At The Bar with Award-Winning Pastry Chef Anna Polyviou

Australian pastry chef Anna Polyviou has collaborated with Starward Australian Whisky  in Melbourne for degustation menus that fuse the spirited drop with all things sweet, and hosted many sold-out Langham Hotel, Sydney high tea sessions; and continues to innovate when she’s in the kitchen baking – it’s where she feels most electric.

The Melbourne-born and Sydney-based pastry chef returns to our TV screens as a contestant on MasterChef: Dessert Masters on 10 this month. She’s competing with Australia’s most renowned bakers and chocolatiers and pastry chefs like herself to take home the $100,000 prize for their culinary efforts.

Polyviou talks to The Write Drop for our At the Bar Series – reflecting on bar memories in London, where she pulls up a stool at an iconic Melbourne whisky bar, and reveals a favourite WA cellar door and restaurant that we should all visit.

MY CITY

I’m a Melbourne girl living in Sydney, and there are countless reasons why I love Sydney.  It’s a stunning city surrounded by beautiful, iconic beaches like Bondi, Manly and Balmoral.  The Harbour Bridge & Sydney Opera House are amongst the world’s most recognisable landmarks. I love that Sydney is a bustling, cosmopolitan city with a vibrant cultural scene. It offers a diverse range of activities, including theatre, music, art galleries, and let’s not forget the nightlife down Oxford Street. It feels like every day is Mardi Gras there, especially on the weekend.  There are also so many festivals happening all year round – Vivid, Sydney Festival, Good Food Markets – there’s never nothing happening.

Then there are the restaurants, bakeries and cafes, always somewhere new to go. A favourite spot I like to go back to is Kent Street. I love the bars that all have secret passages to enter like Barber Shop and Stitch, and they always have events at YCK Laneways thanks to the mastermind troublemaker Carol, a good friend.  I go every Saturday morning to Carriageworks Farmers Market to buy my produce, meet friends and grab a coffee.

FAVOURITE FOOD MEMORY

Greek sweets remind me of my childhood. When I was well behaved, I would get something sweet.  Galaktoboureko was one of those treats. It combines a rich and creamy custard filling with the crispy, flaky layers of filo pastry, and the sweetness of the syrup adds a delightful contrast to the custard’s creaminess. Galaktoboureko evokes feelings of comfort, nostalgia, and happiness. It transports me back in time to moments of joy and celebration, making them even more cherished. It’s wonderful to have such a delightful dessert as my favourite food memory.

FAVOURITE BAR MEMORY

Claridge’s Bar in London. It was super luxe and elegant, one of the Top 50 Bars in the World where all the rich and famous people would go – Madonna, Kate Moss, Mr Big from Sex and the City. But it was the elegance and fragrance that always stood out to me. The service was also flawless and all the nar snacks were made by the pastry kitchen.

WINE THAT DESCRIBES YOUR PERSONALITY

I love champagne, and I think it describes me well. Bubbly, lively, outgoing, and also a bit playful. I also love a celebration, and that’s what champagne is all about for me.

BEST HANGOVER CURE

To avoid a hangover, I have two glasses of water and two tablets of Nurofen prior.  But if that doesn’t work, then KFC is required. I get a Zinger Burger with cheese, mashed potato, extra salt on the chips, super crispy chicken, sweet chilli sauce and a Pepsi Max. Then all the lights have to be off, curtains closed to stop the sun coming in and no noise other than the TV. Oh, and the phone is off.  Essentially what you need is greasy food, hydration (coconut water is great), rest and pain relief. My recovery rate is two to three days now that I’m older, although it’s all worth it as I reminisce about what a great night out it was!

BEST INTERSTATE BAR

Eau-de-Vie Melbourne is still my favourite bar in Melbourne. It’s down an alleyway, hidden behind large wooden doors.  I love everything there – the performance the charming bartenders give, and the menu design. And I always love the nitro espresso martinis.

 FAVOURITE WINE

I have drunk many wines, but when you have a connection with one then it’s totally different and it tastes even better. West Cape Howe Wines Pinot Noir and Malbec are two favourites.  Maybe I’m a little biased due to being friends with the owners.  I have stayed on their Estate, had a tour of how their wines are produced, so I see the hard work and dedication it takes. I drink it with a smile every time.

FAVE WINERY

Amelia Park is in the heart of Margaret River – definitely the best for its cellar door and restaurant. Eating a long lunch with great wines in a gorgeous vineyard is perfect -the lamb dish was one to remember.

BEST NEWCOMER IN THE DRINK WORLD

These zero alcohol drinks!  It’s a growing market and it is so good to see it becoming more mainstream without compromising on the taste. I love enjoying them with food. They’re often easier on the wallet too. Everyone I see is using and loving Heaps Normal Beer.

NEXT DESTINATION

I really want to write a Greek cookbook and do a TV series on Greek food, so what better place to head over to Greece to experience it and gather everything from the locals. The Greeks are known for their warm hospitality and for forever force-feeding people. From the classic Greek salad (horiatiki) to souvlaki, moussaka, and baklava, there’s so much to enjoy. Then there’s the breathtaking natural beauty. Greece has over 6,000 islands and inlets, each with its own charm and character, so island hopping is a popular way to explore the diverse landscapes, cultures, and activities that Greece has to offer. And then there’s the night life that never ends.

WHAT DO WE DRINK WITH DESSERTS

I actually had the pleasure of working with Starward Australian Whisky based in Melbourne to create a six-course degustation that featured both savoury and sweet dishes.  It was all about tasting different booze and creating the dishes around those flavours, not the other way.  It’s about inspiration and creativity too.  Here’s a selection of what we served:

SNACKS arrival (WHISKY SOURS COCKTAIL)

Hot Spice Sauce, Fried Chicken TACO, Salmon Whisky Cured, Horseradish Ricotta TART, Whisky Crème, Shaved Harmon DONUT.

“SCALLOP” Hokkaido Scallop, Artichoke Puree & Crisps.

“TRUFFLE WAGYU” (NOVA 30ML) Pan-Fried Wagyu, Whisky Truffle Jus, Baby Winter Vegetables.

“CHEESE” (SOLERA 30ML) Meredith Blue Cheese, Whisky Quince Paste, Apple & Walnut Salad.

“BERRIED IN WHISKY” (TWO-FOLD 30ML) Vanilla Yoghurt Crème, Creamy Rice Pudding, Whisky Berry Pop.

“WHISKY 4 BREAKFAST” (MUSCAT 30ML) Warm Cinnamon Spice Bun, Honey Nut Granola, Maple Whisky Ice-Cream.

“WHISKY CARAMEL & TRUFFLE” Salted Muscat Chewy Caramel, Cara Crackling Crunch, Whisky Chocolate Ganache.

 MasterChef: Dessert Masters is set to premiere on 12 November 2023 on Network 10 

 

 

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