Ross Lusted, head chef and part-owner of The Bridge Room in Sydney, is cooking a type of cuisine that tells the story of his life by means of culinary scrapbook. Each dish is vaguely familiar, luring the diner in to think they know the assembled, only to be blown off course by abnormalities like the peculiar pairing of genovese basil and tamarind. But it works. It all works faultlessly.
No stranger to kitchens and the food and beverage industry, Chef Lusted has explored the heady breath of the globe, working as Park Hyatt Sydney's harbourkitchen&bar, Singapore's Mezza9 and most recently as head of Food & Beverage Development for Amanresorts. Safe to say he knows what he is doing. There is an intentional lack of white table clothes, which have been foregone in favour of circular felt placemats, succulents and bespoke ceramics. There are fingerprints all over the restaurant of Lusted’s previous life in design and the restaurant only benefits from it.
Subtle but striking details are woven into the fabric of Ross’s most recent venture in the CBD; borrowing of flavours from robatayaki cooking lends the hearty satisfaction associated with high end Japanese food. The wines have been intentionally curated from the surrounding regions and boutique wineries who sell out each year, yet remain family run to maintain quality. What can only be described as origami meets fabric is set as a feature wall, which we think Chef Ross cleverly employed as a means of sound control as well as interesting artistic focus. Such is the allure that we did find ourselves absent-mindedly stroking it at times.
The summation of many parts is what makes eating here such an experience.
Menu highlights worth making a trip for:
Moreton Bay bugs (pictured) with roasted chilli paste, tamarind, apple, celery salt and endive. Just cooked, entirely delicious bugs with a vest of the tamarind whose slight sweetness plays so nicely, and unexpectedly, with the basil. Not thai basil, sweet basil. A clever and unorthodox twist.
Pig’s tail, slow cooked to be fork tender, and served with a sugar and cassis syrup with caramelised pineapple bring back memories of Hawaiian pizza on the beach. Drawing on familiar flavours but reinventing their execution is a strong point of TBR.
A simple off the menu dish, a gem lettuce heart that was wrapped in pork jowl and then chargrilled over the robata is a dish that, for us, embodies the Japanese philosophy. The freshest ingredients, barely tampered with, brought to life with expert cooking skills, this was a dish that blew us away. Crunchy, still raw lettuce with salty flavoursome pork, these did not even need the accompanying condiments.
Our enthusiasm for dessert was revived in the black sesame dish, a course that disappoints often in fine dining. Yoghurt, white chocolate and black sesame are whipped into heavenly quenelles and then sat atop rice that is lacquered in more high quality, low sugar white chocolate. A play on the traditional viscous black sesame drink that is often consumed in the morning in Singapore (abhorrently to many Western palates, including Chef Lusted’s. Rather than despising the drink however, he chose to renovate it, marking again the ingenuity and curiousity of the Lusteds’ lives), this dessert artfully carries the theme of Bridge Room as well as being gastronomically appealing. Why is this? Ross Lusted does not employ a pastry chef, as he says this can cause and incongruence between savoury and sweet courses, given an entirely different chef is responsible for each. Chef Ross is bound to the entire menu and pours his curiosity into each manifestation.
The Bridge Room; 44 Bridge Street, Sydney; 9247 7000