In rugby union, as in many sports, a player’s experience is measured in caps. The more caps, the more experienced the player. It may well be finals season, but why bring up footy when we’re talking about one Sydney’s most anticipated restaurant openings in years? Well, this was the analogy used by Guillaume to explain his team at Paddington. With two-thirds of his ‘team’ having migrated from Bennelong, Guillaume says that while most of his ‘players’ have hundreds of caps he also has a number of débutantes to the test-arena that is Paddington’s newest fine dining destination. Despite the team’s varied experience, everyone has come together and coach-Guillaume feels as though they’ve been together for seasons, not the meagre 6 weeks that they have.
I had a soft spot for Darcy’s, with its gilt-framed paintings and old-world charm but Guillaume has slipped into this Hargrave Street institution and transformed it into something truly magical. It feels like a Parisian version of a beach house in the Hamptons with its Pierre Frey wallpaper and gold trimmings. Then there’s the food. Degustation menus don’t really excite me, but Guillaume’s did. I didn’t have the stamina (or deep enough pockets) for the eight-course menu but the abbreviated four-course version took me on a journey that I will remember for quite some time and one that can only be achieved through a degustation.
I could have stopped at the amuse bouche of spanner crab and avocado, served in a petite pastel-hued mud ceramic. As the cold starter, the Saikou salmon with wasabi and apple sets the scene for what is to come. I’m not sure if I can taste that the salmon has been hand-fed in the southern alps of New Zealand or that the fish are bred in cold water, all year round, between 6°C to 16°C. The salmon, however, cuts like butter and at this point I’m willing to believe anything. The squid tagliatelle is a seafood-lover’s delight with scampi, oysters and mussels, topped with a charred leek and beurre blanc.
Each dish is a reminder of why you shouldn’t mess with classic techniques and flavour combinations. It’s the small things that make the experience at Guillaume. The complimentary sparkling mineral water and Iggy’s breadrolls. The pastel hued Mud Australia dinnerware and the blue Murano glass chandeliers that have come directly from antique markets in Paris. The waiters, that have mastered the act of being attentive without being overbearing, and the presence of Guillaume himself, who greets each table in the same manner that you’d expect he’d greet his own friends, at the end of service.