Innovation is a spice of life and it is always a joy when a luxury hotel comes up with something new – and as far as the gal knows, InterContinental Sydney has achieved a first with its High Coffee. As a change from its daily high tea, served three times a day, you can now pre-order high coffee, at any time you want. You need to allow 90 minutes for the performance. The meal starts with an espresso martini, with vanilla-infused Belvedere vodka. Your delicate silver holder has Parma prosciutto tucked into one-bite pretzel rolls, Tasmanian smoked salmon in an organic carrot roll, and a Crystal Bay prawn wrap. Next come the hot bites, a Sydney beef pie, a King Salmon-leek quiche, a muffin of Blue Mountains La Barre olive oil, and dark chocolate buckwheat crepes with thick whipped cream and honey. Next is a cold-made café freddo, with scones and more cream, and strawberry jam – these are followed by a mango and passionfruit sorbet. The final presentation is a chocolate ganache and Manfredi espresso gold leaf-topped cake, a vanilla cream pot with golden honey, a 64% Peruvian chocolate and peanut cake, a Bailey’s cream ganache macaroon, and sesame pavlova with white chocolate-raspberry ganache (with these, you can choose your coffee, say espresso, mocha, or flat white).
As an afterthought, try a café corretto, espresso with grappa. So far about 40 percent of the daily average-110 afternoon-presentation customers opt for the high coffee rather than the high tea. Both are priced the same, at A$68. The hotel’s imaginative GM, Jürg Boeckeler, likes partnering with big names, incidentally. For the high coffee, he has called for the advice of local restaurateur and coffee specialist Stefano Manfredi, who happens to be an ambassador for Douwe Egberts coffee. For the hotel’s art gallery, Jürg Boeckeler is working with Sotheby’s, who currently have an exhibition of works by Australian artist David Larwill, 1956-2011, on display.
The art gallery is a glass-sided room leading off the lobby – the opposite side from the Vera Wang store, an absolute treasure trove of divine white wedding dresses. The art gallery can be used for small parties.
That night, chef Julien Pouteau had a display of Australian products, including big, brick-shaped blocks of pale pink salt from Queensland, and black, charcoal-smoked salt. Using knives and a long pair of tweezers, he made exquisite canapés of home-smoked trout and crème fraîche, and duck breast and pitted cherries.
And then we moved upstairs to Café Opera, named in honour of Sydney’s iconic Opera House, only 300 yards away. When the hotel opened in 1985, this was a characterless second-restaurant, deferring to The Treasury, a fine dining salon (part of the building, including the central Cortile lobby lounge, dates from when this was the city’s treasury building, opened 1849). But hotel fine dining went out of fashion, and Café Opera became fun, and it is packed every night. Choose à la carte or go for a buffet that includes whole wagyu roasts carved to order.
The canny, by the way, can eat and snack day long way upstairs, in the amazing 31st floor Club Intercontinental, with incredible views, and lovely service. Yes, definitely get a room that gives access to this lounge, which also has an outside terrace (great for smokers). Look down east from the terrace at the botanic garden and its bursts of colour, and gigantic flowering magnolia. Swing your eyes to the left and see Government House, and then the Opera House. Swing further left, down over Circular Quay and its bustling ferries going hither and thither, and, continuing left, you see the Harbour Bridge – if you have not tried it before, do Bridgeclimb, a half-day tour that takes you right over the top of it.
I can also report, as a fledgling connoisseur of Sydney’s scrambled eggs, that those here in the club lounge are as good as the famous ones at Bill’s (Bill Granger). Bill’s scrambled organic eggs are made, per helping, with two large free-range eggs and six tablespoons of single cream, or full-cream milk. The recipe here at the Intercon is 300g of eggs and 75g of cream. Sydney therefore has two of the ‘ten best scrambled eggs’ in the world, and when a luxury hotel can compete with a long-established local tradition, that is good news.