By now, every person in Sydney has had a scoop of Gelato Messina, which makes its other venture all the more special. The Messina Creative Department is a tiny eight-seat degustation bar next to the Darlinghurst store where, in true Messina form, it does some downright crazy stuff with gelato.
The dark, intimate venue hosts an eight-course dessert degustation for $130 per person — and as you would expect, it is batshit insane (in the best way possible). The menu features a range of dishes, which are exquisite in both presentation and taste. And, while they're all based around gelato, they run the gamut of savoury, sweet and umami, just like any degustation.
Each course is accompanied by a drink pairing that is designed to complement and redefine the flavours in the dish. Traditionally, these drinks have been non-alcoholic but, as of late-2019, for an additional $50 per person, you can swap five of your eight non-alcoholic drink pairings with a boozy option.
The menu is constantly changing, but on our last visit, we started with a hand-rolled mushroom cone filled with shiitake and almond sherbet (served with a sorrel gin and tonic), charcoal-grilled Murray cod with caramelised Murray cod fat gelato and 'nduja tortellini slathered in gorgonzola and egg yolk sauce, served with thyme butter gelato — a secret flavour bomb if there ever was one. A gianduja tart with Vegemite and brown butter gelato, paired with spiced muscovado boba and earl grey milk tea, signals the transition into the sweeter end of the degustation.
The big finisher involves some diner interaction — first to construct the final cocktail of Brix white rum, coconut, ginger and honeycomb with your own mini shaker, then with the three-layer dish featuring wild honey gelato, peach and yoghurt foam and honey crisp. You're encouraged to try them all separately, then combine. The souvenir menu details the origins of ingredients, including quite a lot from Messina's own farm, and your parting gift is a jar of its legendary dulce de leche.
The intimate nature of this one-table dessert bar means that there are limited seats available. There's only two sittings — 6.30pm and 8.30pm — on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. That's only 56 spots a week. So you'll have to have quick fingers when bookings open every two months.
Originally published in 2017. Updated January 31, 2020.