The Shangri-La is well known for its Chef’s Hat restaurant, Altitude, which provides the most ridiculous views of Sydney’s best assets through floor-to-ceiling windows.
However, the lesser known Café Mix definitely holds it’s own.
Café Mix is the hotel’s all-day dining restaurant which serves a full breakfast buffet, lunch, dinner and 24 hour in-room service.
A team of 14 chefs, headed by Executive Sous Chef Bo Sorensen, manages to serve over 400 meals daily to hotel guests and the public.
Despite this, Café Mix is a great example of quantity equalling quality.
We are seated at a corner table by the window.
The restaurant is on the larger side to cater for the amount of foot traffic it receives, particularly at breakfast.
But at this moment it is relatively quiet except for a few corporates having a casual lunch.
The waiter explains that both an a la carte menu and salad bar is available.
Did somebody say salad bar?
Before we can get to that, we decide on some mains from the rather extensive and recently revived menu designed by Chef Bo and Executive Chef Stephen Krasicki.
There are pages of comfort food including a pulled pork sandwich and spaghetti bolognaise but interestingly enough, the menu also features modern twists on some Asian favourites, which explains the subtly oriental decor.
It is a nice surprise when Chef Bo arrives at our table to explain the menu and answer any questions.
“We try to provide the perfect combination of simple food and great flavours.
Whether you just feel like one of the classics or something asian and fresh, we want to cater for all moods.” says Chef Bo.
He goes on to explain his beliefs in Australian produce and small, boutique producers which enables his menu to showcase the best of what he thinks Australia has to offer to diners.
After a long deliberation of trying to work out whether I want to be comforted or ‘Asian-ed’, I settle on the terriyaki grilled kingfish.
We decide to accompany it with the fried noodles with Szechuan spices.
Now, to make our way over to the very impressive looking salad bar.
There is a huge range of cold, Asian salads, antipasti, cured meats and cheese.
At this point, I’m very glad I skipped breakfast.
I carefully select a sample of a few different salads, including the green tea noodles and minced chicken.
The ingredients are beautiful and fresh; right on par with what Chef Bo was explaining.
The balance of flavours also makes it easy for a non-tea drinker (tea despiser, for that matter) to thoroughly enjoy the green tea infusion.
The salad bar could quite easily cater for a meal on its own, making it a great option for those who are after a light lunch.
Who doesn’t love self serve after all?
Just as I finish my last mouthful of green tea noodles, a beautifully presented kingfish is put down in front of me.
It is accompanied with just the right amount of wok fried greens.
The kingfish is sourced from South Australia and has a cleaner flavour and firmer texture to that of the wild kingfish.
It is grilled lightly with the terriyaki and is a very generous serve.
The Szechuan spiced fried noodles also arrive and I can feel a food coma coming on.
The noodles are just what you’d want them to be; crispy and make a nice crunch when you bite into them.
The juicy cherry tomatoes and cucumber that accompany them provide balance and make me feel slightly less guilty.
Our plates are promptly cleared and our thoughts turn to dessert.
Considering award winning, Pastry Chef Anna Polyviou is the mastermind behind the Shangri-La dessert menu, how could I possibly say no?
Chef Anna joined the hotel in May and is also the founder of the Sydney Pastry Chef Club, an industry-leading programme for executive pastry chefs to share innovations with their peers.
She can even brag about having worked beside the Queen’s pastry chef, Katherine Boyden, so there is no way I am missing the opportunity to try some of her creations.
My indecisiveness continues.
“Why don’t we try a selection, that way you can taste a few things?” suggests Chef Bo, returning to check on us.
I haven’t heard a better idea all day!
First comes the peanut butter and jelly.
Don’t be fooled by the name, this is no weird American sandwich.
It is rather a beautifully plated, milk chocolate mousse, filled with peanut butter crunch, topped with raspberry sorbet.
The tactility of this dessert, with its different textures with every bite, are an ode to Chef Anna’s exemplary skills.
The crispness of the tapered chocolate and the crunch of the peanut butter combined with the smoothness of the mousse is a work of art.
Not believing that anything to come would top that, we move on.
The baked lemon tart served with a lemon sorbet, candied zest and citrus syrup is next.
I am a sucker for tangy, citrus flavours, so I have high expectations.
The pastry is exquisite and the citrus syrup counter acts the sourness of the sorbet.
I am impressed.
Although I am right on the verge of the previously mentioned food coma, I still manage to try the last dessert: coconut panna cotta.
The asian twist on this Italian dessert works surprisingly well.
The addition of tropical jelly and mango pearls is lovely, not to mention the pineapple brioche donut that is also served with it.
I try my very best to finish all three but just fall short.
A very enjoyable dining experience but a very deserved food coma: achieved.
Café Mix, Shangri-La hotel
Level 1, 176 Cumberland Street,
The Rocks, Sydney, Australia
(61 2) 9250 6206