A culinary gem hidden in Sydney’s southwest, Bellbird Dining & Bar puts its own twist on the experience of fine dining. Situated in the Casula Powerhouse Museum, the restaurant promises fresh and seasonal produce plated in a fusion of cultural influences. It is a drawing card for both lovers of food and the arts.
Recently invited to experience the Bellbird myself, I took along fellow food friend, Ninoshka and we headed to the Powerhouse, both a little unsure of what to expect.
After being warmly greeted by sous chef Steven Pham, we were invited to take a seat in the enclosed courtyard. The decor was minimalistic and aesthetically pleasing, with patterned tables and modern deco seats spread throughout the open space.
Head Chef Frederico Rekowski came over shortly after we were seated, sitting down to chat with us about the history of the restaurant. After taking up his current role a year and a half ago, Frederico and his Sous Chef completely reinvented the Bellbird, transforming it from a cafeteria into an affordable fine dining experience. They adopted a farm-to-table approach in the design of their menu, relying on a mix of their own seasonal produce and local suppliers to dictate what they’ll be plating up each week. And impressively, each dish is $20 or under.
“It’s an ever-evolving menu – it’s never the same. It really depends on the garden and the time of year,” he explained.
The first dish we were served was handmade ricotta gnocchi, served with caramelised figs and prosciutto in a sage butter. All I can say is WOW. The ricotta gave the gnocchi a unique light but creamy texture – two words you would not normally associate together in a pasta dish. Whilst it was only a small serving, it was the most memorable dish of the day.
The next dish featured falafel, smoky eggplant, labneh and tabouli. Frederico told us that the falafel (which he orders from a local Lebanese place) is the best he has ever eaten and I could see why. They were incredibly moist and flavorsome despite having been fried in a batter, and the eggplant was a great accompaniment. It was served with crispy flatbread which I didn’t think was necessary but it was yummy nonetheless.
The final savoury dish to be brought out was the pan fried south Australian dory, corn purée and pickled spring onion. Ninoshka and I both agreed that whilst the dory was melt-in-your mouth, the corn purée was the unsuspecting star.
After the delightful lunch, Frederico led us outside on a tour of the Bellbird’s very own produce garden. The Kitchen Garden as it is known, is filled with an impressive spread of seasonal fruit, vegetables and herbs. Frederico pointed out each crop for us, breaking off bits here and there to taste. He explained that they are hoping to extend the garden and also put in a chicken pen for fresh eggs soon. It was great to witness just how Bellbird embodies this farm-to-table ethos and understand the importance of fresh produce.
Post-excursion, we returned to the restaurant to be served dessert. As we struggled to narrow down our choice, Frederico treated us with a bowl of Earl Grey ice cream. I consider myself both an avid tea-drinker and ice cream connoisseur so the combination of the two was like it was made for me. Even if you are not a fan of tea, one could compare it to a subtle creme brûlée flavour.
The final dish was a beautifully decorated mandarin and almond cake. It was light and fluffy, and the flavour was accentuated by the accompaniment of lime curd and lemon myrtle powder. With a cup of coffee, it would be the perfect afternoon treat.
My first experience at Bellbird Dining & Bar was a memorable one. The restaurant promised fresh and seasonal food served in a contemporary fine dining experience, and Chef Frederico and his team undoubtedly delivered. The Bellbird personifies a unique sustainable cultural fusion that gives a reverence to every bite. Both Ninoshka and I couldn’t fault our experience, and we can’t wait to go back.
Bellbird Dining & Bar
1 Powerhouse Road, Casula, NSW 2170, Australia
Monday to Friday: 9am-3pm
Saturday and Sunday: 9am-2pm
Ph: +61 2 8711 7077