The best dining experiences come when the combination of food, wine, cocktails and atmosphere work in harmony together. Luckily for Sydneysiders the outstanding new venue, Beckett’s in Glebe has made this a core tenet of their philosophy.
Founded by renowned theatre director Wendy Beckett and veteran chef Jeff Schroeter Beckett’s is a must-visit for locals and food-lovers alike. Set within the hallowed walls of the old Darling Mills site on Glebe Point Road Beckett’s is a loving homage to the opulence of mid-century Parisian and New York bars and bistros. The stunning sandstone edifice delivers a uniquely Sydney experience.
Co-owner Wendy Beckett is a lauded member of Sydney’s theatre community. She has written more than 25 plays and directed over 40 more. Her most recent play Claudel just completed its run at the Sydney Opera House to critical acclaim. Given Wendy Beckett’s history in theatre, it’s no wonder Beckett’s entertains the pre-theatre crowd. To present her greatest production to date, Beckett’s restaurant, Wendy enlisted the help of a long-time friend, seasoned chef Jeff Schroeter.
Schroeter has more than 30 years of experience under his chef’s hat and has worked all around the globe. Beginning in Brisbane Schroeter’s career has taken him to Sydney, London, Switzerland, and Manhattan. He comes from an internationally-trained canon of chefs Sydney rarely gets access to. Schroeter cut his teeth at the Savoy Hotel (London) before moving to Philippe Stark’s designed Royalton Hotel where he worked alongside cheffing legend Geoffrey Zakarian in Restaurant 44 (New York). Ultimately, he returned home to launch and reinvigorate some of Sydney’s most innovative restaurants over the last two decades, including Bayswater Brasserie and Bistro Moncur. With his vast experience, Schroeter has led culinary trends. His talent is to curate opulent menus at affordable prices, something which he has again done on Beckett’s menu.
Finally to provide customers with the ultimate food and drinks experience Wendy and Jeff sought help from two key individuals. They invited award-winning bartender Charlie Ainsbury and sommelier Sasha Siljanovic to curate the cocktail and wine lists respectively.
Jeff and Charlie worked together at Sydney’s iconic Bayswater Brasserie amid Rushcutter’s Bay’s heyday. Jeff knew Charlie would create and curate something special for Beckett’s cocktail and drinks list.
“Charlie and I go back a long way,” Jeff explained. “He taught me how to drink properly. I thought I knew but he showed me the quality and finesse in drinks that I didn’t appreciate. So I’ve always loved Charlie and what he can do with cocktails while he’s always loved what I do with food.”
When speaking with Charlie he told the Inner West Independent how he set about curating the cocktail menu with a clear vision in mind.
“There is a specific atmosphere that Beckett’s emanates, so I was taking inspiration from the interiors and concept of the venue,” said Charlie. “With Beckett’s olive velvet curtains and live jazz there is that feeling of old-world glamour, so martinis were a no-brainer.”
Charlie even developed a cocktail in Jeff’s honour called the Chef’s Martini. It’s a riff on a classic that’s been given a modern twist, which Charlie says is just like Jeff. Charlie’s uses Widges gin, Mancino Secco vermouth and olive brine.
Jeff was also inspired by the spectacular and unique atmosphere of the room. “The venue is so unique and it caught me by surprise on opening night,” explained Schroeter. “The room dressed itself up a bit more than I had anticipated. So I actually had to change the menu completely and zhuzh it up a little more to suit the room after the first night.” Jeff now proudly has a menu he describes as “casual elegance.”
Wine was the final element needed to complete Beckett’s experience. So in stepped sommelier Sasha Siljanovic with his curated list of over 120 wines.
When asked how the current wine list came to be Sasha revealed that it has actually been evolving rapidly.
“The wine list started in one place but has moved quite organically into a very different place. We now have a lot more international and obscure wines, while still having a lot of classics on there as well.”
As customers explore their own wine palates, Sasha tailors Beckett’s wine list. “I’ve got this nice little connection with the customers and they are moving me in different directions,” Sasha explained. “I’m finding that each week they are trying something new, so in the last two months we’ve probably changed about 40 wines. It’s going to continue to be this lovely ever-changing process where I see us being in a totally different place again in about two months.”
With such an extensive wine list Sasha says he has to keep an open mind when selecting the perfect wine for each customer.
“Every time I approach a table I’m walking over thinking there are 150 options for you. Then as we speak it whittles down to one or two.”
Ultimately, for Sasha, it all comes down to having an “accessible wine list that isn’t pretentious.”
“It’s all about making wine accessible. Sometimes wine lists can price you out of buying a bottle so instead, you have a couple of glasses. But at Beckett’s, we’re saying ‘come here and we’ll set you up with a bottle of wine you’ve helped us pick for you – so we know you’ll love it.’
On that front Sasha and Beckett’s have a great offer in place.
“We struck up an amazing deal with Gosset Champagne, one of the oldest champagne houses in France, so we can do their champagne for $19 per glass. A full pour of Champagne for under $20 per glass in Sydney is pretty unheard of!”
Beckett’s is open from 5pm Wednesday to Sunday for a glass of Champagne or a meal with a group of friends. With a piano player tinkling the ivories (Wednesday to Saturday), the mood is set to enjoy the delicious food, moreish wine, perfect cocktails and lively atmosphere. Beckett’s really is a work of harmony.