Imagine you’re in the sweet spot of a Venn diagram of dining. You sit at the central meeting point of three elements of food and drink, and cherry pick the best bits. That’s the concept of The Ternary in Pyrmont, Sydney.
Tucked away behind the veil of the Novotel Darling Harbour and deep in the backstreets of Pyrmont, you’ll find The Ternary.
At first you wonder why a high-end restaurant like this would want to be stashed away here. Yes, it’s close to Darling Harbour, but it’s not on the main drag of the tourist foot traffic.
True, Pyrmont is a burgeoning city suburb, filling with great places to eat and drink, but The Ternary isn’t exactly in plain sight. Only a discreet sign just off the path tells you that The Ternary is here.
However, once you weave your way through the entrance, past a concierge desk and up an escalator, you realise why it’s here.
The views out over the city, across the water and down onto Darling Harbour are unprecedented.
You’re not expecting it.
Nor are you expecting this light, airy space with its double-height ceilings and huge windows. And the further you walk into the restaurant, the notion that you’re in an hotel disappears behind you.
The Ternary Restaurant – the holy trinity of dining
The three distinct parts to The Ternary – the grill, the wok and the bar – make up the restaurant’s name.
Ternary, from the Latin word ternarius, means ‘made up of three’. So in a clever edible symbiosis, the menus from this trinity of dining rely on each other.
The grill delivers high-quality locally sourced meat and seafood options, the bar has an excellent wine list and an even more inspiring cocktail menu, and the final piece to this jigsaw is the Asian influence.
Providing balance, freshness, spice and innovation on traditional Asian flavours, the ‘wok’ element of The Ternary influences and ties in the other two themes of the restaurant.
Dinner at The Ternary
Our degustation dinner here was presented a series of eight dishes for us to share. Between the two of us, it worked well, but the kitchen can craft this concept for more people.
We also had the matching wines because… well, why not?
There are a range of different seating options depending on your preference and your number. We sat up at the grill kitchen, where we could watch the magic happen right in front of us and even get to talk to the chefs from time to time.
We love this kind of seating; the ballet of a professional kitchen is enthralling.
These seats are very popular though, so make sure you book well in advance and request them at the time of booking
The food and drink
To get things started, we have the house’s feature cocktail: ‘futeki’. It’s a daring drink that combines one of my favourite Japanese whiskies – Hakushu – with fresh raspberries, Italian amaro and chilli.
It’s fruity, spicy and herbaceous, and the whisky adds umami. This is a great cocktail.
A nod to the Asian sub-continent, these entrée breads are crunchy yet doughy. The Ternary’s one of the few restaurants in Sydney with own ceramic tandoor, which adds so much more flavour than a conventional oven.
Crab and chickpea puffs
One of the signature dishes by Chef Lukasz Pasniewski, who’s working the grill in front of us, looks as impressive as it tastes. These crispy spherical shells, made of chickpea flour, are full of sweet tender crab meat.
In the shot glass is a chaser of herbed water and tamarind jam that blends with the sweetness of the crab to complete the dish.
This clever dish of crunchy cassava crackers, sweet mango pieces and passionfruit coulis, chilli, tender king fish and salty roe. On their own, each element of this dish is tasty enough, but together they combine with perfect balance of flavours and textures.
These last two dishes were paired with a Deviation Road Pinot Gris from Adelaide Hills.
Pulled peppered beef in crispy pastry
Reminiscent of Asian spring rolls, these rich cigars are a signature dish at The Ternary for a reason.
Made with crumbly brik pastry and filled with tender pulled beef, the dish cleverly blends the ‘spring roll’ shape and tamarind tang with meatiness and richness of the beef. Tender, crunchy, savoury, sour, umami – it’s all here.
Tim, the F&B head honcho, paired this with a sparkling Shiraz from Bleasedale Winery in South Australia.
Milly Hill tandoori lamb cutlets
Perfectly frenched, marinated in spices and yoghurt then roasted in the restaurant’s tandoor, these cutlets are perfect representations of a classic Indian entrée you’ll find in the best curry houses in England.
Of course, this dish is somewhat more elegant. Served on a beetroot purée with pomegranate seeds, fresh coriander and a cute cheek of lemon.
The Wirra Wirra Shiraz Grenache that came with this dish was bold enough to stand up to the lamb, but gentle enough to guide the flavours of the food through. A clever pairing.
Grilled Mexican spiced spatchcock
From the month’s specials board, this spatchcock dish should really become a permanent member of the menu. It’s exceptional.
Grilled to the point where the meat is still tender, yet cooked through is hard enough with such a small bird. But then to achieve slight charring to add flavour without drying it out… I’m impressed.
The chunky Mediterranean and toasted corn salsa, and grilled capsicum lighten this rich, generous dish. And the grilled lemon releases more of those Mexican flavours.
The scotch fillet
300g of premium scotch fillet with potato of the day (garlic & herb) and sauté spinach with truffle butter. I don’t think I need say any more.
Cooked to perfection and rested, you can tell this this meat has been shown the respect of a master chef. Strip sliced to make it easier for us to share, every piece of this meat is tender.
We talked with Chef Lukasz Pasniewski about the beef, which is locally sourced. He explained that each steak is inspected for quality. Any that aren’t marbled perfectly or cut properly, the kitchen will send back to the supplier rather than serve substandard here.
Tim, the F& B Manager, came to us then with a special wine. The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon from Jim Barry is – only available at The Ternary.
Tim met with Jim Barry and got the exclusivity for the bar, which is impressive. This Cab Sauv is small-yield, hand-harvested and a brute of a wine. Delicious, savoury, long-finishing and perfect with steak.
Not just desserts
The pair of sweets that come out punctuating the end to our feast are stunning.
The Mango Delight is a Chef’s Choice dessert – specifically Chef Gioia, who’s working with Chef Lukasz tonight. This is her dish. The mango and white chocolate mousse are incredibly delicate, while the pistachio ice cream and sweetened brik pastry shards bring the dish together with more robustness.
Warm custard tart with poached pear, orange segments and sorbet. It’s like the best apple pie you’ve ever had without it being either apple or a pie. The walnuts add a beautiful savoury angle.
We roll out of the restaurant and beach ourselves on a homeward-bound ferry. This has been an exceptional evening and a meal we hadn’t expected to be so good.
There’s always a risk with dining at a hotel’s restaurant that the kitchen will rest on the laurels of its captive audience.
This cannot be said of The Ternary. Indeed, hotel restaurants across Sydney are adopting a life more independent from their parent. Here are three at least that not only have great menus but offer a very romantic evening.
And like these places, The Ternary neither feels like a hotel restaurant nor relies on the hotel guests for covers. It’s a wonderful restaurant in its own right, and one we highly recommend.
100 Murray Street