Fresh Catering brings the flavours of the Middle East to Sydney for Handa Opera’s epic production of Aida.
The giant bust of Nefertiti loomed large over Sydney harbour for four weeks, and so too did Fresh Catering’s executive chef Geoff Haviland, who catered for 50,000 operagoers across multiple pop-up venues along Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.
The spectacular Egyptian setting and tragic love story behind Verdi’s Aida was matched with Haviland’s flare for North African and Middle Eastern cuisine as guests attending the 2015 season of Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour were presented with a range of dining concepts and culinary styles.
Sparkling & Oyster Bars were dotted around the precinct and complimented retail outlets like The Northern Cantina, serving hot and cold mezze plates, chermoula-rubbed salmon, Moroccan-spiced lamb shank, and pistachio and fig cheesecake.
Meanwhile, the Northern and Southern Terraces provided a relaxed, open-air setting to soak up the harbour views and feast on falafel, lamb tagine and spiced chicken kebabs.
But the jewel in Aida’s culinary crown was the Platinum Club Restaurant and Bar. With a decadent pre-performance, three-course meal that was paired with Tyrell’s wines and arguably the best view in Sydney, this was the ultimate fine-dining experience.
Sultry, North African-inspired flavours came alive in dishes like a 12-hour slow cooked lamb shoulder with date puree and pistachio dukkah, roasted sumac chicken with raisins, and caramelised fig pavlova with lemon mascarpone and halva parfait.
The melt-in-your-mouth lamb was a definite stand-out dish at the Platinum Club; its combination of fruit and spice a testament to Haviland’s expertise after spending several years in Dubai as executive chef for Intercontinental, Southern Sun Hotel Group, Al Manzi Hotel and Qamardeen Hotels.
Across the purpose-built pop-up venue, Haviland lead a culinary team of 60 chefs and more than 200 wait staff to serve an average of 3000 diners per night – no mean feat for even the most well-established dining venues, let alone a temporary one.
Large-scale catering wasn’t the only mammoth task in bringing Aida to life. Event construction company, Staging Rentals & Construction Services, designed and built the 18-metre-high Nefertiti centrepiece for the production.
The giant structure was built over three months in the company’s Alexandria warehouse and was crafted out of polystyrene, plywood and aluminium, weighing in at more than 15 tonnes.
David Comer, managing director of Staging Rentals said the head of the ancient Egyptian queen was by far the most innovative and largest custom creation he and the team have done in their 25 year history.