Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Greenhouse by Joost – Sydney, Australia

Posted on: Friday 13 May 2011

I had a short trip home in early March to attend a dear friend’s wedding. It was perfect timing as I had bought tickets to Billy Connolly months in advance, without knowing that we’d have moved to Seattle by then. I had dinner with Mrs H at Greenhouse by Joost prior to the show. Sydneysiders love dining with a view and Greenhouse has the quintessential vista of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, framed by floor-to-ceiling windows.

Greenhouse is an ambitious project – it should be on Grand Designs! I can hear Kevin McCloud describing it – the restaurant is waste-free with the compost used in the rooftop garden, produce are sourced locally and are organic, deliveries are made in returnable containers, building materials are reclaimed and recycled, the cutlery is biodegradable, and they roll the oats and grind the wheat. The interior walls are clad in magnesium oxide boards with biochar added to absorb carbon! Does that make the restaurant carbon-negative?

The Squirt chairs, made from old aluminium irrigation pipes and leather off-cuts from a saddle maker were surprisingly sturdy. As the sun sets, the restaurant is lit warmly by Queen B all natural bees’ wax candles – Earth Hour is permanent at Greenhouse. The ceiling and walls are scrawled with mantras in thick, black paint which I find confronting but luckily we were there early and had a table by the window.

I munched on some spiced almonds, served in a recycled wine bottle, while I waited for Mrs H. We had both read reviews and agreed to share an appetizer and the mains. The dishes are rustic and homely, the drinks are poured into old jam jars from vats at the bar and the staff are absent-minded (it took 10 minutes to pay the bill in near darkness at the counter) – it all adds to the shambolic feel of the place.

We ordered the fried spiced cauliflower, seared mullet with mixed tomato salad and pizza to share. The mullet and pizza came on planks of wood, and the cauliflower were in a newspaper cone held upright in an old jam jar. The cauliflower was dusted with spices and fried to a golden hue and yet remains creamy inside. The wood fire pizza was chewy and cheesy but unfortunately we couldn’t identify what else was on it and the ingredients weren’t listed on the menu. The mullet was cooked well and the heirloom tomatoes delicious. I’m wary of tomatoes as they can be bland and watery but these were juicy and sweet. We had just enough time for a summer dessert of peaches and cream before a quick walk to the Opera House for two hours of laughter with Billy Connolly.

It is an admirable commitment to sustainability by designer Joost Bakker and chef Matt Stone. Their passion is clear and Greenhouse demonstrates that it can be done. I doubt their intention is for every household to install a flour mill or to switch to using plantation timber cutlery. The point is to encourage us to consider the possibilities and to make small changes, daily. For me, I have become an avid reader of labels. I don’t really need pears from New Zealand when they’re not in season here.

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