PROFILE BY BEST RESTAURANTS
Justin North could've packed his bags and never set foot in a professional kitchen again. Instead, he's pulled on his chef whites at Hotel Centennial, Sydney's answer to the London gastropub.
For a man who has made his culinary mark with intricately orchestrated degustation menus, the carte du jour at Hotel Centennial comes as a surprise. But to compare the nine-course degustation at Becasse to Hotel Centennial would be like comparing instagram followers to real friends. The starters and salads are straightforward, playing on simple flavour combinations such as miso marinated tuna with toasted sesame. Executed to textbook perfection but lacking inspiration. The wood fire oven, however, is where the menu redeems itself. Despite what one would presume, the wood fire is tricky to use but once mastered, it's a formidable tool. In addition to flatbreads with toppings such as fig and caramelised onion or sweet potato and lamb, North uses wood-burning for more unusual dishes. He roasts goat with an Indian spice and pheasant, which he serves in three courses. There are glimpses of creativity but for the majority of the menu, he plays it safe with whole Holmbrae chicken, a whole suckling pig and lamb shoulder. Not that safe isn't delicious.
At Hotel Centennial, you feel as though you could pull up a chair on a Saturday morning for coffee before being effortlessly convinced to stay for a long lunch and before you know it, it's late into the night and your lingering over a cheese platter and a glass of moscato. Most people have read the news about the collapse of The North Group. Instead of judging people based on their past mistakes (because goodness knows we've all made a few) I'll leave you with this thought: "yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift…" (B. Olatunji).