Relais et Chateaux Lunch at Jonah’s, Whale Beach

To say that I was excited when I received the invitation to dine at Jonah’s recently could be considered something of a mild understatement. This restaurant has been on my must visit list for an extremely long time but I had never quite made it.

I was excited, not only because I would be having lunch at one of Sydney’s most scenic restaurants, perched atop a cliff at Whale Beach and overlooking the thundering ocean, but 3 Michelin Starred chef Jacques Marcon from famed French eatery Restaurant Régis et Jacques Marcon would be manning the pans with his sous chef Christophe Gasper and Jonah’s own hatted Executive Chef Alfonso Ales. Invitations like this don’t come my way every day, or every year for that matter.

From Left: Alfonso Ales, Jacques Marcon, Christophe Gasper

Restaurant Régis et Jacques Marcon is located in the Haute-Loire region in France and is famed for its use of locally foraged ingredients, particularly mushrooms which can be found in almost every course, from entrée through to dessert. Patriarch of the business Régis Marcon was foraging before many of today’s well known forager/chefs could even walk. Other local ingredients featured prominently on the restaurant’s menu are locally foraged herbs, wild vegetables, the green lentils of Puy as well as locally sourced fish and lamb.

So how did a 3 Michelin Starred chef from the wilds of France find his way to Sydney’s Northern Beaches? Well yes, a plane was involved but the common thread that ties his restaurant & hotel in France to Jonah’s in Sydney is Relais & Chateaux, the association of prestige private hotels and restaurants to which both belong. Other notable members of the association include iconic Sydney restaurant Tetsuya’s, Tower Lodge in the Hunter Valley and Melbourne restaurant Jacques Raymond.

The lunch was held to announce the addition of three new members to the association, stunning Hamilton Island resort qualia, breathtaking Tasmanian property Saffire which overlooks the vast expanses of Great Oyster Bay and New Zealand icon, Huka Lodge, a mecca for the well-heeled traveller since the 1920’s, all three renowned for their incredible food, scenery and hospitality.

Dining room at Saffire, Tasmania. Photo: George Apostolidis

We arrived at the stylish entrance to Jonah’s and were greeted with a glass of Pommery Champagne. The day was slightly overcast but the view from the dining room was still stunning with the waves below us tumbling and wrestling each other to the shoreline.

We sat down to lunch and were presented with an amuse bouche of asparagus gazpacho and a tart Dijon icecream, a simple and elegant start to the meal no doubt influenced by Alfonso Ales’ Spanish heritage. We were also served Robert Oatley Wines, a surprisingly textural Semillon Sauvignon and an earthy Mornington Pinot Noir.

Asparagus Gazpacho

The entrée of Blue swimmer crab & marron lobster with tomato bavarois was picture perfect. The delicate swimmer crab was the bedrock of the dish, with an ocean floor of tomato bavarois above it being protected by a sea of clear tomato consommé. The marron lobster flesh was sweet, with a hint of maple and the dish was crowned with two thin biscuit like claws. Every element of the dish spoke of the sea. It was a beautiful start to the meal.

The Melting pot of lamb with praline of porcini mushrooms was our first taste of the mushrooms that made Marcon famous. Lamb was presented three ways. Upon a perfectly cooked seared lamb fillet rested a lamb cutlet which had been dusted with an earthy, sweet, crunchy porcini praline crumble. Lamb sweetbreads were skewered through with a slice of mushroom and heirloom carrots provided some contrasting sweetness.

A herb sorbet with cous cous and strawberry was an unusual choice of palette cleanser before the dessert, perhaps unnecessary.

Blue swimmer crab and marron lobster

Melting pot of lamb

The desserts were up next and they didn’t disappoint. Porcini chocolate, confit Puy lentils & porcini caramel was a study in unusual flavour combinations yet it worked surprisingly well. The squares of porcini chocolate had a delicate earthy scent while the mushroom shaped porcini caramels were presented as a small potted garden with dried Puy lentils providing the bed for them to sit in. The spoons of Puy lentils were confited in caramel.

Last up was a Banana skewer with morel mushrooms and gingerbread, balsamic reduction. The gingerbread flavour from the biscuit was mirrored in the ice-cream and was a perfect foil for the beautifully caramelised bananas. There was a slight smokiness to the balsamic reduction harmonised nicely with the earthy morel mushrooms. This is a dessert I could quite happily eat again and again.

Porcini chocolate, confit Puy lentils & porcini caramel

Banana skewer with morel mushrooms and gingerbread, balsamic reduction

Jacques Marcon spoke about his plans for the future that will involve a new hotel built according to ecological principles. Organic food will be served, solar power and composting will be utilised. He had a beautiful turn of phrase saying that it would be about “Living in the place, according to the place.” Let’s just hope for our sake, it’s in Australia.

Jeremy dined at Jonah’s as a guest of PEPR and Relais et Chateaux

Jonah’s, Whale Beach

69 Bynya Road
Whale Beach NSW 2108

02 9974 5599

www.jonahs.com.au

Jonah's on Urbanspoon

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Author:Jeremy Bowell

Jeremy Bowell is the founder and editor of Taste Explorer. He also writes for InsideCuisine.com, TheGrapeHunter.com, SoBadSoGood.com and has featured in the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Living section. He is an avid connoisseur of all things food and drink related.