On a balmy Sunday evening, as we walk past the Art Gallery of NSW, through the Botanical Gardens to Opera Australia’s Aida, I feel like a tourist who’s just seen Sydney for the first time. I can’t stop gushing about the autumn leaves, the manicured lawns, the salty air and the lush, green grass. That is all before I even glimpse the set design of Aida. Walking up to the huge structure that juts out onto the harbour, just around from Lady Macquarie’s Chair, it’s little surprise that 700 people are involved in setting up the opera, before a single note left an opera singer’s mouth.
To experience such an opera as Aida, it is only befitting to splurge with a three-course dinner at the platinum club. With the Opera House in full view and Sydney Harbour, just below, we sip glasses of champagne while Executive Chef Geoff Haviland from Fresh Catering, prepares a North African menu, inspired by the opera itself. Geoff’s menu draws from the traditional cuisines of Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria, offering a vast range of vivid colours, tastes and textures. “When I was travelling through all these regions I was always drawn to the souks and the huge piles of bright coloured and rich smelling spices, the amazing variety of sweets, seafood and vegetables. The style of cuisine embraces sharing and enjoying the entire dining experience, with food as the champion,” says Geoff.
Fresh Catering’s Chermoula rubbed salmon with moghrabieh salad at the northern and southern terrace for Aida. Photo courtesy: Fresh Catering
As we nibble on a platter of sumac spiced chickpea puree, babaganoush, Turkish bread and Sicilian olives, the city skyline slowly comes to life as the sun sets behind the Opera House. A vibrant and generous dish of 12 hour braised lamb shoulder with maple glazed carrots, date puree and pistachio dukkah seamlessly flows from the entrée while guests can choose between a cheese platter or a caramelised fig pavlova.
Geoff’s passion for not only his job but also Sydney is contagious and, on this particular, I think we have similar sentiments. “I have lived in many different countries around the globe and travelled to many exotic locations, but I can honestly say that this is one of the most amazing and jaw-dropping settings anywhere I have worked”, says Geoff.
“Last night, looking at the stage lit up with the Harbour Bridge and Opera House in the background was almost surreal. Sydney is a truly unique city with a wealth of showcase events and locations. I am very lucky that my role at Fresh allows me to work in such amazing venues and events.”
The 2015 Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour season for Aida runs from March 27th
Tickets and opera dining packages are on sale now, contact Opera Australia on 9318-8300 or visit http://opera.org.au/whatson/events/operaonsydneyharbour.
There are various dining options to choose from, all from Fresh Catering. See here http://www.freshcatering.com.au/our-venues/fresh-at-opera/dining-options
Discover Executive Chef Geoff Haviland’s favourite Sydney restaurants here.