When renowned theatre director Wendy Beckett and veteran chef Jeff Schroeter (Bistro Moncur, Bayswater Brasserie) joined forces to breathe life into the old Darling Mills site on Glebe Point Road, they also brought in set designer Halcyon Pratt, who’s worked on some of Beckett’s shows.
Beckett’s feels like a love letter to the opulent bistros and bars of Paris, New York and London in the early to mid-20th century – but with a Sydney bent, thanks to the dramatically lit sandstone. The front bar is decked out in olive banquettes and low cocktail chairs, and a baby grand piano that’s played by a resident pianist four nights a week. A row of brick colonnades run down the centre of the expansive dining room, dressed in plush olive-green velvet drapes. A glass wall at the entrance displays a collection of antique crystal carafes by Schroeter’s wife.
“[Darling Mills] … is a long-time favourite of the locals,” says Beckett, who’s written more than 25 plays and directed more than 40. “Glebe is packed with artists, writers, theatre and film producers, and now Beckett’s [is] our neighbourhood nook … It’s somewhere beautiful to dine and a reminder of Glebe’s former glamour. Beckett’s is a place to get a little dressed up for.”
It is the kind of place that makes you want to drink a Martini and order something fancy. Luckily, Schroeter’s signature vanilla lobster has made it onto the menu (it’s served alongside butter-poached fennel, vanilla celeriac and a sea-urchin sauce).
“We’ve always had a lot of dinner parties at home,” says Schroeter, referring to his old friend and now business partner Beckett, whom he met when their children started attending school together. “This was one of the dishes I cooked for them. To this day they say that was the dish that sold them on the idea [of opening a restaurant in Glebe together]. The vanilla enhances the sweetness and brings out a whole dimension of the lobster that people haven’t tasted.”
Schroeter’s three decades of experience is evident in the French-leaning menu. There’s a cured Mount Cook salmon that takes five days to make: it’s cured in salt, sugar, cold-pressed beetroot juice and Never Never gin for three days, before being air-dried in the fridge for two. It’s served with Yarra Valley salmon pearls, crushed cucumber and shaved fennel.
Also on the menu is Glacier 51 toothfish cheeks served with a rich mussel-and-clam-chowder sauce; and charcoal-roasted Wagyu rump with pommes dauphinoise and mushroom jus.
There’s some real talent in the bar, too. Award-winning bartender Charlie Ainsbury (This Must Be the Place) and Sasha Siljanovic (Lotus Barangaroo, Nomad) have created an elegant wine list and cocktails that run classic.
“Charlie taught me how to drink,” Schroeter says. “I thought I knew, but he taught me the nuances of booze. Every time he made a Martini [Ainsbury makes his with Widges Gin and Mancino Secco vermouth] it would be better than any other. He understands the combinations. It’s technique and skill.”
134A Glebe Point Road, Glebe
(02) 9566 2167
Tue to Sat 5pm–11.30pm Sunday 5pm–10pm