Friday, June 08, 2007

The Cafe, Four Seasons Hotel, Sydney

The Cafe, Four Seasons Hotel, Sydney
Friday 8 June, 2007

The weather in Sydney today was wet, windy and unpleasant. If we didn't need the rain so desperately I would have complained out loud. The venue for lunch today was the Four Seasons Hotel which is just a hop, skip and jump from our office. So, thankfully we didn't have far to travel.
Kables is the only venue within the Four Seasons I am familiar with having enjoyed lunch there last October for Good Food Month. Also located on Level 2 is The Cafe. Up the main stairs from the lobby take a right turn (instead of a left turn for Kables) and The Cafe is situated on the open space overlooking the foyer.
We arrived for our 12.30pm reservation and were directed to our table. There is a long velvet lounge along one wall with tables and chairs alongside it. The decor is minimal, understated and comfortable. The menu is really varied with everything from quiche, salad, club sandwiches, steak, fish & chips and pasta - with the most expensive lunch offering at $28. Each week day they also offer a lunch special with includes soup of the day plus the lunch special for $27.50.
I couldn't go past the paper baked fish served on a bed of saffron rice. I've had a mild fascination with saffron since I learnt it is the most expensive spice in the world. Interestingly it takes anything from 70,000 to 250,000 flowers to make one pound of saffron and the flowers have to be individually hand-picked in the autumn when fully open. Fortunately, only a little needs to be added to a dish to lend it colour and aroma; too much makes the food bitter and large quantities of it can be toxic.

Records detailing the use of saffron go back to ancient Egypt and Rome where it was used as a dye, in perfumes, and as a drug, as well as for culinary purposes. It reached China in the 7th century and spread through Europe in the Middle Ages. The town of Saffron Walden, where it was once grown commercially, takes its name from the plant. Now, however, most saffron is imported from Iran (southern Khorason) and Spain which are recognised as producing the best quality, but it can also be found in Egypt, Kashmir, Morocco and Turkey.
But enough of the history lesson - how did it taste? The fish just fell apart and was served on a generous bed of saffron rice that did not taste bitter or medicinal - the amount of saffron must have been spot on! Sprinkled on top of the fish was a mini salad of finely chopped tomato and cucumber that added a lovely freshness.
The service was a little hit & miss. Our waitress mixed up the wine orders and got herself in quite a fluster. That said, we had a lovely lunch in one of Sydney's best hotels.
The Cafe - Four Seasons Hotel, 199 George Street, Sydney - (02) 9238-0000


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