WOW. I'VE GOT THE BEST SEAT in the house, with breathtaking views of Sydney on tap. Oh. No, I haven't. I'm seated next to a large mirrored column, with nothing but my own reflection to stare at. Oh, hang on. Yes, I have.
OK, enough of the revolving restaurant jokes. I doubt there is a bad seat in the house, when the house is all windows and all view, and the seats are forever moving. It makes the newly renamed O Bar and Dining the perfect restaurant for first dates, the long-wedded, and anyone else who needs a third party to stimulate conversation.
Although it must be said there's plenty to talk about, even without the views. Known as Summit for the past 44 years, O is now solely owned by British-born Sydney chef Michael Moore, who has been in place here since 2005. Despite continuously describing slow revolutions, the place had been standing still, so Moore decided it was time to reinvent the wheel. So to speak.
The room has come up a treat with its rich chocolate tones, smart, black reptilian table coverings, and chic, reupholstered original Bertoia chairs. There's a cleverly disguised PDR (private dining room, don't you know), and a moody bar area strewn with low-slung seating.
The food is a talking point in itself. Chefs, as a rule, know that all they have to do is call on the holy trinity of cooking - fat, salt and sugar - and we diners will respond on cue as if hypnotised. Moore, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, suffered a near-fatal stroke in 2009, and has since committed himself to a healthier food philosophy, not just removing excessive amounts of fat, salt and sugar, but rethinking the whole game plan.
With his chef, Luke Murray, he has created a menu high in grains, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, raw foods, fish and seafood, balanced by dishes such as Thirlmere duck (with grains and artichokes), Kurobuta pork chop (with chickpea salad) and three different grass-fed steaks.
The concept gives the place a real identity of its own, and the execution over a sunny lunch is mostly successful. Four spanner crab cakes ($26) are lovely and light under their crunchy quinoa crusts; and tenderly cooked Burrawong organic chicken ($34) arrives with both maryland and breast coated in buckwheat kernels, ground almonds, pepitas and sesame seeds, served on a squish of hung yoghurt. Even a faddish salmon tataki ($26) served on (and partially cured by) a block of pink Himalayan rock salt is spruced up with black-and-white sesame seeds, radish and micro cress.
A light and vibrant 2012 Dal Zotto Rosato ($49) makes a good, summery lunch choice, and the proudly Australian-led wine list has plenty of choices in the upper price bracket.
At night, the outlook is even more dramatic, although the actual food is hard to find in the dark. A big, crusty hunk of hot, spicy pastrami ($39) doesn't sound overly healthy, but has been made with the beef cheek rather than the usual, fattier brisket. It's terrific - soft and lightly smoky, served with dill pickles, sweet, lightly smoked tomatoes, and velvety, house-made horseradish cream and home-ground mustard. Nor is something as innately simple as whole roasted flounder ($36) too mucked about with, the fish merely doused with a deconstructed salsa verde that is heavy on the walnuts.
Two dishes are let down by ingredient as much as idea. A mozzarella salad ($24) is uninteresting, the cheese dull and firm; and the ammonia-like taint of a prawn throws an already disconnected Mexican-inspired seafood salad and its clear tomato tea ($26). A side dish of white, red and black quinoa ($11) is a hit, the grains all nutty and squeaky.
Desserts aren't as fruit-based as the doctor might have ordered but, hey, you can't be good all the time. Chocolate appears in more than medicinal quantities in both a torte and a souffle, and a simple summery dish of warm, roasted pineapple with agave granola, jelly and cream ($17) is like sitting down to a tropical breakfast.
This is food that looks and tastes healthy without any of the usual side effects (boredom, feeling hard done by, bolting for the fridge immediately afterwards). The crowd is lively, the music is heavy on soul and the place is jumping. There's something delightfully 1970s about the very concept of a revolving restaurant, but Moore has injected O with a new sense of relevance and a fresh perspective. Even if it does change every 30 seconds.
O Bar and Dining
Address Level 47, Australia Square, 264 George Street, Sydney,
phone 9247 9777,
Open Lunch, Wed-Fri; dinner, daily.
Cost About $140 for two.
Best thing: The views! The views!
Worst bit: Trying to find your table on the way back from the loo.
Go-to dish: Hot spiced pastrami and smoked tomatoes, pickles, mustard, $39.
- (02) 9247 9777
- Cuisine - Modern Australian
- Prices - About $140 for two,plus drinks
- Opening Hours - Lunch: Wed-Fri. Dinner: Daily.
- Author - Terry Durack