When you work in retail – no matter where or what you’re selling – you come across quite a few of the human variety. Colleagues are always coming and going. The words ‘I won’t be here for long’ get ushered around often. Customers are running in and out of your store and yes, there are regulars but most of the time they’re one offs. It’s a limbo world.
So when I started in retail a year and 3 months ago as a way to cool my head after running around the communications industry, I didn’t expect to make any lifelong friends. In fact, I thought I’d come, do my job, and leave with no attachments. But oh how I was wrong. I become attached easily, you see. I meet someone outside of work, suss out whether we can be BFFs or not and make up my mind as to whether I want to add them to a pool of people I cherish. In the year and a bit I’ve been here, I’ve worked with 150 or so colleagues and I’ve made only a handful of long term friends but none more impactful than one girl: let’s call her Cee (she might get embarrassed if I announce her name to the world – love you!).
You know how there are people that (as clichéd as it sounds it’s true and you know it!) light up the energy of a room and can make you feel special and childlike all over again? Well Cee is all that and more. In fact, we’ve only known each other for just over 6 months and I know I can count on her for anything and she’ll be completely honest with me at all times. When you find a friend like that, hold on and don’t ever let go of that little human. Because it’s certainly not one you’ll make every day.
For my 22nd this year, and keep in mind we both work part time, Cee decided to surprise me with the most memorable dinner at Guillaume in Paddington. For those of you in the know, Guillaume Brahimi – the French chef who rocked the iconic Opera House kitchen of Guillaume at Bennelong – is quite the superstar. French food that is at once traditional and refined, flavoursome yet simple is life-changing. No really, it is.
You walk into the most beautiful, homely dining room with round tables, dimmed lights and tiny vases of fresh hand-picked flowers and you feel like this is FRANCE. It’s a simple set up, with a white-and-grey-walled room with royal blue accents, French windows and gold-lined artworks adorning the space. In front of guests is a main counter and kitchen just to the left of diners. Service is quick-witted yet smooth – the way you’d expect of traditional French waiters. Most had accents too, it was great!
There are two dining choices, the four-course ($145) or a degustation ($175). The four-course is plenty for one, and so we went about choosing what we wanted and waited in awe for what was to come. Our first dish was Oysters with a shallot vinaigrette. I can’t believe I eat oysters now, where’s the squirmy child at? They were glossy and fresh, not needing much of the vinegar to take you to the seaside in one gulp. Now onto the entrees we go! Oh before we do that, let’s talk about le pain! Mmmm that was good bread, straight from Iggy’s and with three types to choose from. Slathered in butter, what more do you need? My entree was the Royale of Globe Artichoke with truffle, barigoule, mud crab. This was something a little unusual and I wasn’t sure how to eat it. The bottom layer was an artichoke purée of sorts, then an assortment of finely chopped vegetables over that and then a little crab and truffle sprinkled on top. It was zingy and creamy all at once, and I’ve never tried truffle before but it was really subtle! I was like ‘where’s that deep-seated truffle flavour everyone goes on about?’ The next course was really spectacular, my second favourite. Yabbies with pine mushroom, hen’s egg, balsamic and brioche was plated ever so delicately, with curls of the crustacean artfully draped alongside a gooey yolk, a sweet/sour hit of balsamic glaze and the squidginess of the fungi. Every tastebud was lighting up in glee the whole time I was eating this.
I should probably mention the amuse bouché as well – the first was some type of cracker that looked like bark with creme fraiche atop, the next was a comforting few spoons of a cream-based soup, the last was the most gorgeous quenelle of mandarin sorbet with yoghurt beneath its mellow hue. The best part of the night is always the main course! As much as I have an insanely badass sweet tooth, mains always trump restaurant desserts purely because they have to hold their own, flaws (flawless) and all. My glistening plate of David Blackmore Full Blood Wagyu with brisket, parsnip, turnip and mustard was an outstanding dish which outshone its predecessors. A large cube of glazed wagyu with a root vegetable purée, a schmear of refreshing mustard and upon the waiter’s arrival, two cute spoonfuls of Paris mash took me straight to my happy place. I’m using superlatives like no tomorrow here, but it’s all worth it I tells ya! I was full and content like a fat little plum by this stage but I couldn’t stop going back. Spoonful after spoonful, the delicate balance of creamy, pungent and smoky was too good. It was around now we were reaching the end of the night and I knew the dessert I had chosen was a lactose bombshell but when in Rome, eat overpriced gelato. Just do it. My dessert – the Valrhona Chocolate with hazelnut, date, banyuls – was the sweetest thing. It arrived with ‘Happy Birthday’ etched on the plate and the deconstruction was like a crown, all tall and elegant. So many layers, textures and levels of sweetness. The mousse was velvet, beneath it a rich chocolate soil and atop a few shards of toffee and crunchy hazelnut pieces. Just yum.
Cee had the most theatrical Passionfruit soufflé, créme anglaise, passionfruit and banana sorbet. That was one good looking soufflé, all puffed up, fruity and silky smooth inside. Almost at the end now, bear with me! After dessert we were approached by a waiter with petit fours options and although I took a chocolate truffle, I really didn’t need more. We had a palate cleansing ginger tea and made our way over to the door, smiling contentedly at such a great night. Just before we departed, we were handed two loaves of perfectly packaged brioche with tiny jars of the darkest red berry jam and with a genuine smile, we were off. What a beautiful way to farewell guests! I’ll be dreaming about the wagyu for a long time indeed..