May 9th, 2012

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

This Week's Column - Find Ya Festival Spirit(s)

Published in the Bondi View and City News.

With the temperature diminishing, it’s understandable that we all need a little more to get us out the door. That’s why this week, I’m all about finding your festival spirit, with a few post-festival bars thrown in.

The 2012 Pyrmont Festival of Wine, Food and Art takes off for ten days from the 18th May. It turns a spotlight onto an area sometimes accused of being a restaurant and café desert. Residents and visitors alike should relish the chance to see the area transformed into a throbbing hive of food, wine and cultural events, and utilise it as an opportunity to uncover Pyrmont’s hidden foodie pleasures.

One well versed in Pyrmont’s dining virtues is Pyrmont Ultimo Chamber of Commerce President, Lawrence Gibbons. He tells me his insider festival picks are the “Doltone House brekkie and The Star tasting event”. The former is a chance to get your Friday (18th May) started right with a well-priced ($45/head) two-hour breakfast accompanied by Mudgee wine at the waterside Doltone House. It ends with espresso and wicked cannoli to ensure you actually get to work. His other pick, Taste of The Star is a unique opportunity, on Thursday 24th May, to taste across the swathe of new restaurants now ensconced in the complex. With accompanying bubbles, it’s another bargain at just forty bucks.

Of course this festival is more than just a showcase of Pyrmont. It’s also a partnership with the third largest grape-growing area in NSW – Mudgee. The area is known for shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and a range of Italian varieties. Get more familiar with them in the pleasant surrounds of Pirrama Park on Sunday 20th May.

Alternatively you can head to a local restaurant partnering with a winery that piques your interest. The partnership that caught my eye is between Ripples Sydney Wharf and Burnbrae Wines. Their $65/head event on Saturday 19th May combines three courses of Mediterranean inspired cooking with three chances to visit the in-house Burnbrae tasting stand and pick your own perfect wine match.

For a post-festival tipple, just a hop, skip and jump along the waterfront is the newly opened The Bar at the End of the Wharf. It’s Sydney Theatre Company’s bar and canteen, staffed by a collection of the suave, hip, tattooed and trendy (including eye-catching head bartender Joe Cutliffe).

It has already won my vote, not least of which for the opportunity to play ping-pong as the sun drips onto the harbour. The only negative? It’s a bloody long wharf…

Also on the near horizon is the 2012 Sydney Film Festival, taking over town from the 6th-17th June. The foodie flick of interest, Step Up To The Plate, happened to roll past my desk, so I can personally attest that it is well worth a looksee.

It’s a documentary that walks the knife-edge of tension between three Michelin starred father, Michel Bras, and his yet to be proven son Sébastien, set against the bleak and barren French landscape of Laguiole, and in pretty, snowbound Hokkaido. Michel’s in the process of handing over his business to his son, but in the restaurant world, he knows it's even harder to stay at the top, than it is to climb to it.

Watch the seasons change, with success or failure hinging upon a milk skin. My highlight? Watching Michel Bras’ signature Gargouillou, a garden-like dish, built leaf-by-leaf, smear-by-tiny-smear, right before your eyes. Yep, much cheaper than a trip to France…

Of course, there’s more to uncover, including a brilliant range of dining partners, like Justin North’s Quarter 21. Now remember; foods and films are all-weather activities…

A perfect after-party spot to drink and dissect films is Zeta Bar. They’ve just launched a Farmer's Market special every Friday night (from 6pm) that’s sure to appeal to your inner foodie! Stroll aisles of fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices; make your selection; add a base spirit and then watch their talented (and thematically dressed) bartenders create your personal cocktail. You might even meet a wholesome farm girl (in denim hot-pants) bearing steaming bottles of er… milk.