The Rocks Re-Fined
Taking in the opulence of the Opera House, window-side in one of Sydney’s favourite 5-star hotels, sits head chef of The Dining Room, Etienne Karner. It’s a rare moment as Etienne takes in the casual elegance of the restaurant, before heading back to his fast-paced culinary playground.
"Playing with flavour profiles, uncommon matches, native ingredients, and exploring new ways to bring together uniquely Australian flavours – to me it is about creativity and food, being provocative and challenging my palate,” he says.
Despite his global resume, including stints in Dubai, Paris, India, Ireland, the Caribbean and America, Etienne is passionate about what makes Australian cuisine unique, and during his three years as head chef at The Dining Room, he has forged a pared back food philosophy. Etienne’s style is focused on creating menus bountiful with local produce and native Australian ingredients, and he is passionate about the new ‘Modern Australian’ movement.
Etienne’s return to simplicity is a world away from the extravagant dishes he created in Dubai. “At the Burj-Al Arab, Dubai, we had everything brought in, fresh and some live – sea urchins, Beluga caviar, lobsters from Normandy, Australian yabby, Kobe beef – you name it, we did it! And at the Park Hyatt Dubai, all ingredients were also imported. We had no limits, and cost was never an issue. It was certainly memorable.”
While Etienne enjoyed his days of extravagant international cuisine, when the opportunity arose for him to travel with his young family to Australia, he jumped at the chance. “I had heard so many great things about Sydney – and let’s talk about the produce! I had to experience it for myself. Australia and Sydney are heaven for us chefs – I cannot rave enough about the seafood variety we have here, working with seasonality and even easily sourced, sustainable produce.”
“Plus, the culinary operation at Park Hyatt Sydney is boutique and very hands-on. The produce and ingredients we use are almost entirely from Australia, we cook it the best way we know how – and we keep it fresh and contemporary.”
Simple and sustainable
Over the past three years, Etienne has created many menu favourites, including the hand cut Darling River kangaroo tartare. “Traditional beef tartare is one of my favourites and I wanted to bring it closer to my new home. So why not add an Aussie twist and replicate it with kangaroo, which is lean and not overpowering – perfect for tartares!”
Another of Etienne’s favourite ingredients to work with is the renowned David Blackmore beef. The Dining Room menu features it in their bresaola, beef cheek, and steak dishes, and it is tipped to be a winter highlight, along with salsify for its edible flower and asparagus-like root, local truffle and venison. Etienne also reveals, “You might see a salt cure lamb loin with black barley with salsify, sweet bread parfait and beetroot leaves.”
Relaxed elegance with a view
Etienne’s unique menu is just one part of The Dining Room’s allure, and Food and Beverage Director, Gary Olasz is in charge of bringing Etienne’s energy to every guest, “We’ve worked hard to create an accessible and contemporary fine dining experience, with a special dose of Park Hyatt luxury, of course.”
What works especially well at The Dining Room is Gary’s skill for creating an inviting atmosphere and his passion for local produce are in perfect cohesion with Etienne’s food philosophy, providing guests with a seamless immersion into contemporary Australian cuisine.
As Gary explains, “We focus more than ever on the smaller producers that are sought-after and unique. On my end, we offer a predominately Australian wine list from Australia’s finest winemakers. We really want to pay homage to the produce, and keep things simple.”
And as we wrap up before the rush of service, Etienne and Gary joke, “Actually, we would like to think the food and wine experience is so good, you forget to look up and admire the views!”
Reserve a table at The Dining Room, call 02 9256 1661 or visit diningroom.com.au