Josh Rea is the proud stockist of all things fine and luxurious. Gourmet Life in Edgecliff, is Rea’s carefully crafted temple. It’s a manifestation of his ceaseless, global hunt for the best. As he describes for us the origins of every item stocked, we are certain: Rea knows what the hell he’s talking about. His partner, Kiki Barr, is equally passionate. “I’ve put on about five kilos since I met Josh,” she grins. If we're going to be stacking on the pounds these holidays, we may as well do it the gourmet way.
“We’re the biggest specialty store of caviar in Australia,” Rea says, steely-eyed. “I will gladly challenge anyone that says they’ve got a wider range.” Gourmet Life has the only supply of Iranian Beluga caviar. It comes from a 25-year aged fish – Iranian born and bred. Beluga tastes, in Rea’s words, “Just like eating French cream or butter.” Half the battle is getting these products to Australia. “We make sure to have the product pre-sold before it arrives in Australia,” Rea says.
It’s not just niche products such as caviar and truffles at Gormet Life, there’s regular pantry fodder, too. Terre Exotique provides 50 different salts from around the world, including Hawaiian Red and the Persian Blue. The Diamond Salt with flowers won’t just season your Christmas ham – it will define it. Taste of Paris Organic Mustard is just that – a taste of Paris. Its truffle flavour with black pepper and olive oil boasts strong, complex flavours.
For those with sweet teeth: Pablo Garrigós Ibáñez handmade nougat rests inside timber boxes, sealed in golden, regal wax. Xavior Mor’s frambuesa chocolate negro is the definition of decadence. Mor is, according to Rea, “One of the three chocolate makers in the whole of Europe that actually makes from the cacao bean upwards.” Its 12-piece blister packs are popped like pills; like a cure.
Last year, Gourmet Life sold more than 2000 jars of Crema di Nocciola. This heavenly spread is purely cacao, hazelnut and oil. Open the jar and you’ll find an oily, potentially disconcerting, layer on the surface. “It’s split because it’s just chocolate and oil,” says Rea. “It’s meant to.” The only sad part of life after di Nocciola, is that Nutella tastes pathetic by comparison.
Rea explains that Spain produces 60 per cent of all olive oil in the world. O Med, from Granada, is some of Spain’s finest. “In 2013 they took out a gold [medal] in Italy,” Rea says. “Which is really bizarre, because the Italians produce some really great oil.” O Med’s vinegar range is aged in French oak barrels, and the cider vinegar is a definite standout. Its fresh apple flavour makes for a summery salad dressing.
Galateo & Friends stock kitchens in some of the world’s finest restaurants. “It’s only him and four other people in his company,” Rea says. You’ve never known smooth until you’ve sampled Galateo’s Olio Extra Vergine Di Oliva (Rea’s personal favourite). The oil keeps on flowing; a vibrant corner is stacked high with A L’Olivier cans. The Provincial Herbs variety infuses thyme, basil, dill and rosemary. The Lavender Oil would be an impressive, fragrant drizzle for seafood. Casanova Balsama Di Miele is an addictive honey and balsamic vinegar, an ancient product of Modena. There is a staggering balsamic selection at Gourmet life. Thirty, 50- and 100-year-old bottles sell for $800, and Rea goes through a lot of them.
For friends with exquisite taste, Gourmet Life is a great destination for those hard-to-find gifts. Better yet, stock your own kitchen here to impress at holiday lunches. You don’t need Michelin stars to buy Rea’s products. It just so happens that many of his clients do.
60 New South Head Road, Edgecliff
(02) 9362 0010
Mon to Sat 8am–6pm