Published on 23 September 2020
Philippa Sibley has been guiding Melbourne towards better eating for years, from co-founding paradigm-shifting fine diner Est Est Est in 1996 and Luxe in 1998, to working her magic in the kitchens at a host of the city’s best addresses since.
Right now she’s turning her considerable gifts to a new venture called Take3 by PS. It’s like having a friend cook you dinner, only your friend happens to be one of the best chefs in the state, blessed with exceptional technique and even better taste.
The Take3 concept is simple: you order and pay by a Saturday afternoon, and on Tuesday a bike courier arrives with three nights’ worth of meals: three main courses, three desserts. In them, Sibley locates the perfect sweet-spot between restaurant food and home cooking.
“I’m not cooking for you every day of the week, just enough to give you a break, and it’s not just for special occasions,” she says, “It’s pitched so you don’t feel like you’re being too lazy or too extravagant.”
But it will certainly feel like you’re eating very, very well. Sibley’s version of homely runs to the likes of carbonnade – the Belgian braise of beef in beer – with a ridiculously creamy mash, or a white-wine version of coq au vin, or potato gnocchi with a mushroom Bolognese.
Then there’s the brilliant twists that are her hallmark: tiny chicken meatballs in the white-bean soup, plus Taleggio milk buns on the side. Every tube of pasta for her pasta al forno is stood on its end, the whole arrangement sauced with eggplant, spinach and cheese, awaiting its final transformation to golden, gooey good times in your oven.
And what of those desserts, I hear you ask? Oh yes. The only reason Sibley isn’t better known as superb cook of savoury things is because her sweets are in a class all their own. Three desserts over three nights midweek? Preposterous, you think. I couldn’t possibly. But then you do. And it turns out you can. Even the innocent-sounding likes of her tiramisù (perfectly boozy) and the apple and apricot strudel (taken to the next level with a honey cream) turn out to be dazzling. There’s no better feeling than taking a spoon to one of her desserts and knowing there’s two more in the fridge for the rest of the week. (They keep; you don’t technically need to eat one every night. But good luck trying not to.)
And best of all, it all changes week to week, day to day. One week Sibley is making rhubarb, rose-geranium and strawberry trifle with amaretto and candied almonds, the next she’s layering whisky Chantilly, blackberries, blackberry compote and oat biscuits for a world-beating take on cranachan. “I’m really enjoying it,” she says.
The only challenge is getting in for the week. This being a one-chef show, and the chef in question being famously particular about the quality of her product, Sibley has capped Take3 at 30 bookings a week.
That said, if you’re not up for the whole enchilada, Sibley also offers dessert-only subscriptions (which could make really good gifts) and has also been making larger celebration desserts on commission for special occasions.
But let’s face it: getting to eat Philippa Sibley’s food at home is the occasion. Get into it, any way you can.
Take3 by Philippa Sibley, $100 a head for three nights (plus delivery fee); also available for pick-up from Fitzroy. Email email@example.com for bookings and more information.
By Pat Nourse
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