I don’t do breakfast, usually. Lack of appetite, time, and general interest in quick breakfast provisions means an early lunch is usually my first meal of the day. But the croissants at Bécasse Bakery could change all that.
A quest to see if three meals a day at Justin and Georgia North’s new food emporium Quarter Twenty One in Westfield, Sydney was do-able, enjoyable, and affordable began with a detour through the city one morning on my way to Fairfax’s media digs in Pyrmont. First stop Becasse Bakery at the top of the express escalator on Pitt Street shopping mall.
It was a little after 8am and a small cluster of people were already ogling the pastries that are made fresh daily on site. I decided a croissant with house-churned butter and house-made preserve ($5.50) and coffee ($3.50) to take away would suffice. However, a chocolate muffin ($5.95) and a pineapple and coconut muffin ($4.95) also made it into the bag … after all there was morning and afternoon tea to take into account.
The Single Origins coffee was gone well before I reached the office and far surpassed the rudimentary blend Fairfax’s coffee shop serves its captive customers. The croissant had been folded to a high-top curl and baked until golden brown. It was so butter-some and light that the accompanying tiny tubs of butter and preserve weren’t really necessary. But if you’re going to detour through the city for a breakfast you wouldn’t ordinarily eat and end up buying a big, fat, buttery croissant, then you might as well go the whole hog.
Lunch consisted of pumpkin veloute – or soup – ($10, 2 serves) bought from the providore section of Quarter 21, with the heel of a rye bread loaf from the bakery (the bread was a gift following a cooking school media preview the previous day). The providore stocks a wide range of locally made or grown produce – from Cuttaway Creek jams, to Wollundry Grove Olive Oil, and quince vinegar and fruit cheese from The Maybole Pantry.
There is a cheese fridge and a stellar wine collection. A selection of pre-cooked meals made by the Q21 team, such as soups, salads, wagyu beef lasagna, snapper pie, and coq au vin, must only be re-heated.
The soup – eaten at my desk that lunchtime – was lush and smooth. The wedge of bread, nutty, springy and light was the perfect dunking partner. There was sufficient soup to save half for lunch the following day.
The pineapple and coconut muffin for afternoon tea was a decadent treat. It was still moist and crumbly six hours after purchase. A colleague was more than happy with the chocolate muffin, made with rich, dark Zokoko chocolate.
Dinner was snapper pie topped with carefully piped lines of mashed potato ($22, serves 2 people). I had to heat it for twice as long as instructed, to get the topping adequately browned, but it was worth the wait. It was a damn fine pie – a little light on fish but heavy with greenery. Of the 20 ingredients listed, there were four herbs: parsley, chives, bay leaf, and thyme. It was abundant with peas, aromatic with fennel and leek, and spiced with nutmeg and white pepper. It was an adequate portion for two people, though more fish wouldn’t go amiss.
So were three meals a day at Q21 do-able, enjoyable, and affordable? Yes and no. In all honesty i won’t be doing too many detours through the city for breakfast – for no other reason than not eating breakfast is a hard habit to break. But for workers who trundle through Pitt Street mall on a morning, Becasse Bakery is certainly a worthy breakfast pit stop. And when I’m passing I’ll certainly stock up at the bakery and providore.
I can make both pumpkin soup and fish pie – fine renditions of both – but the point is, i didn’t have to. A weekend in the Hunter Valley meant the food shopping had gone undone, and Q21 offered the perfect opportunity to pick up pre-cooked meals for dinner and lunch. I’d do it again, in a heartbeat.
The overall food bill ($51.90) was reasonable given that the soup and fish pie were double portions, though obviously it would be cheaper to cook yourself at home. When you can’t do that – or simply don’t want to – Q21 takeaways are an affordable option.
Of course, you can always eat on site. The food emporium is also home to Bécasse fine dining restaurant and the more price-friendly Q21 restaurant. An early after-work dinner at Q21 yielded high results from head chef Michael Robinson and his team. Caramelised Kurobuta pork belly, smoked bacon consommé, with mushrooms, slow cooked yolk and jowl ($25) was a pleasing start to the meal. The pork was intense in flavour and butter soft with a thin, crisp, veneer top. A paper-thin strip of pig jowl – a mere smear – sat on top. The slow cooked egg yolk oozed pleasantly across the lot.
Slow cooked pheasant with brussel sprouts, chestnuts, swede and smoked potato puree ($38) paid tribute to winter. The pheasant was moist, but the accompanying ballottines of loin were dry, which accentuated the fact that the dish was a little light on sauce.
A warm chocolate pudding made with 68 percent Alto Beni Zokoko chocolate, and served with fig preserve and roasted almond ice cream was simply stunning. The chocolate centre oozed delightfully. We almost succeeded in scraping that Zokoko painted plate clean.
The verdict? Q21 delivers the goods, morning, noon and night.
Quarter Twenty One