Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Three Williams, Sydney

Sydney is very, very good at brunch.  Puts San Francisco to shame.  The offerings are vast, creative, and generally, delicious.

On my visit to Sydney in February, I only had one day I could get brunch, as I was working the rest of the time.  I nearly returned to Cuckoo Callay, as it was the best brunch I've had in recent memory (seriously, those fondant pancakes - my review here), but the menu had changed, and there wasn't anything particularly calling out at me.  I also almost returned to Devon Cafe (past review), where there were a few menu items that sounded potentially interesting, plus, they have a new location closer to my hotel.

But in the end, I decided to go somewhere new to me, to check out Three Williams, a place that had been on my list for the past few visits.  The menu had changed since I had put it on my list, but one thing remains consistent.  Everyone raves about the always changing french toast, unlike any other out there, a very unique offering (stay tuned).

So I went.  Alone.  I'm very glad I did.  It was incredible.

The next time I visited Sydney, in July, Three Williams was at the top of my "Must Do" list, and I dragged a co-worker with me.  I couldn't resist the latest french toast.  Its just too amazing.

I will gladly return to Three Williams any time I am in Sydney, and really would like to explore more of the menu ... someday.  As long as they have a new french toast to try, I'm pretty sure I'm incapable of not getting it.

The Space

Three Williams is located in Redfern, down a side street.  At first I thought I might have the wrong address, as I seemed to just be in a residential neighborhood, but then I spied folks milling about on the sidewalk.  Ah yes, a waiting list for brunch.  I knew I was in the right place.

My wait the first time was only about 2 minutes, as I was a solo diner, and it was easy to fit me in.  The second visit was a bit longer, 20 minutes for 2, but still not bad.  On both visits, I arrived right before 12, and that was key.  The queues grew fast after that.
I can't say that Three Williams had great curb appeal.  Or that it felt cozy.  To enter, you go down stairs into what felt a bit like a bunker, with concrete floors.  The walls were brick and plain white.  Really, um, no ambiance whatsoever.
Table Setting.
My table the first visit was rather tiny, which was fine for me alone, but I think even with two people might have been hard to fit many dishes.  Really, not a comfortable place.

On my next visit, we had a bigger table, but not significantly.  The optimize for fitting tables into the not large interior.

Tables were pre-set with menus on wooden boards, salt &pepper shakers, water glasses, and silverware in a cup.

Food & Drink

All my thoughts on the lackluster environment disappeared within a few minutes.  What warmth was missing in the decor was made up for by the staff.  They were friendly and welcoming, really some of the best service I had in Sydney.  

My server was particularly amused that I ventured there solo to order the epic french toast.  She warned me that it was quite large.  She warned me that most people split it with at least one other person.  I nodded, said I understood, but I was alone, and I wanted it.  She laughed and said she liked me, that I was a women who knew what I wanted.

She was right.  I knew what I wanted.  I wanted that french toast.  And I got it.

My order was taken quickly, water delivered within 2 minutes, my food within 10.  I was in and out in 30 minutes on that first visit!

Our second visit had equally good service, a patient server with us taking our time to order.  Food again came within 10-15 minutes of ordering, hot and fresh.  We did linger longer, but, per Australian style, no one bothered us until we asked for the bill.
Truffle Menu (July).
One benefit of visiting Sydney in July, as in, the depths of winter, besides the wonderful hotel rates, is that it is truffle season.  Many restaurants embraced this.

Three Williams had a special truffle menu, alongside the regular menu.

There were some very tempting items on it, like the truffle ice cream sundae that had hazelnut cream, caramel popcorn crumb, gold dust feuilletine, crispearls, hazelnuts, edible flowers, fresh truffle, and chocolate cake.

My dining companion ordered one item from here.
Bottomless Sparkling Water. $4.
Three Williams makes their own sparkling water, presented in a large bottle, left on the table so you can pour yourself.  I was solo, and didn't require a second bottle, but if I had, the menu said "bottomless", so I assume I would have been provided another.

I appreciated the zero waste, I appreciated being able to pour myself, but, $4 for house water did seem a bit steep, and this fee is per person.
Long Black, Decaf (February). $4.50.
I was dining at noon, and had been up since 6am (yay, jetlag!), and let's just say I had already consumed more than my daily allowance of coffee.

But I really wanted a coffee to pair with my upcoming decadent feast.  I didn't order a coffee when I ordered my meal, but strategically planned to order one after 5-10 minutes, so perhaps it would arrive when the food would, rather than before, and thus run out.   I observed how long coffee orders took for tables around me, and it was quite quick, so, this seemed like a good move.

My food however did come a bit faster than I expected, so, doh, I hadn't yet ordered the coffee when my food arrived.  I quickly ordered it then, and it arrived fast enough, so, crisis averted.

Anyway.  It was actually very good decaf.  It had body and flavor, low acidity, not harsh, no funk ... very good, and, it turned out, yes, just as necessary as I thought it would be to pair alongside my sweet dessert, er, brunch.
Long Black, Decaf (July). $4.50.
My second visit was much the same as my first.  Jetlag had ensured I was up at 5am (!), so I had long since had my fill of coffee as my visit was at noon.  I was already 7 hours into my day!  But still, I knew french toast would need a strong bitter compliment, so I ordered a decaf long black again, this time, ordered at the time of the meal, but I asked to have it arrive closer to my food.

The food came before it, but, it did come soon after, so this technique worked.

It was again a good decaf, very strong, but no strange decaf badness to it.  And again, it was exactly what I wanted alongside my french toast.
Golden Gaytime French Toast (February). $18.
"Crunchy brioche french toast, house vanilla ice cream rolled in a chocolate cookie crumb, chocolate crisps, fresh strawberry, toffee sauce."

Um, wow.  That is about all I can say about this.  

I knew everyone said the french toast, no matter what the seasonal creation is at the time, is spectacular, the best they have ever had.  I read so many reviews, and heard so many testimonies from local friends, that I had high expectations.  And I had Instagram stocked it.  I knew what it would look like. I knew what people said about it.

And it still blew me away.

I'll go ahead and join the ranks of people who say this is some of the best french toast on the planet.  Wower.

I was slightly daunted by the size when it was set down in front of me, a solo diner though.  The slice of toast was no standard slice of toast, in any dimension.  It was quite lofty, and very long.  One slice was, uh, plenty.

It also was daunting just in how stunning it was.  The ice cream was perfectly perched on top, perfectly round, rolled in the crunchy feuilletine based chocolate cookie crumb.  The fresh strawberries were laid out on top deliberately around the ice cream scoop.  Crispy bits were everywhere, yet in an entirely controlled way, with eye catching freeze dried strawberries adding color that mirrored that of the fresh berries.  The toffee sauce coated the plate, but didn't ooze out anywhere it shouldn't.  Seriously, amazing plating.

I dug in.  One bite was all it took for me to realize that it lived up to the hype, lived up to its looks, and then some.

The french toast was fluffy and light inside, yet amazingly crispy on the outside.  The feuilletine coating added such great crunchy texture.  It wasn't eggy, which is always something that makes me rarely order french toast, rather, it was soaked just to give it moisture, and not take away from the flavor.  It was piping hot.  This dish did not sit in the kitchen waiting for someone to bring it to me at all.  Very clearly freshly prepared and whisked to my side.  Really, the french toast itself was a thing of beauty.

And then, the ice cream.  It too was clearly just barely done to order, it somehow hadn't melted, at all, even though it was 80 degrees out, and it was perched on the hot french toast.  The ice cream was rich, creamy, and really did have vanilla flavor, not just plain.  Very quality ice cream, and I loved the extra crunch from the cookie crumble it was rolled in.  It paired perfectly with the french toast, and I managed to make each and every bite have a little ice cream with each bite of french toast.

And then, the berry elements.  I actually didn't like the fresh strawberries on top, as they were a bit tart and not the ripest.  But the freeze dried strawberry bits scattered around were fabulous, intense pops of berry flavor to brighten everything up, both visually and in taste.  Strawberries have nothing to do with Golden Gaytimes obviously, but, I appreciated the addition.

The rest of the rubble was equally welcome, more cookie crumble, and little chocolate crispearls.  So much crunch and texture here.  They just nailed the eating experience, providing plenty, but not overwhelming.  (Side note: do you know crispearls?  I adore these things.  I have jars of the salted caramel and white chocolate ones at my desk.  Pastry chefs use them as a garnish all the time, but for me?  Amazing snack.   I eat them by the handful.  Crispy, sweet, and just awesome).

And then, the toffee sauce.  Sweet, gooey, rich toffee.  I didn't think I'd eat it all.  I love toffee, but, the french toast really didn't need it.  And yet ... guess who found herself close to licking the plate?  Yeah, this girl.  Every. Last. Drop.  It was wonderful.

This was a home run in every department.  Presentation.  Execution.  Flavors.  Textures.  Everything.  

That said, even though I did manage to finish it myself (I know, I know), I would recommend splitting it, either as a dessert after having savory items for lunch, or at least alongside something else for brunch.  It was incredible, and it didn't ever get old or one note, but, it was a lot for one person, even one who loves things like this as much as I do.

I'd love to try more of their french toasts.  I'd love to try more of their food in general.  I'd love for them to add ice cream sundaes to the menu.
  Ruby and Rose French Toast (July). $18.
"Crunchy brioche french toast, rose cream cheese, house churned white chocolate ice cream, macadamia, white chocolate, fresh raspberries, raspberry jelly, raspberry coulis."

The seasonal french toast this time was the "Ruby and Rose".  I'll admit that the flavor wasn't one I was as interested in, but, I clearly still had to try it.

The concept was exactly the same as the Golden Gaytime version.  The base, a brioche coated in feuilletine to make it extra crunchy.  Sitting in a pool of sauce (this time, raspberry coulis and rose cream cheese, rather than caramel).  Topped with a huge scoop of house made ice cream (white chocolate rather than simple vanilla this time).  Ice cream rolled in a coating (this time with a macadamia and white chocolate crust, rather than chocolate cookie and feuilletine).  Garnished with crunchy things (macadamia, white chocolate, freeze dried raspberry, instead of chocolate crispearls, chocolate cookie, and freeze dried strawberry).  Topped with more fruit (fresh raspberries instead of strawberries).

Same formula, just entirely different ingredients.  And just as well executed.

The toast itself was again a massive slice, in every dimension.  Lofty, thick, huge, not from any normal size load of bread.  It was again not eggy at all, and really, calling it "french toast" is a bit odd, as it doesn't resemble any other french toast.  I again loved the crispy coating and crunch it added.

The toast is good, but really, this thing is all about the other components.

The rose cream cheese is the lighter pink schmear on the plate.  There was much more than you can see here.  It was very, very subtle rose flavored, slightly sweet, good cream cheese flavor.  It combined really nicely with the raspberry and white chocolate, bringing an almost cheesecake-like element to the dish.

The raspberry coulis was the other sauce, a sweet berry sauce, intensely raspberry flavored in a shocking way, good for running a chunk of toast through, en route to the ice cream.

The ice cream was the stunner of this dish.  The last one just had vanilla ice cream, but this was white chocolate, and it was fabulous.  Creamy, sweet, amazing white chocolate flavor.  It melted perfectly too.  I loved the ice cream, particularly with the crunchy coating of more bits of white chocolate and macadamia.  Such wonderful flavors together.

More raspberry was found on top of the toast, a raspberry jelly, that I really liked.  Sweet, fruity, a chewy texture, and again, just perfect flavor combo with the macadamia and white chocolate.  The fresh berries were my least favorite part, just kinda out of season berries.  I see why they included them though.

And finally, the crunch, bits of macadamia, white chocolate, and freeze dried raspberries.  The crunch not only coated the ice cream, but also was strewn onto the plate.  The crunch really completed the deal, adding amazing texture to everything.  Plus, pops of white chocolate sweetness never hurt.

The ingredients here really, really worked together.  I was a bit shocked to be honest just how well the flavors worked.  The ice cream alone was very sweet (hello, white chocolate!), as was the raspberry coulis, but when you put this all together, it was ideal balance.

So again, Three Williams nailed it.  Great flavors, great textures, perfect execution.  Their are famous for the french toasts for a reason.  I did prefer the Golden Gaytime version, but that is only because I just like toffee more than raspberry.  I was still thrilled with this dish.

One thing to note though.  I loved it, but, I again found the serving size just too large.  I can take down a dessert single handed no problem, and I have a fairly insatiable sweet tooth, but I realized that I just didn't appreciate the last 40% of this dish.  I honestly think I'd be happier with it being 2/3 the size, even if the same price.  My overall enjoyment would actually be higher, as that last third really pushed me over the edge to a point where I was too uncomfortably full.  I'm not capable of leaving something I love unfinished, so I did finish, but, less happy.  I know I could just leave it unfinished but ... ahhh.

Really, I guess they expect everyone to go in groups and share.
Duck Narnie. $18.
"Peking duck, cabbage, cucumber, spring onion, coriander, fried eschalot, orange hoisin."

My dining companion got one of the signature narnies, aka, a naan sandwich.  I had been eyeing these on Instagram (ok, who am I kidding, I'm eyeing basically the entire menu), so I was happy to see one in real life.  It was not a dainty little sandwich, and it certainly was not designed for easy eating.

It was kinda fun watching him try to figure out how to tackle it.  He clearly couldn't pick it up, at least, not from the start, as the contents were spilling out everywhere.  Let's just say, it was generously stuffed.

He enjoyed it, and said the duck in particular was really quite good.

Sometime I want to go with a group, and try one of these as a savory bite before moving on to my french toast (which, I really do want to split!)
Truffle Fries. $22.
"Waffle fries, three cheese sauce, fresh truffle, chives."

My companion also ordered the truffle fries, from the special truffle menu.  I think ... he thought he was just getting a side with his sandwich.  Which, makes sense, if you aren't an Instagram stalker, and don't realize just how large the portions are Three Williams are of any of the dishes.  A sandwich served a la carte without any sides, makes sense to want some fries.  Some fries, not generally an entree.  But this plate of truffle fries was really an entree.  Seriously, one person could order this as an entree, and still not finish.  Really, clearly designed to be shared with at least a group of 4.  Why didn't our server warn us?

Anyway.  I helped him out a little, even though I don't like waffle fries, and I had my hands full with my french toast.  How could I resist cheese sauce and truffles?

The waffle fries were crispy on the outside, moist inside, seasoned.  Good basic waffle fries, and just not my thing.

The cheese sauce was tasty though, creamy, good flavor, nicely coating the fries.  And the truffles of course were wonderful, plenty to add lots of flavor.

Overall, sure, I appreciated a little cheese sauce and truffle, but, this isn't something I'd ever order.  And at $22, it was our most pricy order.

My dining companion tried valiantly to make a dent in this mound of fries, and really did like them.
Three Williams Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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