and finest restaurants in the world. Coming home with a more refined palette, a taste for boundary-pushing creativity and a love of French cuisine, I had high expectations from the talent in my hometown, and I was so happy to not be disappointed – in fact, I am proud to say that out of all the incredible meals I have eaten in Michelin star restaurants and home kitchens across France, my meal at Sepia Sydney was totally up there on the “unforgettable meals” list.  Sepia is a 3-hatted restaurant. I’m not sure why the Michelin star system never reached Australian shores but to be honest I don’t think it matters, since in Paris for example, a lot of the best emerging chefs are not on the Michelin system by choice, and are producing by far some of the best food.

My dining companion and I were subject to what I could only describe as a beautifully executed performance of senses during the 4-course degustation menu.  We ordered opposite dishes and shared everything.  Normally there is at least one dish that lets the team down. We didn’t find one. And the service was so good the staff were practically psychic. The wine list was an absolute field day, and matched so well to each dish that flavours and senses were elevated on a whole other level. “Would you like a sneaky top up, an extra course snuck in there for good measure, and perhaps a seat that’s more suited to your 5”2 stature?” Hell yes. God I love the service in this country. Sorry Paris, but no matter how damn good, sexy and elegant your food and restaurants are, the service only rarely meets up to the standards of us friendly Aussies.  Ok maybe I’m bias, maybe it’s a cultural or language thing…

tuna jamon iberico sashimi Sepia Sydney
Tuna and jamon iberica sashimi
nori scallops sepia sydney
“Scallop sushi” Nori rolled scallop, pickled ginger, puffed sushi rice, avocado cream
bonito sepia sydney
Pickled summer bonito, green apple and sheep yoghurt, sake and chive oil, rosa radish, daikon, Tasmanian wasabi
panfried kingfish sepia sydney copy
Panfried kingfish, shellfish custard, New Zealand scampi, Kombu,
Miso beef sepia sydney
Char grilled miso beef tenderloin, nameko mushroom, braised barley, smoked bone marrow miso mustard, white Barletta onions, garlic chips
spanner crab buckwheat risotto
Spanner crab and buckwheat risotto- amazing
marron poached chicken bernaise sepia sydney
Thrown in for good measure: Roasted corn fed chicken breast, WA Marron tail, chestnut mushroom, dashi onion cream leek, wild rocket, puffed quinoa, nori salt
vodka watermelon ginger pre desert sepia sydney
Gin, cucumber watermelon pre-dessert
deconstructed cheesecake sepia sydney
Goats milk fromage blanc and crème fraiche cheese cake, black sesame crumb, fresh strawberries geranium ice cream, caramel and shiso jellies
black forest dessert sepia sydney
The famous black forest dessert (and yes it's as incredible as it looks): “Summer Chocolate forest” Soft chocolate, chestnut, lavender cream, sour cherry sorbet, blackberry candy green tea, licorice, chocolate twigs, berries, crystallised fennel fronds
stones sepia sydney
Sepia signature dish: Japanese stones.

An English native, Martin picked up French techniques under Micheal Lorrain then worked with Marco Pierre White after which he became the head chef of Tetsuya’s – at the age of just 25. Sepia is the result of all those good things fused together- French technique, Japanese style, Nordic influence, matched with a supply of the best seafood in Sydney thanks to a partnership with Decosti’s seafood.

Sepia Restaurant
201 Sussex Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9283 1990

Opening hours:
Lunch Tuesday to Friday from 12 noon
Dinner Tuesday to Saturday from 6pm

Rachel Bajada

Rachel Bajada is an Australian food writer and French cheese addict. Based out of Paris, she sources and tests the best of modern and classic French food from talented chefs in top Paris restaurants and home kitchens across France. You can follow Rachel’s entertaining culinary adventures at her blog www.frenchforfoodies.com

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