With luxury and ‘bleasure’ travel trends on the up and up, an increasing number of delegates say modern luxury is more about refined local flavour than flashy suites and expensive transfers.
By Lauren Arena
And no one knows luxury better than casino mogul and high-roller James Packer. The billionaire businessman’s Crown Resorts dynasty extends across London, Macau and throughout Australia with luxury properties in Melbourne and Perth and soon also in Sydney (in the Barangaroo precinct along the harbour) and Sri Lanka (on a proposed site on the Beira Lake in Colombo).
Mr Packer, it seems, is eager to see Crown endure as a beacon in luxury travel, so it makes sense that internationally renowned restaurateurs Neil Perry and Guillaume Brahimi were recently appointed Crown’s new culinary directors – designing bespoke menus for corporate events, conferencing and weddings, and taking an active role educating the hotel group’s up and coming chefs at Crown’s Culinarium training restaurant.
In an epicurean-inspired event held at the five-star Crown Towers Melbourne in October, the two super chefs came together to launch their premium banquet menu to a select group of PCOs and media from around the country.
Crown’s expansive Palladium was cleverly configured to create an intimate dining room where guests indulged in four courses that showcased the flair of each chef as well as local Victorian produce.
“Whether you’re cooking for 10 people or 1000 people, the produce is the key,” Brahimi said. “We really want to support Victoria with a ‘think global, act local’ philosophy that will really make large banquets work.”
The night’s menu took guests on a gastronomic tour around the world with dishes like king salmon sashimi with lemon, fennel and wasabi emulsion; a Chinese rich and noble congee with crab, sweet corn, peanuts and chilli oil; and braised Wagyu brisket with parsnip and parsley purée and Brahimi’s signature Parish mash; all delicately crafted and paired with local wines.
With guests well fed and well watered, the culinary masters pulled out all the stops with two ingenious and mouth-watering desserts. Perry presented a decadent black forest trifle with layer upon layer of flavour and texture, while Brahimi wowed with 150 perfectly puffed chocolate soufflé and coffee ice cream.
As in any fine dining establishment, the evening started with canapés and champagne – think terrine on sourdough, pork larb tartlets and eggplant confit with goat’s cheese – and ended with chic petit fours and a delicate tipple of topaque.
And according to Perry, it’s this sense of being in one of the county’s top restaurants that sets Crown apart.
“We have this unique opportunity to bring a restaurant feel to the hotel – it’s a little more relaxed, a little bit more produce-focused, very contemporary, and a reflection of what’s happening on the high street because that’s what we practice.
“The fact that we can bring an amazing restaurant sensibility to it; that’s going to be our differentiator, that’s going to be the real catch,” he said.
In their newly formed role, a post they will retain for three years, the culinary ambassadors have also redeveloped the in-room dining menus exclusive to Crown Towers, where classic dishes like gourmet burgers and club sandwiches shine.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel,” Perry said of the in-room dining menu. “We’re actually making sure the classics work really well because somewhere deep inside, before somebody destroyed them, the classics were awesome and we want to bring the awesomeness back again.”
The duo will also continue to oversee Crown’s premium restaurants in Melbourne and Perth, including Rockpool Bar & Grill, Bistro Guillaume, Rosetta, Spice Temple and Silks. m