Messina Creative Department
243 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst
Thursday – Sunday, varied set times
At first they brought you salted caramel and red velvet gelato goodness. Now, an eight-course dessert degustation is touring select states around Australia – a game changer for any foodie or dessert connoisseur.
If your favourite time of the day is when you spoil yourself with dessert, then you’ll fall head over heels with this banquet idolising just that.
When Messina comes to mind you think gelato. From vanilla, to pistachio and even that fairy bread flavour. But a dessert degustation created by one of Australia’s leading gelaterias – can only mean it will be anything short of extraordinary.
Being welcomed into the Darlinghurst Creative Department store that sits less than a metre away from the original Messina was whimsical at first. From 20 basic flavours blessing Sydney-siders 16 years ago, to this.
Seeing Messina’s growth in the past decade is overwhelming. So many legendary weekly specials, so many dinner dates topped off with a scoop of the freshest, creamiest and the very best ingredients.
“If you’ve come here for everything flavoured or topped with salted caramel then you’ve come to the wrong place.”
We were all puzzled. Was it dinner? Was it dessert? Was it both? We were about to find out.
Almost five minutes into the sitting my interpretation of the expected meals to come was changed immediately. What was to come?
Once welcomed, guests were advised to not skip through the menu to fantasise about the courses to come throughout the night – only once it had been served. This element of surprise saved our taste buds and allowed each guest to explore the dish together.
And explorers we were. Ingredients were sourced around various states in Australia as well as abroad from France and Japan.
As any impatient guest housed in a venue that creates possibly the best gelato in all of Australia would be, this is extremely difficult. But following this step added to the element of surprise and allowed everyone’s taste buds to activate together. It’s an intimate dining experience – and Messina aced this aspect.
So lets get down to it, here’s Messina’s Creative Department April 20 2018 menu:
1. Granita of Bergamot, with drops of pine tree and eucalyptus oil served in an ice bowl.
2. Feijoa sorbet served in a delicate apple cone and pastis.
Accompanied by green apple sparkling, burnt lime and cardamom foam.
3. Salted coconut gelato served in a coconut with peach and elderflower, covering the Japanese sourced miso and egg yolk sauce.
Accompanied by peach, vanilla bean and lemon verbena infusion.
4. Lemon myrtle sherbet topped with scales of compressed pear, finger lime and licorice cream.
Accompanied by burnt watermelon kombucha.
5. Heirloom and kumato tomato tart with angelica plum compote and a side of Japanese koji gelato.
Accompanied by oven roasted capsicum and grape infusion.
6. Oozing pumpkin and ponzu embedded in ravioli served with smoked, goat yoghurt gelato.
Accompanied by houjicha tea and roasted shiitake oil.
7. Burnt caramel gelato encased in a milk chocolate ganache and passion fruit reduction.
Accompanied by fermented roasted pineapple.
8. Jerusalem artichoke puree sprinkled with ground coffee and topped with shavings off enoki mushrooms served in a delicate teardrop spoon.
Every flavour, combination, texture and blend of the food created instantly rejoiced in my mouth; the paired non-alcoholic concoctions such as the burnt watermelon kombucha and the oven-roasted capsicum with grape infusion weren’t my first personal preference. But, like anyone engaging in any experience like this – you must try something or you’d be silly to even go. Although some of the flavour pairings were not to my taste – they were perfectly paired to the food that they accompanied.
You may ask why and how? Which was my original thought once each course was served and explained. After finishing the degustation experience, my answer is why not?
Why haven’t other dessert gratified venues around Australia practiced this idea of a dessert degustation? Messina saw a flaw and need in the degustation world; so they took their chance and came up with the Creative Department – in my opinion, the second best thing Messina has done yet (Salted Caramel flavoured gelato is obviously the first).
Each of the eight courses served throughout the duration of the night tell a different story. Whether it was a story of creation, taste or the business’ enthusiasm; guests were able to embrace this story as their own.
The ambience of the venue was young, fresh and adventurous in itself. Guests of the evening were able to wander around the Creative Department and were especially welcomed into the kitchen alongside Chief Creative, Remi Talbot. Every step of the design and preparation process was explained to each of us.
The pear in the fourth course is compressed by sealing it in a vacuum bag and filled with pear vinegar. The pear soaks up the juices and it’s then shaved into circle like scales.
The intimate dining experience of only eight patrons per session broke all of the mandatory rules and perceptions of “intimate” dining experiences. Joining seven other food lovers around a round table to devour meals together and then engage with staff changed the notion of what dining should be like for more venues.
I am still unable to answer one of my first questions; is this dinner or dessert? In my opinion it was both. Ingredients that aren’t usually found paired in a traditional setting were cohesively brought together and made into a delicious infusion of both dinner and dessert.
Every aspect of the menu was exploited with a characteristic of creativity.
Messina changed the game starting in Sydney’s streets of 2002. Now, 16 years on, Messina has set the standard for dessert degustation’s, intimate dining experiences and creative outlooks for any venue, chef, food connoisseur or simply any dessert enthusiastic out there.