Bennelong has since recreated fancy versions of lamingtons, pavlova, a Neenish tart and an Iced VoVo. There are other examples too: seven years ago Stanmore eatery Sixpenny began serving its own version of miniature Arnott’s biscuits.
“People respond really well to them because of their childhood memories,” Mr Gilmore said.
He said the restaurant’s Opera House location gave him a licence to experiment.
“You’re playing with the idea of an iconic building and an iconic dessert. I didn’t want to be too kitschy or cliche but I wanted to have fun, and desserts allow that,” Mr Gilmore said.
“The Australian diners get much more out of it than the tourists because the tourists don’t have the same reference point.”
And Mr Gilmore has no plans to stop resurrecting classic treats anytime soon.
“I’m thinking about doing an ice cream sandwich next and also maybe playing around with the vanilla slice as well,” he said.
“I do my best not to follow trends. I’m not so egotistical to say I think I start trends, but I try to be ahead of the curve on things I do. Most things I do come from my imagination.”
Over at Bea at Barangaroo House, head chef Jason Staudt said his restaurant’s reinvention of the Caramello Koala was “a natural progression of creativity”.
“The idea with the whole dining scene was to make things a bit more fun and approachable and have a laugh,” Mr Staudt said.
“That’s what diners want nowadays – no one wants a super stiff dinner anymore. As soon as the guest is engaged it makes them want to be there.”
Marketing guru Rohan Miller said recreating classic Australian desserts was a smart idea and a “great novelty”.
“It’s adding fun to the menu and a new sense of enjoyment,” said Dr Miller, a senior lecturer in marketing at the University of Sydney.
“They’re not unique to their restaurant but they’ve certainly added a new dimension to old favourites.”
The idea would help restaurants competing with each other, Dr Miller said. “The longer they can get a patron to stay in a restaurant the more money they’ll spend – this is a way of getting them to stay longer.”
Mr Gilmore said an upmarket restaurant meal was incomplete without a sweet finale.
“A beautiful finish to a meal is really important,” he said. “It makes for a more rounded experience and a complete night out when you get desserts right.”
The Good Food Guide‘s third annual national edition will be on sale from October 1 in newsagencies and bookstores, and is also available to pre-order at thestore.com.au/gfg20 for $29.99 with free shipping.
Josh Dye is a news reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.