Somehow, defying your typical odds, my husband and I have managed to create ourselves a rather wonderful wedding anniversary weekend. It seems the trick is to have it on Mardi Gras parade day and you'll get a restaurant that is usually busy, completely to yourselves. SeLah (Hebrew for "pause"and pronounced say-lah) sits on busy bus lined Loftus street in Circular Quay, a red and dark wood toned room with an open kitchen on one side. Its 7.30pm and apparently the theatre crowd has dispersed leaving an empty restaurant for us. I've mentioned it is our anniversary when we booked and we get congratulations from the waitstaff as we are being seated.
Most of the menu is seen on the website so I've already decided what I want and my husband is happy for me to order. We start with the Crab tortellini with sweet corn puree, chervil, tomato & eschalot salsa ($17), seared scallops & chinese pork with baby herbs & young coconut salad ($17). For mains we order the ocean trout with prawn ravioli, asian mushroom consommé & green mango salad ($30) and the Roast spatchcock with oregano, french lentils, confit garlic & fresh peas ($30). There aren't any specials of the day and we opt to choose dessert later if we have room.
One thing about being the only couple in an empty restaurant is that whilst the atmosphere is lacking a buzz, you will not lack for service or wait very long for your food. And we don't as our entrees arrive fairly quickly. They're not lacking in wow or aromatherapy factor and have us digging in eagerly after the necessary photo taking. I try the scallops first. They're sitting on a bed of young coconut salad which is an interesting ingredient that I've not often tried in salads and it resembles squid in texture. The chili and herbs complement the fat juicy seared scallops (I get very disappointed if scallops are sliced in half or thin) and the thinly sliced disc of chinese pork is rich in star anise and 5 spice.
Crab tortellini with sweet corn puree, chervil, tomato & eschalot salsa $17_
I see my husband reluctantly passing me his plate-he has been busy nodding his head and making food enjoying gestures. He warns me that its good and I get the feeling that should I not like it, the plate will quickly come back to his waiting mouth in a split second. The crab tortellini is similar to a dim sim in shape and taste and opening it, it appears like a crab and pork mix much like a dim sim. The corn puree and accompanying salsa are gorgeously rich and a little tart at the same time. There's no chance to me giving this back to him.
The entrees are so good, we have to ask why its so empty and they tell us that its usually fully booked but Mardi Gras has ensured that the bulk of Sydney has moved to Oxford St. Its not long again before our mains arrive and the roast spatchcock pieces are crispy and perfectly seasoned, sitting on top of a pool of a cab sav type sauce, puy lentils, peas and dutch carrots. The sauce is a good, if a touch salty for the dish and I enjoy dipping the spatchcock lightly in the sauce but the peas and lentils are almost too salty as they're sitting in the sauce.
I try the ocean trout with prawn ravioli next. Again the dish is asian influenced with the ravioli in a won ton pastry skin and is filled with prawns and topped with enoki and oyster mushrooms, a spear of asparagus, some chili and herbs in a shallow pool of consommé. The trout is tasty, fresh and well cooked and the green mango salad on top adds colour but is fairly light so that the contribution is more for the look than for the flavour. My husband's favourite part is the prawn ravioli which is no surprise whereas mine is the trout.
We decide to share a dessert and whilst the fruit based desserts sound delectable, I am in the mood for chocolate. And something that Gordon Ramsay says can be difficult to make is the chocolate fondant. His kitchen makes 2 per customer in case of an upset and as I've tried unsuccessfully to make Nigella's molten chocolate babycakes twice many years ago I'm leaving it to the experts as I've banned that recipe from darkening my kitchen again.
It comes out on a long rectangular plate, the fondant in the centre flanked by chocolate ice cream on one side and poached oranges and a cigar biscuit on another. I take to the fondant with a spoon and the molten chocolate oozes out appealingly. It tastes lovely, as a chocolatey fondant should and is incredibly rich. Respite from the headiness of the fondant is given by the two perfectly chosen accompaniments. The sweet spice poached oranges are scented with star anise and are refreshing whilst the icing sugar dusted cigar is crisp and buttery. The chocolate ice cream is rich and milk chocolatey and sit in place on a bed on crunchy praline shards. I'm impressed that the accompaniments are so well made and not just a decoration or afterthought.
My husband's Hot chocolate ($4) arrives, multi hued in a tall glass and he's happy with his selection. I take a sip and its good although at this point, I'm a little chocolate-d out to really appreciate it.
Full to the brim we retire to our 38th floor room at the Sydney Hilton, courtesy of the lovely people at Marie Claire magazine. I have to admit, I loved the complimentary pillow menu (you can order any or all of the 5 different types of pillow) and the Magic button on the telephone that assures us that nothing is ever too much trouble including my atypical requests of a cable tv movie guide (they didn't have one so they printed 10 x A3 pages from the internet) and more Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries. We are in heaven and fall asleep while Oxford Street parties.
12 Loftus Street Circular Quay
Monday to Friday
Monday to Saturday
Dinner: from 5:30pm
Payment: Cash, American Express (2.5% surcharge), Mastercard, Visa, Bankcard, Diners Club (3.5% surcharge)