The realisation of talent is often triggered by the applied composite of a Chef’s food journey and experiences. Sometimes, however it is simply undeniable from the first time one of their plates is placed in front of you. I first encountered Julie Niland’s exceptional insight as a Pastry chef at Sixpenny, which sensibly allowed her the creative space to express and explore her imaginative vision. No surprise then that the sour lemon with citrus leaves, honey mead sorbet with bitter cocoa, and Jersey milk ice-cream with burnt butter, all wowed in Stanmore. Her evolution in the pastry section at Marque, with subsequent stages at The Fat Duck and Waterside Inn, were clearly an integral part of Julie Niland’s development, marking the arrival of one of the most talented prodigies in Sydney pastry kitchens.
Working at three hat “est.”, the culinary pinnacle of The Merivale Group, provides Chef Julie Niland with a wonderful opportunity to showcase three desserts as part of “March into Merivale’s The Sweet Spot”, held over six nights. Talented partner Josh Niland (Head Chef at the Woods) makes a cameo to assist in plating up at Lorraine’s Patisserie, a lovely intimate space converted for diners, that encourages interaction with the showcased Chef of the night.
Egg custard ice cream, milk bun, passion fruit and yeast caramel
The egg custard ice cream is light and heavenly in texture, while carrying a background richness that is entirely moreish; a perfect foil for the fried sugar dusted milk bun. Initially I found the dessert a fraction too sweet, but the passionfruit and yeast caramel added some tartness and depth. Finished with a lingering hint of nutmeg, it gets The Sweet Spot off to a promising, and rather playful, start.
Chocolate moon cake with lemon whip and native mint
Perhaps not a traditional moon cake; but who cares about semantics when it is elevated to this level. Sharp sour lemon whip cuts across the rich intense chocolate like a knife, with punchy native mint as a counterpoint, and crystallised chocolate for texture. Individually, the primary components are quite assertive, but together they exist in perfect harmony, which ultimately is ‘the name of the game’.
Iced rhubarb with ginger cream, raspberries and sorrel yoghurt sorbet
A nice cleansing finish is desirable, which is exactly what is delivered. A very subtle sorrel yoghurt sorbet with an absolute sublime texture and refreshing iced rhubarb, and delicate ginger cream is polished off by the entire table in record time. Lovely presentation and execution is the perfect way to finish a fascinating flight of desserts.
With Philippa Sibley, Lorraine Godsmark, Katrina Kanetani, and Jane Strode at the forefront of pastry for what seems like an eternity, it is refreshing that a bold new talent in Julie Niland is emerging. With her own unique and exciting style that counterpoints imaginative sweet and sour components, to achieve balance and harmony in her challenging desserts. The fundamentals established in some of the world’s finest restaurants, and involvement with cutting edge projects like the “TOYS” collective, have positioned her perfectly at such an early stage in her development. I look forward in anticipation to what the next five to ten years delivers from one of the brightest young stars in Sydney pastry. Refreshingly, Julie Niland’s focus and humility will ensure that potential is fully realised.