Just Open: Messina Creative Department, Darlinghurst

Messina Gelato: Dr Evil's Magic Mushroom Cake

Behind the scenes at Gelato Messina on the Magic Mushroom Cake assembly line.

Gelato Messina's newest venue opens this Wednesday (April 20) - and it already has a Michelin-starred chef's endorsement.

Remember the Gelato Messina Dessert Bar, where you could mastermind your own sundaes? That site - next to Messina's original Darlinghurst store - has had a makeover and it's now the Messina Creative Department. This eight-seater establishment will step it up from waffle cones and topping-stacked scoops. It will serve a seven-course dessert degustation ($130 per person) with matching non-alcoholic drinks, such as wattle cola vanilla soda with lemongrass vinegar. 

Powering the menu will be Gelato Messina founder Nick Palumbo, Messina head chef Donato Toce and chief creative Remi Talbot, who has returned to the company after stints overseas in Denmark, France and Japan. In Tokyo, Talbot worked alongside Zaiyu Hasegawa, the chef who runs the Michelin-starred Den restaurant (its playful menu includes a dessert served on a shovel). Hasegawa was in Australia recently, collaborating with Martin Benn at a dinner at Sepia - and he was one of the first to try the Messina Creative Department menu.
 
"For me, having Zaiyu in was an absolute honour," says Toce. 

The ambitious desserts include purple basil and beetroot granita.
The ambitious desserts include purple basil and beetroot granita. Photo: Supplied

"To have someone of his calibre come in and give us the seal of approval was an amazing experience. As far as Remi's thoughts on cooking for him - he doesn't show his emotions!"

Talbot, despite his poker face, was quite moved by having his former boss there. "It was important to me that Zaiyu and his team tried the Creative Department," he said. "I consider him as a brother, a mentor and the most amazing chef I have worked with. They loved the experience."

But you won't need to be a Michelin-starred chef to book in for the Creative Department's degustations - a project that Palumbo and Toce have been plotting for years.

"It has been something that both Nick and I have wanted to do for such a long time. We always thought about it with Remi at the helm, too," says Toce. "The menu has taken us close to eight weeks to perfect to what it is today. Instead of having 'key dishes', the menu is designed so each dish works harmoniously together." 

Courses will include purple basil and beetroot granita (finished with a drizzle of Cudgegong extra-virgin olive oil) or pear vinegar sorbet presented in a hand-made cone alongside burrata cream, extra drops of locally sourced olive oil, black salt and thyme. 

Pear vinegar sorbet is on the current menu.
Pear vinegar sorbet is on the current menu.  Photo: Supplied

So, are these high-end desserts?  

"I wouldn't say it is 'fine dining' - it's all about the food and these dishes don't deserve a slap-bang approach service."

Open Wednesday to Saturday, with two sittings per evening (7pm and 9pm). Tickets will be on sale from April 20. 

243 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst, 1800 435 286, gelatomessina.com/au/creativedepartment