As I stand in the grey marble lobby of InterContinental Double Bay, I look around, secretly terrified that somebody is about to catch me out. You see, five star hotels make me nervous – I feel as though I don’t belong. I cautiously flit through the complimentary cookbooks in the lounge area, and can’t but notice the amount of staff, all ready to leap to your help with just a nod. My nervous anticipation doesn’t last long though, as we’re shown to the Stockroom, I’m immediately put at ease.
The lime-hued tone of the dining room is the antithesis of what I expected. Velvet cushions beg to be leaned on, natural light streams through the high windows and there is a warm, affable vibe that encourages you to relax. In fact, it’s so down-to-earth that I could almost imagine coming downstairs from my suite, in my white dressing gown and fluffy slippers, to nibble on bundles of organic grapes and slices of crispy bacon, perfectly poached free range eggs and anything else that tickles my fancy from the buffet breakfast – well, almost. Today, however, we are here for lunch.
If I were a chef, I’d like to work in the Stockroom kitchen. Spatchcock is sourced from the Southern Highlands, barramundi from Cone Bay, beef from Cape Grim – while the butter is Pepe Saya, bread is courtesy of Infinity Bakery and they work with butcher Anthony Puharich from Vic’s Meats. Executive Chef Julien Pouteau, who formerly worked at InterContinental Sydney, leads the kitchen and clearly knows how to write a menu. Homemade damper bread is served on a board, complimentary, with two dipping sauces; a smoky, whisky barbeque sauce and a nutty, crunchy peanut and bacon sauce. To start, the shaved fennel salad is clean and fresh, with an avocado sort-of mash, with flecks of cottage cheese and dressed with a subtle lemon vinaigrette. The faro crisp, golden and crunchy, is like the restaurant version of a vita-weat, which creates texture but also adds a nutty-earthy dimension to the dish. A classic chicken Caesar salad is jazzed up with umami-loaded white anchovies, crunchy baby gem lettuce leaves and crisp flecks of bacon.
The grill menu steals the show, with its abundance of locally-sourced ingredients. It reads simply; flame roasted Angus beef rib eye, robata grilled tiger prawns, rosemary Pyrenees lamb rack – however, as our dishes arrive in front of us, simple is the last word on my mind. The duck is elegant, refined and, I don’t want to say ‘fancy’ as that has negative connotations but, each dish is almost too pretty to eat. Again, that almost word – ‘almost’, but not quite. As I take a mouthful of still-pink duck with a thin slice of golden beetroot – it tastes better than it looks (and that’s usually an apt description for dishes like lasagne), not a dish as pretty as this. I sit upright, as this food suddenly reminds me that this is not just a restaurant in a five star hotel. It is a five star restaurant.