The Messina Creative Department: home to Dessert Degustation
I started eatdrinkplay.com in 2009, writing about the latest bars, restaurants, cafes and more happening around Sydney. Living in Darlinghurst at the time, where my alias Ms Darlinghurst came from, I was an early adopter of Gelato Messina. Before the Dr Evil mushroom cakes and the shops that opened in Melbourne, Gold Coast and Las Vegas. Before the sell out gelato making classes in Rosebery. Before they needed a Maitre d’ to manage the queue of people snaking down the street on a Saturday night. And it all started with Messina Darlinghurst, a shop that holds a special place in my heart. So you can imagine my excitement when I was invited to dine at their Messina Creative Department.
Located next door to their founding Darlinghurst shop on Victoria Street, proudly described as the “beating heart” of the Messina business, is a brand new concept. They’ve transformed their former production area and test kitchen into an eight seater restaurant serving a seven course dessert degustation. Having launched in April the Messina Creative Department is open every Wednesday to Saturday for two sittings, 7pm and 9pm and sells out months in advance.
As we discovered, the 9pm sitting is a little tricky. Do we eat dinner before dessert or will we fail to make it through seven courses? Being a big eater I convinced Mr Woollahra to share a pizza and carafe of wine at Mad Pizza down the road before dessert. It probably wasn’t the smartest idea since we were pushing it at course five but you know what they say about second stomachs and dessert.
From the minute you walk through the door of the Messina Creative Department you are doted on by the chefs and treated as though you’re guests in their very own home. That’s pretty much what it feels like as you take a seat around the very intimate table of fellow diners.
A lot of consideration and care has gone into this experience from the unique plates, bowls and spoons to the thoughtful non-alcoholic drinks that accompany each course. Then there are palette cleansers along the way and petit fours to tip you over the edge just when you didn’t think you could handle another bite. They even give you a little present to take home. A nutty treat from their recently planted hazelnut farm.
It’s a busy production for just eight diners with four to five chefs working in quick unison. The menu really focuses on seasonal ingredients and supporting Australian producers. There’s olive oil from Mudgee, finger lime from Far North Queensland, bee pollen from the Blue Mountains, and Rhubarb from Goulburn.
Then there are the ingredients you really don’t expect to see on a dessert menu like truffle from Western Australia used as a sauce to pour over your olive oil sorbet with confit fennel. This was my favourite dish of the night. If you think truffle is strange for dessert you’ll be even more curious about the almond gelato served with potato and brown butter cream, porcini crisp and…wait for it…caviar.
I could tell you more but it would ruin the surprise. Just know that not all of the dishes are sweet so if you were expecting seven courses of salted caramel gelato stick to next door. The Creative Department menu is designed to be an “experimental, immersive, intriguing, indulgent and at times confronting, seven-course dining experience”. You might not love all of the dishes but you’ll certainly respect and appreciate them for their ingenuity and ability to push the boundaries of what constitutes dessert.
French pastry chef Remi Talbot and Messina Head Chef Donato Toce have successfully managed to create more than just an intriguing degustation. They’ve designed an entire experience at the Messina Creative Department. Which is important because at $130 per person for dessert it may seem a little steep but trust me, it’s one of those things every foodie in Sydney really has to do.
Bookings for July are now open and tickets can be purchased on their website.
For those adventurers foodies with a love of truffles you’ll want to pay attention to their Truffle Week Takeover happening July 20th -3rd. Saluting truffles from around Australia and Europe, their head chef will be reinventing the 7 course degustation, paired with non alcoholic drinks to champion the truffle delicacy in each and every dish. Tickets to this special event are $200 per head and bookings can be made via their website.
Messina Creative Department
243 Victoria St, Darlinghurst NSW (next to Gelato Messina, Darlinghurst)
Wed – Sat: 7pm & 9m sittings