After indulging in some day spa action downstairs in The Langham’s star-lit underground swimming pool, we ventured to the surface of this boutique 96-room property to check out their latest restaurant offering. Kitchens on Kent is an upmarket hotel buffet, where they have spared no expense on the cultivation of your comfort.
The plural in the name comes from the presence of multiple different chef stations, allowing you to eat cooked-to-order dishes rather than the usual row of cloche-covered dishes sitting over a bain-marie.
Australian buffet has really taken a giant leap forward to where it can now deliver a piping hot garlic naan plucked directly from the tandoor and placed directly onto your plate. This buffet has a bit more of a boutique feel, like wandering in an upmarket food court, trying to decide between Indian and noodles, except here you’re able to avoid making such arduous decisions.
My dining companion dabbles in a rogan josh curry that’s nicely aromatic with long tender strands of lamb, before moving over to the Italian kitchen. Here you’ll find slightly less successful pizza, easily bettered by bowls of silky, paper-thin pappardelle intertwined with a bright, cherry tomato-dotted lamb ragu.
In between these two stations there is an Asian kitchen turning out stir-fried noodle dishes, fronted by an array of bamboo steamer-baskets all housing dumplings, and a tray full of freshly made bao with a variety of fillings.
As for me, I’m a buffet traditionalist at heart, and usually attend to eat my body weight in cold seafood. You’ll find the attractively arranged cold bar set off to the side from the hot food stations, decorated with artfully arranged fishes resting on ice.
There are four sides of pleasure to this counter, though my eye is immediately caught by the sliced-to-order sashimi counter.
Here you can nominate your pleasure, or hit up everything as I did, including raw scallops, kingfish, salmon, octopus, cooked prawns and egg. My only complaint is the chopsticks are too crude to easily pick up some of the slender sashimi cuts this station delivers.
Making your way around the raw bar you’ll find nori rolls, nigiri sushi, prawn-topped chirashi bowls and all the accoutrements you need to make it great – wasabi, soy, pickled ginger and miso soup you ladle out yourself.
The other end of the cold bar is given over to mounds of fresh seafood.
Cold mussels, tiny shucked Sydney rock oysters, split Balmain bugs, king prawns and roughly broken up spanner crabs are all yours for the taking.
And take them I do, plate after plate of my favourite crustaceans, with small sauce bowls of seafood sauce for the bugs, and vinaigrette for the oysters, and fresh lemon segments for everything else. It goes down a treat with our 2017 Giant Steps Chardonnay ($90/bottle) from the Yarra Valley.
While there are booze packages to be had that allow you to rotate through whites and reds from a particular region, I wasn’t sure we’d get through much more than a bottle in our two-hour setting and have space to do the food justice.
The final side of the cold bar is a very attractive looking salad section, where you can create your own Caesar salad, and top it with hard-boiled eggs, smoked salmon or charcuterie. It all looked great, but ain’t nobody got time for salad when there's suckling pig to be devoured.
The final hot station is a Japanese robata grill and carvery. You can either get stuck into the three roast selections on offer for immediate eating, or you can order wagyu at the butcher’s counter and watch it contorting on the robata grill over charcoal while you wait for it.
I broke with my all-seafood diet to enjoy a slice of suckling pig, roast pork with crackling, and a lovely slab of strip loin that just lacked for seasoning… well it did until I found the salt station and got my own pot of truffled salt.
What I particularly liked about the Kitchens on Kent buffet is how it was staffed. Where a chef is necessary – like at the sashimi counter – there is one. Where a chef is not necessary, like at the cheese station, you can help yourself as you see fit. This basically means you can create weird combinations (like cheese and crustaceans) without feeling anyone is judging you.
If you can draw your eyes away from the Willy Wonka-esque dessert station, the cheeses are impressive. There’s a golden Mon Pere brie and a Fourme d'Ambert semi-hard blue cheese from France, local Mountain Man washed rind and a slightly too dry hunk of cloth-aged Maffra cheddar. My favourite is the oozing, perfectly ripe Le Marquis Chevre du Pelussin goat’s cheese from the village of Pelussin in the Rhone Valley of south-eastern France.
Throw in all the cracker styles a cheese board fetishist can dream of, plus cubes of quince paste, marmalade with plenty of peel, and dried or fresh fruit to really set it off.
Cheese is only going to be interesting if you can drag your eyes away from the dessert bar, and even for a savoury-focussed seafood eater like me, it was difficult. Decorated with chocolate sculptures the inhouse chocolatier created earlier in the day, it’s a pretty spectacular space.
My eyes were instantly caught by the ice cream counter, where your selection of ice creams and sorbets can be topped with anything your heart desires. It should appeal to your inner child if your parent ever told you that there WAS such a thing as too much topping.
With cascading milk chocolate and strawberry chocolate fountains, there’s no such thing as too much topping here. Grab a bowl, pick your poison, and arrange a wreath of marshmallows, pretzels (genius) and fresh fruit around it, then dip to your heart's content.
Though it isn’t exactly recommended, the tart fresh pineapple is very good digestive aid, even if you do smother it in liquid chocolate.
While I don’t want to spoil your sense of discovery, there’s everything from mini pavlovas, to countless tiny cakes, before you get to bigger things like thick slices of green tea and cherry roulade.
The tiny pavlova I chose was a bit on the dense and chewy side.
Don’t neglect the hot dessert station; turning out two different puddings on the evening I dined. Their bread and butter pudding topped off with a dreamy crème Anglais was my favourite, though it needed to be served hotter. My dining companion’s selection – a made-to-order crepe with lemon and sugar – might be simple but it proved the best way to cap off a wide ranging and interesting take on a hotel buffet dinner.
Floor staff are attentive and friendly, equally comfortable clearing plates efficiently as they are giving wider recommendations (like where to go in Bordeaux, as the newlyweds on the next table asked our French waitress). While this meal did set us back $108/person for dining on a Sunday evening, it was still easy to leave feeling like you got a quality experience for your spend.
Kitchens on Kent
The Langham, Sydney
89-113 Kent Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 8248 5220