Welcome to The Somm Series, a celebration of food pairings with Idée Fixe from iconic restaurants, as selected by leading sommeliers around the country. In our third edition, we head to Sydney to chat with Richard Healy, Head of Wine at Margaret, Neil Perry’s acclaimed standalone restaurant in Double Bay.
Read on as we delve deeper into Richard’s food pairing suggestion, accompanied by exclusive insights into the gastronomic symphony of food and wine at Margaret.
Richard Healy is no strange face in the hospitality scene. He has worked around Australia and in Canada before settling in Sydney where he now leads a team of incredibly talented sommeliers at Margaret, orchestrating an exquisite dining experience that goes beyond the plate. Richard is the architect behind Margaret’s lauded wine list which he explains “is first for the guests, then with a big consideration for Chef’s food and his palate.”
Beyond the walls of Margaret, Richard is hands on in the world of winemaking with Battles Wine in Western Australia. Richard and Neil’s working relationship is further extended through their love of wine and food in their partnership Light Medium Full, importing European and emerging wines, notably for the Margaret restaurant.
The collaborative journey between Richard and Neil Perry can be traced back to their time working at Rockpool. Prior to opening, Richard explains that he “kept pressing Chef for a menu to reference… After several attempts at trying to prise this from him, Neil just said “It’s going to be my food. You know”. This might not have made sense to most, however, with his unique understanding of Neil’s food, Richard got to work writing his list!
Margaret, nestled in Sydney’s Double Bay, serves as the canvas for confident and respectful cooking, with a focus on the country’s exceptional seafood. The menu, a dynamic narrative, evolves throughout the day to showcase the latest and freshest offerings sourced from local suppliers, ensuring a delightful dining experience centred on the essence of Australian produce.
Richard has indeed built a wine list for Margaret that works harmoniously with Neil’s cooking. Neil’s culinary ethos revolves around showcasing Australia’s best seasonal produce with utmost respect, reflecting his decades-long experience in the kitchen, while Richard’s list has something for everyone and is “super dynamic, built around producers we love from classic regions but with lots of room for emerging producers and regions.”
One standout pairing recommendation from Richard is the King George whiting with the Premier Brut, describing it as a “quiet storm type pairing” bringing together fruit purity and the highest quality, freshest produce, prepared in an unadulterated manner.
The Premier Brut, featured on the Margaret wine list, is described by Richard as “a continuation of the expressing some of the best fruit in Australia in a manner that is about championing produce without overworking what is already close to perfect.”
We were thrilled at the opportunity to spend time at Margaret during our visit to Sydney. Thank you to Neil, Richard and the Margaret team for being a part of the Somm Series!
Read on below for our interview with Richard Healy.
How would you describe the Margaret wine list?
The list at Margaret is a tight little list that is super dynamic, built around producers we love from classic regions but with lots of room for emerging producers and regions. We’re not dogmatic in our approach so you’ll see squeaky clean Hunter Valley Semillon on one page and on the next page super skinsy stuff from North-East Italy. It has something for everyone, we hope.
The list is first for the guests, then with a big consideration for Chefs’ food (and his palate) but luckily he has a better than decent appreciation for wine and his cooking isn’t half bad either.
How would you describe the food offering at Margaret?
Prior to opening, I kept pressing Chef for a menu to reference so I could build my list with the food in mind. After several attempts at trying to prise this from him he just said “It’s going to be my food. You know”. So that wouldn’t be super helpful for a heap of people but after working for him for ages it made lots of sense and I got to work.
Neil is all about offering the best food in Australia, when it’s in season, treating it with as much respect as possible and getting it to our guests without stuffing it up. You won’t see lots of creamy sauces, you won’t see lots of foams or gels and you won’t see chefs with tweezers. You will see on the plate very confident cooking of Australia’s best produce with the crazy decades long experience of Neil and the kitchen.
With all that said, it’s a seafood focussed menu with sometimes dozens of different species coming through the restaurant each week but the menu changes daily, if not twice daily, so the menu is forever a moving target.
What have you chosen to pair with the Premier Brut?
King George Whiting with lemon and a specially created olive oil – Margaret x Cobram Estate Hojiblanca Olive Oil – which you can order to take away when dining at Margaret!
Can you tell us, why you chose this pairing and what you enjoy most about it?
I like these quiet storm type pairings. There are lots of little details here that some might miss but if you are into high quality produce with little fluff and can appreciate purity this is a dream. Clearly sparkling wine has a bit of a process to get the grape to the glass but the best examples always express the place, grape and method in a way that all come together without dragging the wine into a vehicle of artifact.
The King George Whiting is what Margaret is all about. The best produce of Australia presented in an unadulterated fashion, dressed simply with sea salt and Cobram Estate olive oil after being gently cooked on the wood fired grill. With Idée Fixe the storm of transparency and purity is in full play. No heavy oak usage or weighted down lees work but a continuation of the expressing some of the best fruit in Australia in a manner that is about championing produce without overworking what is already close to perfect.
Margaret is located at30-36 Bay St, Double Bay. For bookings and more, visit margaretdoublebay.com. Be sure to check out their sister restaurant, Next Door and delightful offerings at Baker Bleu.
The Sommelier Series was photographed by Nikki To of Buffet Digital.