Here at Time Out, we have a long held soft spot for eccentricity. Eccentricity leads to incredible art, out-side-the-box creativity, opulent gastronomy and, as it turns out, 30 year old heritage listed architecture. Allow us to explain.
Established in 1870, Glebe's Saint John's Bishopthorpe was erected as stunning gothic-style sandstone church, with all the stained glass, arched windows and convict-chipped sandstone bricks you'd expect of the era. What you might not expect, however, is that after the church was gutted by fire and left in ruin in the 80s, an eccentric dentist and Glebe local would take 11 years digging out the garden of his home and moving those blocks, brick by brick, to create a purpose-built subterranean restaurant in his own yard. The result? A heritage listed building that's stood for less than half a century.
For years, the space at 134 Glebe Point road was occupied by Darling Mills, an early pioneer in Sydney's farm-to-plate movement, and nowadays, it's home to Beckett's.
Chef Jeff Schroeter (Bayswater Brasserie, Bistro Moncur) has teamed up with playwright and director Wendy Beckett to create an all-class French brasserie with all the design and flair of a mid-century Paris or New York bistro. White-clothed tables, low lighting provided by table lamps, smooth curved bar and even a grand piano tinkling away romantic tunes, in tandem with blackened slate flooring, a few palms and olive-green velvet curtains make for a very grown up affair.
The menu is staunchly French, and unflinchingly features escargots en cocotte (that's baked snail pie for those who weren't paying attention at school); bouillabaisse of market fish, crustaceans, saffron and tomato with garlic-heady rouille; strawberry poached foie gras; and even Dijon roasted wagyu rump served with pommes dauphinoise, king brown mushroom, and truffled Perigueux sauce. Once you've taken in all of those syllables it's time to focus on where to begin and importantly, what to drink with it.
World-class bartender Charlie Ainsbury (This Must be the Place, Proof & Company Singapore) and sommelier Sasha Siljanovic (Nomad, Spice Temple, St Isidore) have also joined the team, creating a classics-driven cocktail menu featuring Ainsbury's new Beckett's Martini made with Widges gin and Mancino Secco, and a wine list that showcases an assortment of international and domestic wines, leaning toward the natural side. You'll need some time to read this veritable bible but when in church...
Beetroot cured trout with pickled fennel and celery may not be an obvious choice when in such an intense and borderline oppressive setting, but take advantage of its light elegance before the heavy hitters come for mains. Perfectly seasoned and genius in its simplicity, the rich oils from the fish mingling with a flourish of fruity olive oil can hold its own if you're ramping up for blushing-pink Mareema duck breast; duck l'orange cleverly veiled with a less descriptive title. It needn't be hidden though, this relic of the 1980s. We admire a restaurant that leans in so hard that to make fun of it would be impossible, and, when the salt-brined duck, in tandem with sweet pistachio shards, counters the sharp and bitter citrus so splendidly, why would you?
Generous portions may not be the name of the game but we're not sure that would be the point of a venue like Beckett's. This is the perfect sort of spot for an anniversary, a sophisticated business meeting, or a special catch up, and leaves just enough room for a shared dessert or even a quick post-dinner cocktail at the Different Drummer just across the road.