Published in the Bondi View and City News.
The last month has been a whirlwind of foodie events and dining adventures. From getting a taste of Mudgee as part of the Pyrmont Festival, to eating the cuisine of one of the world’s original Master Chefs, I’ve got a lot to report back on…
Peking Duck Challenge
Wearing a touch of red, I returned to The Eight with nearly a hundred other guests, to celebrate the restaurant’s opening with restaurateur Henry Tang. My own table included restaurant director (and former Miss Hong Kong) Chillie Poon, food writer John Newton and personable actress Carmen Duncan, who spent seven years being both elegant and ruthless on Another World. The entertainment included watching four waiters go head-to-head at a Peking duck slice-off, and watching fellow food media identities like Daily Telegraph’s Grant Jones, squirm under the questioning of the Master of Ceremonies, Glenn Wheeler (Radio 2GB). Our eight-course meal of course included Peking duck pancakes, but a tasty plate of stir-fried spanner crab with salty egg yolk bested them, before we wrapped up with a soothing sweet tea jelly.
I returned to the Sofitel Wentworth's Garden Court for a rather auspicious occasion - a dinner celebrating The Best of French Dining by the acclaimed Albert Roux. Whilst I didn’t envy the Sofitel kitchen brigade, plating with the man who opened Britain’s first Michelin-starred restaurant (Le Gavroche) looking over their shoulder, I am happy to report that they all performed admirably under pressure. It was a particular delight to see all dishes at my table arrive looking exactly the same; and the seasoning of every dish was excellent. My favourite dish was Albert’s fillet of barramundi with Jerusalem artichoke puree, endive and truffle vinaigrette because it was an excellent use of an Aussie fish that all too often disappoints on the restaurant plate.
Dining Dos & Don'ts
I also got along to Urban Food Market’s Grass-fed Wagyu Meatup™, held at Cotton Duck. If you’re still in the dark, these dinners hosted by Marrickville meat man Tim Elwin, showcase his products using the talents of chefs who use them every day in their restaurants. Chef Jared Ingersoll is no stranger to ethical produce. For the night he produced a range of dishes using Mirragong wagyu. I thought it scrubbed up best in a little canapé of shaved sirloin, raw onion, onion juice and Parmesan, though Jared’s signature whole watermelon marinated shin cooked on the bone in pomegranate elicited the most gasps at our shared table.
Jared also ventured outside his comfort zone with a pre-dessert of beef tuille with bittersweet chocolate mousse, ancho nero and popcorn. It wasn’t a success, so it was nice to hear him comment in his address to diners: “At the end of the day, it tasted like someone fucked up a dessert." Now what also makes these dinners fun is getting to know the folk you’re randomly seated with. So if you come along, come with a friendly attitude, and get to know the people with whom you’re sharing a shin! If you can’t make the next dinner, head on down to the Urban Food Market warehouse on a Saturday morning. As well as selling you your weekly supply of proteins, they also cook up sample portions so you can get some ideas about how to make your own dinner a roaring success!
The Pyrmont Festival is currently in full swing, with wine dinners, lunches and tastings springing up all over the suburb. While you’d have to be fast to get along to one of them, there’s still time for you to mark down Sunday 15th May in your diary for the festival’s culmination, a food and wine fair called Pyrmont Uncorks Mudgee. At this event you can expect to eat and drink your way through the two areas, and if the Mudgee products and wines I got my hands on at the launch are anything to go by, you’re in for a treat! Keep your eyes peeled for dukkah and other hazelnut products from Australian Gourmet Hazelnuts, lovely honey from Kenny’s Mudgee Honey and a range of interesting sauces from The Grape Alternative. The Logan Hannah Rose is also a beauty.
My final dining adventure was in Westfield Sydney. If you’re anything like me, you’ll already be turning up your nose, and scoffing at the idea that they could possibly achieve an intimate and classy dining room in the centre of a megaplex. Well, like me, you’d be wrong. Justin and Georgia North’s new Quarter Twenty One with added intimate (sixteen seat) cookery school scrubs up very nicely indeed. If our canapés, brought out by a very proficient floor team, were anything to go by, you should head in for a meal soon! Make sure you look at the other three quarters of their substantial business while you’re there, including a little trip down the grand twenty metre entrance way to the newly relocated Becasse!