The Dali of desserts

March 2008

According to a wonderful book I'm still reading (A Late Dinner by Paul Richardson, Bloomsbury - I'll review it on the site soon), the whole modern Spanish food business began in San Sebastian in 1975. Since then, it has found a high priest, Ferran Adriá of el Bulli at a place called Roses on the Costa Brava. He's the bloke French chef Joel Robuchon pronounced 'the best cook on the planet'. That was just before Adriá told the world that French cooking was dead.

Recently, I ate a dessert cooked by the Adriá of pastry chefs, Oriol Balaguer. He flew into Sydney, cabbed it to Tetsuya's and cooked three sensational desserts and gave a demo. The whole meal was superb, but his desserts - well, they're hardly your common garden puds. Just one example - orange sorbet with olive oil, honey jelly and Pedro Ximenez jelly - was a mardi gras for the mouth. He's picked up a few awards: Best Spanish Restaurant Pastry Chef, Best Spanish Handmade Pastry Master and Best Dessert in the World.

His desserts combine the sweet, the savoury and the salty in a way I've only tasted once before, and that was a fruit gazpacho from an earlier-generation modern Spanish chef, Pedro Subijana from Akellare in San Sebastian. But Oriol's stuff was much further along the road to madness. You can try his chocolates or the Sydney cake he created here (we didn't get that) by calling the concierge at the Park Hyatt Hotel (9241 1234) or by calling importer Javier Degen (The Spanish Pantry 9690 2369). Javier has copies of a book that any young pastry chef would kill for. 

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