As Michelin-starred UK chef Clare Smyth what her favourite all-time dish to cook is and she pauses. It’s clearly a hard question for her, and she takes her time in answering. “I don’t have one favourite dish to cook as it really depends on the season and what inspires me at the moment,” she explains. “However, my dishes will always involve fresh, seasonal ingredients!”
It’s the perfect answer for someone that lives and breathes food. Having grown up on her family’s farm in Northern Ireland, Smyth saw firsthand the amount of “hard work and expertise” that goes into producing quality ingredients. But it wasn’t until she was 15 and working at a local fine dining restaurant that she really became passionate about food. That passion propelled her to enroll in culinary college in England, and it still propels her even now at the height of her career.
Her London restaurant, Core by Clare Smyth, is known for reinventing local produce into globally acclaimed fine dining. It was the first restaurant to enter the Good Food Guide with a perfect 10 score, and if that wasn’t enough just three years later in 2021 it was awarded three Michelin stars, with Clare becoming the first and only female British chef ever to achieve this honour. And she was even recently announced as a Friend of the Brand of luxury watch makers Hublot.
Now Smyth’s latest venue, Oncore by Clare Smyth, has found a home in Sydney. Sitting 26 levels above Sydney Harbour at Crown Sydney, this new restaurant will follow Smyth’s food ethos of creating fine dining from some of Australia’s freshest local fare. Something she’s excited about.
“I love the extraordinary produce that Australia has to offer,” she says. “My team and I work closely with local farmers and producers who share our dedication for natural, sustainable, seasonal ingredients including potatoes grown in Robertson by the Hill family, pearl barley from Demeter Farm and Tasmanian wasabi.”
Smyth sat down with T Australia to talk about her love for Sydney, the pressure of being awarded three Michelin Stars, and why her warm chocolate and lavender tart recipe is so special.
Why Sydney for this latest venture?
“I lived and travelled in Australia early in my career, so it very much feels like a home away from home to me. It is such a beautiful part of the world, and it is exciting to explore all the amazing food and wine regions.”
How does holding three Michelin Stars feel? Do you feel you can relax or do you feel the pressure?
“It is a great recognition of the hard work my team and I have put in and was a bright spot during a very challenging year. There is pressure but I wouldn’t want it any other way. To cook at this level, you have to have focus and dedication and put that effort in every single day.”
What is your best career advice to up and coming chefs?
“My advice for anyone starting out their career as a chef would be to work under the best chefs that you can and learn from them as there is no substitute for experience. There is no easy route to the top, it’s all hard work and you’ve got to have a lot of passion, drive and determination.”
How have the lockdowns and border closers affected you recently?
“The past two years have been extremely tough in many ways. I found it incredibly difficult to not be doing what I love most — to be in the restaurant cooking. It was amazing to reopen with my team and welcome our guests in again.”
Can you tell us why you love this recipe that you are sharing? What are your tips for cooking it?
“These bite-sized tarts are inspired by the chocolate tart at L’Ambroisie, the 3 Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris and have been featured in my restaurant Core in London since we opened in 2017. It is the simplest tart, but they must be eaten a few minutes after baking and served slightly soft in the middle.”
Clare Smyth’s Warm Chocolate and Lavender Tart
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 14 mins
150g Icing sugar
90g Egg yolks
375g Plain flour
188g Unsalted butter
5g Sea salt
1. Mix the butter, flour and salt together until it becomes a crumbly texture.
2. Cream the egg yolks and icing sugar together using a hand blender.
3. Add the wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until it comes together as a dough.
4. Between parchment paper roll the dough to 5mm thick. Cut 6cm diameter discs from the dough. Then, using round shaped moulds of 5 x 2cm, position 1 disc in between 2 moulds and press down. Trim any excess dough with a small knife.)
5. Bake at 160° C for 6 minutes.
108g Udzungwa 70% dark chocolate
125g double cream
1g dry lavender
2 whole eggs
52g pasteurised egg yolks
50g caster sugar
1. Break-up chocolate into small pieces.
2. In a small saucepan, heat the cream to 80° C, add the lavender and let it infuse for 4 minutes.
3. Remove from heatand strain the cream through a sieve into a bowl. Add the chocolate and mix to create a ganache.Keep this at room temperature.
4. Then mix the eggs and sugar with an electric whisk until they are light and fluffy, creating a sabayon consistency.
5. Slowly pour and fold-in the ganache into the egg mixture using a spatula, until it forms a light brown mousse. Place into pipping bags.
30g Chocolate filling
Pipe the chocolate mix into the tart case until it is levelled with the rim. Bake at 180°C for 4 minutes. The tart should have a very slight wobble. If it is too liquid, cook for a further 30 seconds then remove from the oven and allow to rest.