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  • Writer's pictureChanel Belej

The Magic Behind Chef Nelly Robinson’s Disney-Themed Menu at NEL Restaurant, Sydney – Interview


INTERVIEW


On a level of feeling satiated to completely mesmerised, NEL – much like the latter– well surpasses good. Sitting down for a fine dining menu sure has its perks, but with a Disney twist may I add, we enter a whole new world. Of course, during our visit, Alladin did work its way into the setlist – including several classic tracks that provided the perfect ambience.  Intrigued? The underground venue in Sydney’s CBD provides a spot for inquisitive diners to wander down where they’re welcomed to a dimly lit space. Your focus immediately shifts to the open kitchen, where Chef Nelly Robinson and his team prepare the next chapter of a dining experience.


All imagery provided by NEL.



Nelly began his culinary career at 14 and was the first to complete an apprenticeship at Michelin-starred Northcote Manor. He gained global experience in Michelin-star restaurants before opening NEL at 29, establishing himself as a top chef in Australia with a loyal following. Nelly has cooked for notable events worldwide, including for Queen Elizabeth II, and received multiple accolades, including being a finalist in the Chef of the Year Gault & Millau 2017 Award and ranking among the top chefs globally.


After I hand my coat over to the cloakroom, I am guided to my seat while I peruse the tables at which diners take their first bite of what looks somewhat foreign for a city like Sydney. I scan the menu: Once Upon a Time - Chapter 5, starting with ‘Lucky Cricket’, followed by several wine pairings before receiving ‘The Glass Slipper’. Go with the classic pairing (incl. wines) for $185PP, or dine without alcohol at $85PP. As my guest arrived, I felt compelled to spill the tea, but our waiter insisted we receive a thorough introduction of the culinary journey that ensued.


Dish known as Arendelle - Cured ocean trout, Green Apple, Rye, Elderflower, topped with 'Dill Snow'

When a pile of caviar mimics soil beneath a forest tree – and trout a cluster of anemones, I did much more than close my eyes once the flavours had registered; the literal gastronomic scenes we were immersed in, are truly something everyone should experience in their lifetime. While this phenomenal menu is designed for a limited time only, the concepts put in play at NEL are nothing short of exquisite - simply peep Chef Nelly’s portfolio below, it is rather jaw-dropping.




After indulging until our heart’s content, it was without a question I spoke to the man orchestrating said feast.



Left: A Fine Kettle of Fish

Right: Make a Wish


1) How long did it take you to craft the Disney menu, to the very last detail?


We do the menu in stages, we plan the 11 courses with a general idea of the story and the character or scene from the movie, then we will go into the kitchen and start playing with ingredients and ideas. We will then look and order props if we need for the dishes. Altogether, it takes up to around 8 weeks to create.


2) Were there any challenges or barriers during the production process that you had to overcome?


From my perspective, our main challenge was ensuring that the dishes on our Disney menu maintained the same high standards of quality and consistency as our regular offerings. Our restaurant prides itself on delivering exceptional culinary experiences, and we didn't want the Disney-themed menu to overshadow that with gimmicks. Our focus has always been on flavour, and we were determined not to let that get lost amidst any extra embellishments. To achieve this, we rigorously taste-test the dishes before adding any additional flair.


3) What inspired you to create a Disney-themed menu?


Like many people worldwide, I have a deep love for Disney films. I also have what some might call a "Peter Pan Syndrome" – a reluctance to grow up. So, when it came to creating a menu, I wanted it to resonate with people of all ages and capture the spirit of fun and adventure that Disney embodies.


4) What would you say your favourite dish is for flavour, and then your favourite dish to create?


One of my favorite dishes on the menu is the Cruella de Vil dish featuring earthy mushroom soup and ricotta gnocchi. It's a hearty and satisfying option that really hits the spot. Another standout is the edible Banana, inspired by banoffee pie. We had a blast putting this dish together, focusing on packing as much flavour as possible into each bite-sized banana so that it bursts with deliciousness in your mouth.


INTERVIEW END



Left: De Vil

Right: King Louie


While it’s rude to pick a favourite, tasting ‘black butter’ – otherwise known as The Masked Seleton – took me by a delightful surprise, before melting right onto the palette.


The Masked Skeleton

After 11 indulgent moments, it was safe to say I felt like a kid sitting in front of a Disney film. The irony the dishes bring with their complex flavours and impeccable presentation, is a testament to the art Chef Nelly and his team produce. See for yourself - for you never know which delectable scene from Chapter 5 will make its return.



Address: 75 Wentworth Avenue, Sydney NSW 2000 | Website: https://www.nelrestaurant.com.au/the-nel-experience | Phone: +02 9212 2206 | Email: info@nelrestaurant.com.au | Instagram: @nelrestaurant | Facebook: Nel Restaurant



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