Published in the Bondi View and City News.
John Ralley’s tattooed guns give him a bit of a rock star edge; which is just what he is at 27 years of age, in the upper echelons of Sydney’s pastry scene. His journey began back in 2002, at Gumnut Patisserie in Bowral. Since then he’s built mad skills in baking, plating and dessert making, on the world pastry competition circuit, even cooking alongside sweet-art, bad boy, Adriano Zumbo.
I caught up with John in his latest role at Manta Restaurant & Bar on another grey summer's day. Listening to him talk about what he’ll bring to an already indulgent seafood restaurant brightened the day immeasurably. John tends to oscillate between patisseries and restaurants, but he prefers restaurants because he gets to “do every process from start to finish.” Trust me when I tell you his desserts have a lot of processes.
To John, “presentation is everything” so he sets out to “make something look as good as it can.” If you’re worried about flavour, tickle your taste buds on his pre-dessert of salted caramel, popcorn and popcorn sherbet. Salt’s all the rage in Sydney desserts right now. Thank goodness, because thanks to this savoury style, my husband is now properly indoctrinated in the pleasures of a good dessert!
My Tonka Bean and Passionfruit Semifreddo ($16) is just as Ralley promised: “fresh, frozen and creamy.” It’s a perfect post-coital two-fork tango – a delicate passionfruit cigar caught in an intricate web of chocolate, surrounded by flavour bombs of freeze dried raspberries and a dressing of mint and Grand Marnier that ties it all together.
Even more stirring is the Textures of Amedei Dark Chocolate and Piedmont Hazelnut ($18). This sculptural masterpiece begs to be deconstructed slowly, savouring every taste, texture and tonality of Tuscany’s chocolate pride and joy.
When I arrived, I wondered what dessert could match Manta’s seafood excellence; now I know.