Have you ever wondered what dessert the late Queen Elizabeth II always ordered or what Kate Moss and Johnny Depp ordered consistently from room service? Or what is in the salmon dish that Madonna goes gaga over? Beckett's Glebe chef Jeff cooked food for all of these celebrities and he has put together a menu of these celebrity Greatest Hits for one of their Clubhouse events.
It was 2 years ago that Becketts took over the site where Darling Mills restaurant sat for decades. Beckett's owners are Jeff Schroeter (from Bistro Moncur and Bayswater Brasserie) and playwrite director Wendy Beckett after whom the restaurant is named. Riverina born Jeff has worked as a chef in the kitchens of London, Switzerland and Manhattan before settling in Sydney.
The sandstone building that houses Beckett's was originally built in 1857 when Sydney University designer Edmund Blacket built the original cottage for Sydney pharmacist William Pinhey. Then before World War 1 it was converted to a dental surgery. In the early 1970s under the direction of Dr Alfred Adey the original construction was fully restored and extended by excavating two additional levels. The constructions took on a life of their own and took local stone mason Sergio Ferrari, assistant George Markezic and carpenter Aldo Casali 10 years to complete.
They added gothic arched windows, doors and pillars from the former Edmund Blacket Church located directly behind the site as well as cedar timber framing, trimmings and seating. In February 1989 the Adey family opened Darling Mills restaurant on the site using produce from their Darlings Mills Farm originally situated in Castle Hill. The name comes from the Darling Mills Creek which was dammed on the property in 1960. When you head downstairs to the subterranean basement wine cellar there's a wall of theatre luminaries that has worked with Wendy.
While there's a regular menu we are here tonight for one of their Clubhouse events, a monthly event with a different theme. Members of the Clubhouse pay $295 per year to access to the private events in the basement. The price for tonight's dinner is $200 per person and includes drinks and matched wines. The personalised menus detail the dishes on offer but chef Jeff and his chef pal Ed Halmagyi come out and introduce themselves and the concept.
The first course is one that comes from Chef Ed who tells us how the visit from the Canadian singer Bryan Adams brightened up an otherwise quiet winter season in Tofino, British Columbia. The singer arrived in his helicopter and told the chef that he was vegan so the chefs scurried to create this dish. It's described as seagrass and beach herbs with smoked vegan custard, bunya nut dumpling, crazy water and sour dust. While the ingredients are slightly different from what was available in Canada it's a very tasty vegan mouthful with creamy custard, a plump dumpling and a light dusting of fruit powder.
The next course is a favourite of the 80's couple Johnny Depp and Kate Moss. Jeff explains that when they stayed at The Royalton Hotel they were never seen in the hotel's common areas or restaurants and they rarely left their room. The crab meat gazpacho was one of their favourite items. "Why I do not know," says Jeff (my guess: because it's tasty and less than 100 calories so perfect for the supermodel). He also muses if they added gin to their version. It's a refreshing and tangy dish served in martini glasses and it's best with the fresh crab meat mixed in with the chilled soup. Jeff also adds, "They did not trash the hotel room, this is where they came after they trashed the room"
Grilled Ora Salmon Leaf with smashed cucumber, date & walnut salad matched with 2020 Dr Loosen Wehlner Sonnenuhr Mosel Riesling
The story behind the next dish is very interesting. Jeff and 3 other chefs were flown in to Miami Beach to cook her four favourite dishes for her 37th birthday. On 17th of August 1995, Madonna hosted a private party in her restaurant, the Blue Door that was located in the rear lobby of the Philippe Starck designed Delano Hotel in Miami, Florida. The Delano Hotel in Miami was the sister restaurant to the Royalton; while the Royalton Hotel was dark the Delano was all white and, "The only colour in the room was an apple and you," quips Jeff. He also explains that while salmon is usually paired with a creamy sauce this one is paired with smashed cucumber, dates and walnuts and that the fresh flavours lift the fat from the salmon. We try a bite and the ora king salmon is luscious in the centre and the fresh cucumber, slight bitterness of the walnuts and unexpected sweetness of the dates actually does lift the richness of the salmon. It's a gorgeous dish and my (and others) favourite of the night because of that unexpected flavour combination.
The dish that had all of the table talking was Karl Lagerfeld's course as there wasn't any information on the menu, just that it was "Karl Lagerfeld's Guilty Pleasure and Secret Snack". One night Karl Lagerfeld told the wait staff that he just wanted something special and that was a hot dog. The rest of his entourage also ordered the same as well as some French fries. The kitchen has neither so a bus boy was dispatched to the nearby corner hot dog stand from where chefs would get their late night post-service meal. Another bus boy was sent to McDonalds for fries. They heated them all up and Jeff reports that Karl loved it saying, "This is all I wanted." The hot dog is a smoked sausage in a hot dog bun with mustard and white onion and French fries that taste pretty much like McDonalds fries. It's a fun course a nd everyone enjoys the anecdotes and glimpses into celebrity life.
The final course is the dessert that Jeff made when he worked at the Savoy Hotel in London. The Savoy was actually where Peach Melba was invented by French chef Auguste Escoffier in 1892 in honour of Australian soprano Dame Nellie Melba. Jeff paints a picture of what it was like working at The Savoy alongside 80 chefs on long 16-18 hour days. They didn’t see daylight some days as they'd come enter and leave when it was dark. The hotel was a favourite with royals and celebrities as it had a back entrance down a laneway where they were met by a butler. He only knew that the royals were in-house when sniffer dogs and the bomb squad went through kitchen. While they weren't privy to which rooms Queen Elizabeth II was staying in they would know because it was the room where an order for peach melba would come from as it was her favourite dessert. He has recreated it here with vanilla poached peaches, vanilla ice cream, raspberry purée in a brandy snap bowl. It's a perfect choice as peaches are in season now and an absolute blast from the past. Everyone leaves buzzing with stories to tell their friends.
So tell me Dear Reader, whose meal would you prefer? Were there any surprises about what each celebrity liked?
134A Glebe Point Rd, Glebe NSW 2037
Tel: +61 02 9566 2167
Open Wednesday to Sunday from 5pm