Its been almost a year since I’ve traveled anywhere (as in by a distance far enough to warrant boarding a plane) and I’m starting to feel the itch again. Around this time last year I was in Brisbane for my sister’s wedding, but the last time I was properly overseas was an impromptu week-long sojourn to Singapore for the last days of 2013.
Dining while traveling can be difficult. For me, the difficulty lies in my desire to try new experiences, but I also really dislike wasting my money if an experience is not worthwhile. So it’s good sometimes when you can find some elements during your travels that have a sense of familiarity; continental buffet breakfasts, for one 😉
I attended The Ternary at The Novotel, Darling Harbour a couple of weeks ago not for breakfast, but for dinner. The name The Ternary originates from the Latin word of “ternarius”, meaning “consisting of three things”, and from “terni” – “three at once”. The dining hall therefore consists of a wine bar, grill kitchen and Asian kitchen; offering a variety of flavours and cooking techniques within a shared space, but with the common objective of celebrating fresh, seasonal produce. The dining area is brightly and warmly lit, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the twinkling evening calm of Darling Harbour on a weekday evening. The music selection is rather eclectic, from Kylie to Taylor Swift; played just loud enough for you to notice and quirk a smile but not obtrusive to your conversation. The waitstaff are all young, polite, friendly yet deferential.
Upon arrival, I met executive chef Anthony Flowers, formerly of The Mean Fiddler, Stacks Taverna, Ad Lib Bistro, Berowra Waters Inn and Forty One Restaurant. He showed me the menu, but said that what he proposed for the course of the evening was to bring out what he believed were the best dishes for The Ternary, and to this I readily agreed. I was thankful I had brought along a dinner companion – Night Owl – as it sounded like it was going to be a wonderful meal more than what I would be able to eat alone!
We started with a cocktail each. I laughed as soon as I opened the drinks menu and immediately knew I was going to get the concoction titled “Single Female Lawyer” ($16), described as “Not the neurotic kind, but the one you want to take home. This self-reliant mix is a little bit sweet, a little bit sour and has all the right ingredients to plead her case. Ketel One Citroen and Elderflower Liquor mixed with vanilla, lime and passionfruit come together to make the perfect drink. Case closed”.
It’s zesty, not too strong, fruity and fragrant; easy on the palate and almost too-easy to drink. I unfortunately can’t remember the name of the cocktail Night Owl ordered, only knowing that it was The Ternary’s take on the classic Bramble – gin, syrup, lemon juice and blackberries. It was quite sweet and came with a decent amount of ice; unfortunately it meant a quickly watered down cocktail if one was not a fast enough drinker.
We start our meal with something a bit left of centre of the classic “bread and butter” – Naan Bread ($5), served warm with house-made green mango chutney and yoghurt.
The naan bread is soft and stretchy, with just the perfect amount of charred pockets of air to provide a bit of contrasting texture. The chutney is sweet and lightly spiced in comparison to the soothing qualities of the yoghurt.
Our first entree is the Betel Leaves of Smoked Flaked Salmon with Salmon Pearls and Fried Shallots ($15):
Presented beautifully, the betel leaves could be daintily wrapped and picked up as there was just the perfect amount of flaked salmon. The salmon was lightly smoked; enough to add complexity to the flavour of the tender fish but not enough to overpower it. Roe provided beautiful pops of savoury flavour alongside with the satisfying crunch of the fried shallots and the fresher crunch of the betel leaf wrapping. Wonderful little morsels gone too quickly!
The Ternary’s Fish 65 lightly spiced with mint yoghurt ($18) was next. Fish 65, also known as “Apollo Fish Fry” is an Indian starter dish; boneless fish fillets covered with a lightly spiced batter before being deep fried.
While a nice little entree dish, I felt this dish was a little lacking after being impressed by the earlier betel leaf entree. There was nothing to fault with the flavour, textures or techniques behind this dish, but I didn’t feel that this dish suitably reflected The Ternary’s style.
Our next entree blew my mind. The Pulled Peppered Beef in Crispy Pastry and Water Chestnut ($17) arrived with an artistic squiggle of tamarind sauce down the side of the plate.
The beef was a wagyu blade 9+ that had been cooked for no less than 14 hours in a Chinese master stock with mandarin peel. Shredded and rolled in Greek pastry, the meat was delicate, succulent and melt-in-the-mouth. I jokingly dubbed it “the best sausage roll I’ve ever had”; a joke because it was nowhere in the league of any sausage roll. I have not ever or since tasted anything quite as unique as this dish and will remember it for a while.
To finish off our entrees, we had the Grilled Cajun Prawns with Toasted Corn and Pecorino ($24):
Three large meaty, juicy prawns lightly spiced with cajun seasoning and grilled with just enough butter to bring out the beautiful natural flavours of the prawn flesh. The corn – particularly the baby corn – had just the perfect amount of charr and caramelisation from the creamy butter, and tied together with the shaved pecorino made for a deliciously moreish plate.
Our entrees concluded, we were served with our first main, the Chicken Tikka Masala: chicken in a rich tomato gravy flavoured with mace and fennel ($28).
It was a far cry from your regular corner-shop Indian curry takeaway and it was intriguing savouring the intense, complex aromas from the curry spice mix and mopping up the beautiful gravy and tender chicken pieces with the fluffy Basmati rice.
If I felt like I hadn’t gone far enough around the world in one dinner yet, our last savoury course for the evening was a stunning Slow-braised Lamb Shoulder with Roasted Bell Peppers and Pearl Couscous ($42):
And a second round of photographs after I gently sliced into the delectable piece of meat was definitely required:
Another melt-in-the-mouth, tender, wonderfully executed piece of meat; slow-cooking really results in the most intense flavours and creamy textures I’ve ever had the pleasure in savouring. Unfortunately we weren’t able to finish either of the mains, but fortunately the waitstaff were more than happy at my request to pack up the leftovers into takeaway boxes; hooray for decadent next day lunches 😉
Time to catch our second wind.
The Dark Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Sorbet ($13) was a delicately presented little dessert, the mousse gleaming slightly under the warm lights of the restaurant.
It was probably one of the thicker mousses I’ve had – it certainly would have to be in order to be cut and plated with such precision – and almost had the texture of a dark ganache. I personally prefer the fluffy, light-as-air texture from a mousse set with whipped egg white, but the sweet-sour refreshing sorbet and freeze-dried raspberries provided a lovely point of balance from the near-sinful richness of the chocolate.
But it was the Mango Creme Brulee with Champagne Sorbet ($13) which stole our hearts.
I can’t imagine where The Ternary managed to source fresh mango in this season, possibly Queensland, but my attention was more focussed on the brulee. A delicately thin, toffeed top which – when cracked open with the back of a spoon – revealed a silkily smooth baked custard with the barest tropical hint of more mango. I particularly loved the touch of sprinkled popping candy over the top of the brulee; once the remnants of the custard passed your lips, you had the funniest sensation of sweet bubbles dancing on the tip of your tongue – a stunning dessert that brings out any adult’s inner child.
Novotel Sydney on Darling Harbour
100 Murray Street
Pyrmont NSW 2009
(02) 9934 0000