With the glorious days of sunshine and blue sky and gentle breezes caressing our cheeks, it’s clear that spring has finally arrived. And with the triumphant entrance of the warmer weather, we’ve been searching all around town for the best crisp flavours to spring clean our palates. With vibrant spring produce at its peak, the salad – and its endless creative interpretations – is one of the key dishes of the season.
“It comes down to the very basic things when it’s a salad,” says Chui Lee Luk of Woollahra’s freshly re-launched Claude’s. “The vegetables and leaf elements should be very fresh and when I’m putting together a combination then I must use the best quality available.”
The freshness of seasonal ingredients allows layers and textures to contrast, highlighting the more delicate flavours in a salad. “For me, spring brings things like young broad beans and peas and I like local asparagus. [Salads should be] textural and these ingredients have subtle flavours so it’s challenging to use them in ways which bring that out without overwhelming them or leaving the salad boring.”
Also throwing off the drapes is the revamped Riverview Hotel in Balmain. Chef Brad Sloane points out that balance in a salad is a must. “I think we eat salad because we want to eat healthy and clean, so really fresh vegetables and good vinegars really cut through,” he says. “A good squeeze of lemon is great. Good salads need a good balance – that acid and a hearty amount of vegetables to satisfy you. We like to use a bit of quail egg to emulsify that all together and add protein. It coats the salad and dresses it in itself.”
So from baby broad beans and new season beetroot, to fresh spears of asparagus, crisp radishes and blood oranges, here are some of our favourite salads making the most of spring around town. Rabbit food never looked so good.
Claude’s (Woollahra) – So hard to pick just one beautiful salad here, so we’ll give you two: Salad of soft poached egg, oyster cream, shaved button mushroom, sesame seeds and beetroot chips.
Just-baked scallop, lightly steamed leaves of Brussels sprouts, young broad beans, pickled leaves of eschalot and enoki, dressed with cucumber juice, ginger, virgin olive oil and buttermilk.
The Riverview Hotel (Balmain) – Smoked trout, blood orange and Jerusalem artichoke salad, topped with a soft poached quail egg and mustard dressing.
Copo (Drummoyne) – Warm salad of Jerusalem artichoke, mozzarella, radish and mint. Add chicken if you want (but it’s pretty tasty as it is).
Lyons Raw (Drummoyne) – Baby beet, orange and walnut with chiffonnade herbs and toasted sourdough.
Chiswick (Woollahra) – Rosa radish, pickled green tomatoes, goats cheese and basil salad. That’s the wonder of a kitchen garden.
Bread & Circus (Alexandria) – The salads change daily here with half, regular or sharing plates on offer, but our favourite is the shredded mint, kale, savoy and red cabbage with yuzu-dijon-agave dressing. And you can add a bunch of fun stuff if you like, including boiled biodynamic egg, avocado with coriander and olive oil, goats chevre or preservative-free smoked turkey.
Public Dinning Room (Balmoral) – Fresh fig, Binnorie quark, Darling Mills rocket, candied Bangalow sweet pork bacon and aged balsamic.
Wedge Espresso (Glebe) – Asparagus, zucchini, pea, fetta, mint, parsley, rocket, lemon, olive oil and dukkah.
Kitchen By Mike (Rosebery) – There’s a daily changing salad menu here too depending on what’s good at the market, but keep an eye out for the popular cabbage, apple and walnut slaw.
Three Blue Ducks (Bronte) – Quinoa salad with parsley, rocket, and zingy, lively pesto.
Grounds of Alexandria (Alexandria) – Breakfast salad of quinoa rolled soft-boiled eggs with rocket, roast tomatoes and spring asparagus.
Bondi Hardware (Bondi) – Crispy pan-fried haloumi on chunky, vibrant, bready fattoush.