Sydney’s nel. will serve a theatrical eight-course menu throughout December. Its English head chef and owner Nelly Robinson tells us all about his unique take on the traditional Christmas menu.
Are you getting a bit Heston Blumenthal on us with a bone marrow candle?
It doesn’t matter if you’re four or 34, you still get that excitement in your body when it’s Christmas Eve. We want you to come into nel. and feel that, so we’re going to have a Christmas tree in the middle of the table for the first course that has snacks that you pick off.
Continuing through the menu, each course is a story; the [edible candle made from roast chicken fat and bone marrow] represents Silent Night – it reminds me of candles in a window when carol singers come to your door; then there are chestnuts on an open fire; and a shrimp on the barbie as a nod to an Australian Christmas.
How do you develop the theatrical items on the menu?
We started talking about the marrow candlestick four months ago; then we had to source wicks that were going to burn right; then we had to find candlestick holders that we could dip bread into without sauce flowing over the table – we found these black candlestick holders from Dorset, the type you’d see Ebenezer Scrooge walking around with at night – it took a month to find 20 of them.
We’ve been testing the fat for a few months so that it doesn’t melt too quickly, but it’s cold enough by the end of the meal to be used as butter. When it arrives at the table – you’ll see it but you won’t realise that it’s taken four months to put together!
Tell us about Your edible wrapping paper idea?
We all sat there thinking how can we make Christmas different, and we started off by listing what it’s all about: Christmas trees, holly… Jason our pastry chef said ‘wrapping paper, I’m having that one’, so he designed this tempered chocolate dessert and then found that you can actually get an imprint of Christmas paper, which will get delivered from France.
He’s going to get his chocolate tempered onto that and it’s coloured too so it looks like actual wrapping paper, underneath it’s going to be flavours of a black forest gateaux, because Christmas for me is cherries and chocolate.