The Dining Room Park Hyatt Hotel

Rebecca Varidel
15th Aug 2016

There's a now sometimes forgotten culinary history, about how some of the greatest dishes of the world were created in Grand Hotel Kitchens by Hotel Chefs. Perhaps the most famous of these was Auguste Escoffier who took London by storm at the end of the 19th century at the Savoy Hotel. Escoffier created many famous dishes at the Savoy including the Peach Melba in 1893 in honour of the Australian singer Nellie Melba, and in 1897, Melba toast.

Closer to home we owe much of our current commitment to local and seasonal Australian produce to earlier pioneering Chefs in Sydney. Less than 100 years later, in the early 1980s spearheading the shift to Australian regional produce was a young Canadian who arrived at the Regent Hotel (now the Four Seasons) at the age of 26 and was appointed Executive Chef a year later. Serge Dansereau also created a dessert in honour of a famous Australian opera singer, Dame Joan Sutherland.

Recently Sydney opened its arms to another incredibly talented international Hotel Chef. Etienne Karner has been in Sydney just over a month but has already transformed the dishes of Park Hyatt signature restaurant The Dining Room. Karner came to Sydney and Australia for the first time for the cook-off that won him the position. His career as a Hotel Chef includes most recently the last four years as Executive Sous Chef at Park Hyatt Dubai, and previously Chef de Cuisine Grand Hyatt Goa and Burj Al Arab Dubai.

The Dining Room at the Park Hyatt Sydney has perhaps the best restaurant view in the world. Well yes I am biased. Sitting next to ceiling to floor glass at our harbour-side table we look out not only on the stunningly beautiful Sydney Harbour but also embrace the panaroma across to the Sydney Opera House. It seemed fitting to start with a G&T while we perused the menu. Our choice of local Four Pillars Gin was accompanied by generous sprigs of fresh thyme and orange slices. Setting the tone for the evening, the tonic came separately to the table and was poured for us from the bottle.

What to eat? There are two choices at The Dining Room: A La Carte or the Tasting Menu.

There are half a dozen entrees on the August A La Carte Menu and all so sensational it is challenging to decide. Kangaroo is a very lean meat, difficult to cook, and suited to one extreme or the other, very rare lightly cooked or long slow wet cooking. Karner has taken the ultimate position in his stunning dish. Hand cut Darling River kangaroo tartar ($32) is a beautiful rendition, plated already mixed with puffy light potato beignets and unctuos quail egg mi-cuit (half cooked hardly does justice as a description). The tartar itself, is lightly but well seasoned to stand up to the gameyness of the meat. Seemingly simply, a classic, presented faultlessly well.

Pretty as a picture, Confit of Tasmanian salmon, avocado, crème fraiche, pomelo, yuzu foil, avruga caviar ($35), was also a taste and textural sensation, each pretty little component for the agar agar yuzu jellies and the tangy pomelo puree contrasting the salty pop of the caviar and the melt-in-your-mouth softness of the salmon and avocado incarnations including a smear avocado cream. This is the kind of dish I want in a restaurant. It ticks all the boxes. It isn't something I would cook at home; it looks like a work of art; it leverages off classic combinations yet it is contemporary in its plating and its use of citrus additions; and most importantly it is perfectly crafted and tastes extremely delicious. Enough ticks? Yes indeed. Then add 2015 Chateau d'Esclans Rose "Whispering Angel" Cotes de Provence for the win.

Similarly my main Roasted Muscovy duck breast, braised endive, citrus condiments, daikon, sauce bigarade ($48) was divine. And when I say divine, I mean as in perfect in every way and I die and go to heaven happy. Firstly in this dish, the duck breast is definitely the hero. And it was cooked to perfection, perfectly moist and tender, rare and flavoursome, a showcase of the produce. All of the ingredients were abundant and wholesome and rich yet refined. Accoutrements, condiments and sauce, created the light and shade. So beautiful I would eat this every night. But then again I am partial to duck. Everyone knows it. I'm also partial to Grenache and with the able assistance of the Sommelier selected a new Grenache as my wine match in lieu of the more traditional Pinot Noir.

By contrast we thought it would be great to see how the vegetarian offering for main stood up. It was delightful. Pan fried rosemary polenta ($36) was wonderfully fine, light and ethereal inside, crisp and crunchy on the outside. Again we found a pretty plate with mountains and valleys of contrasts in flavours and textures, with sautéed mushrooms, cauliflower puree and some crunchier floret slices, port marinated figs, arugula leaves.

Surprisingly in the range of eight main courses there is also another vegetarian option - Butternut squash fregola, Brussels sprouts, chestnuts, organic goats cheese, pumpkin seed & chia granola - which is marvellous to see. Alongside the duck, there are also two fish option, two premium beef options both classically served, one with pepper sauce, one with beef jus and mustards, and two choices of fish. The Murray cod fillet ($48) with vongole nage, grilled leeks, snow peas, black garlic crostine was hard to resist. Similarly given that everything we've tried at The Dining Room (and yes there has been more) has been utterly amazing and so perfectly crafted that we are fully confident that the famous David Blackmore Wagyu scotch fillet marble score (+ ($125) would be worthy of worship.

One of the designated signature dishes on the A La Carte Menu is a dessert. "4 Grand Crus Chocolate", hazelnut dacquoise, chestnut & Baileys ice cream is sinfully luscious yet still silkily ethereal. I'd eat that anytime it was put in front of me. The diva of desserts for me however was more citrus. Perhaps I was just in a citrus mood. Why I loved it was because it was tangy and not too sweet. A Karner take on an upmarket Park Hyatt lemon tart. But the citrus was grapefruit. And the real star in all its glory was the whole of the costume from shoes to headdress: the buttery pastry, zesty grapefruit filling, the bergamot foam, the white opalys crumble.

Now that we've finished A La Carte with something sweet, let's chat about the Tasting Menu. We also sampled the Australian Tasting Truffle Menu ($165 per person; $235 with matching wines) on its last night. The sensation for me from this menu (apart from the generosity of the gorgeous seasonal Australian black truffles of course) was Red wine poached organic egg, wild mushroom fricassee, pumpernickel. Perhaps if I have the opportunity to request a last dish, this will be it. Only if it's winter that is. It is a dish that sings of the season with all the rich earthiness of damp soil and fallen leaves, and the forest floor. Again here are some classics, taken further, made sublime. I do have a confession however. I confess I have tried to (unsuccessfully) poach an egg in red wine at home. It turned out pink and looked pathetic. This egg was gloriously runny in its core of deeply orange golden yolk, pristine in the white, except the outer layer which was deeply vibrant and burgundy in colour, topped with decadent lashings of fresh truffle. Yes, a last request. Make it not happen to soon, but make it his. Make it not happen at least before next winter when the truffles return.

And as the truffle season is drawing to a close it is time for The Dining Room Tasting Menu to change and welcome the new season, new menu.


In our search for the new and the trendy, the casual and the hipster, Sydney sometimes overlooks the institutions. The Dining Room at the Park Hyatt Hotel is one restaurant that deserves our attention. Now that it is in such fine hands it deserves our patronage even more so. Nothing beats exceptional food when presented on crisp white table cloths, on well spaced tables, and now gradually Karner will be adding his own presentation flair even further than his dishes as he starts to introduce new contemporary plates to show off his beautiful food. And as for his tasty classic yet contemporary cuisine, we can't wait to see round two and where it will head as Karner settles in and meets more of our local producers. Maybe he will invent a new dish in honour of an Australian singer? Time will tell.

Loading Map....
7 Hickson Road
The Rocks
+61 2 9256 1661
Breakfast Mon – Sun 6.30am – 10.30am
A la Carte Breakfast – Sat – Sun 6.30am – 11am
Lunch Mon – Fri noon – 2.30pm
Lunch Sat – Sun 12.30pm – 3pm
Afternoon Tea Mon – Sun 2.30pm – 5pm
Dinner Mon – Sun 6pm – 10pm