Hidden behind what can only be described as a digital image building wall is the Spice Temple. For passers by going about their day the Spice Temple could be easily missed if it wasn’t for the menu on one panel and the words ‘Push to Enter’ on the black and digital image wall which in fact is the cleverly portrayed entrance door.
Upon pushing the heavy panel door we are led down a fire escape set of plain grey winding stairs and are immediately greeted by welcome spices and fragrances that make us want to take in an even deeper sniff and satisfy our hungry growling stomach.
After carefully finding our way down we find ourselves standing by the modern and iconic bar surrounded by high stools whilst the sound of cocktail shakers being shaken greet us as magnificent and truly appetising and sensational cocktails are being made to order by skilled bartenders.
A waitress soon leads us to a private room separated by long dangling beads and we take our seats around a large square table with a spinning round centre as we wait for the rest of our colleagues to join us.
The room is kept plain yet modern with black and red the dominant colours with pictures of Asian women with long hair on the walls. The darkness provides a mysterious sense, with round globes above us providing some much needed light. The main restaurant is even darker with the sound of hungry diners eating and chatting, whilst the clatter of plates are heard as they are taken away swiftly by the waiting staff.
Whilst we wait we peruse the drinks list and cocktail menu which has been designed around the Chinese Zodiac signs and draws upon aromatic herbs, fragrant spices and tea. Dragon, Rabbit and Dog – they’re all there and I decided to share the Pig cocktail with my colleague as we both have a passion for lychee and this cocktail sounded wonderfully refreshing. Comprising lychee and rose bud tea, lychee liqueur, pisco, cava sparkling wine, this cocktail is only served as carafe and is large enough to be shared by two or three. You could however enjoy this all to yourself!
The food at Spice Temple is designed to be shared and our large group of 12 meant we would be trying plenty of dishes – hooray! Described as being the cornerstone of truly beautiful Asian cooking, Spice Temple’s culinary focus is regional China, and spice and chilli abounds.
Conveniently, the hottest dishes are printed in red so chilli lovers like myself are automatically drawn to them, whilst those with a lower tolerance to heat can easily avoid them! We are greeted by a wealth of dishes from cold and hot entrees to Dumplings and Noodle dishes; seafood dishes including Live From The Tank to Pork, Poultry, Beef and Lamb. Of course, vegetarians are not forgotten with a range of vegetables and there are a number of rice dishes too.
To keep our hunger at bay we order a few dishes to start with including a variety of dumplings which are one of my favourite dishes and were gone in a flash! With only three serves per bamboo holder this wasn’t hard! I particularly enjoyed the Prawn Wontons and Prawn and Scallop Siu Mai which were firm, but succulent with a generous amount of prawn. The Tea Smoked half duck with mandarin pancakes were equally as popular, served with the finely chopped spring onions and cucumber with that beautiful and ever moreish hoi sin sauce. The duck certainly flew off the table.
For those who call themselves serious chilli lovers, you cannot come to Spice Temple without trying the Hot and numbing dry Wagyu beef. Printed in red, we were told this is one of the hottest dishes on the menu and this dish truly was mouth numbing. After having one small mouthful, my mouth and throat was on fire, with a burning dry type heat that makes you want to gulp down that glass of water, but you know that water will not put out this fire! I quickly reached for some noodles instead which provided some much needed calmness and temporary relief!
If you enjoy trying slightly more unusual dishes then Spice Temple does not disappoint. We ordered the Salt and Pepper Veal Sweetbreads which actually tasted just like soft chicken and was much more favourable than the last time I had sweetbreads due to it being coated in salt and pepper crumbs. I actually went back for more of this dish which surprised me! We also ordered the Fried Tripe which as far as tripe goes was one of the better ones I’ve tasted, but not my favourite dish!
As I love pork belly, we had to try out the Hunan style pork belly with fresh and dried chillies, snake beans and mushroom soy. The pork belly was well rendered and extremely crispy, yet succulent inside, whilst the snake beans and mushrooms added some freshness to the dish – with more chilli if you required!
The Crispy Chow Mein dish and Yellow Noodles were served in large bowls allowing you to serve yourself and helped to soak up all that chilli, whilst helped to fill us up. These are extremely generous portions and would need to be shared with a large group.
I was surprised by how many hot dishes there were on the menu and the Stir Fried Wagyu Brisket was also another favourite of mine, which fell apart with ease!
We were here for a good few hours at least and by the time we finished we were all stuffed to the brim. I was starting to think how I would make it up all of those steps without rolling back down again!
It’s easy to see why Neil Perry’s Spice Temple restaurant has won so many awards, the food is simply stunning, perfectly presented and combines beautiful and fresh ingredients and flavours to create subtle flavoursome dishes alongside fiery masterpieces. Part of the much acclaimed Rockpool Group of restaurants, the latest awards for Spice Temple include 2016 Two Hats from the Good Food Guide, whilst was ranked number 44 restaurant in the Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards 2015.
One of the finer dining restaurants in Sydney, Spice Temple is the perfect place to come to celebrate a special occasion. Make sure you are smartly dressed though whilst it’s best to book ahead, particularly if there are a few of you.