Forget January with its skyrocketing temperatures, February is where Sydney is at, with interesting events popping up all over town. Sunset20°North is Sydney’s newest spot to enjoy live music, across every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night in February.
I popped down on opening night to take in a different aspect of our beautiful Sydney Harbour. Perched on the natural sloping amphitheatre that is Barangaroo Reserve, I dined on the dishes of Bloodwood star, Claire Van Vuuren.
Starting with Pickled Mussels ($10/3) on potato skins with samphire and horseradish, I worked my way through her menu. The dishes focuses upon local, seasonal food that references the strip of land our feet are planted upon.
Samphire, for instance, you will find growing on the rocky edges of the Reserve itself. Beyond providing a tantalising waft of smoked food, the open fire pit, and leaf-wrapped dishes cooked on it, reference traditional ways of preparing food.
Bamboo-Smoked Snapper ($18) sees the locally available white-fleshed fish gently cooked inside a leaf parcel. It’s served with a salsa of bright cherry tomatoes and karkalla (beach bananas) that fill your mouth with their salty expulsion.
While those two dishes were specific to the first weekend of Sunset20°North, you can eat Claire Van Vuuren’s Blackened Chicken ($16) every night it is open. Lathered with Davidson plum sriarcha on a bed of smoky smashed potatoes and corn, the chook wasn’t quite charry enough for me, though I dined pretty early in the piece.
I’ve got no complaints about the Pork and Pickled Muntries Tacos ($14/3), which were easily my dish of the night. As well as the tart muntries and pulled pork, the flavoursome soft corn tacos are freshened up with shallots, coriander and finger lime caviar that bursts seductively on your tongue.
Claire has curated all-female guest chef line-up for each of the twelve sunsets, so you can also expect to find Jane Strode (Fred’s, Sydney), Analiese Gregory (Franklin, Hobart) and Thi Le (Anchovy, Melbourne) each cooking a pair of dishes onsite over the remaining three weekends.
Tucked down on the entrance way, you’ll also find Pambula Oyster Co. who are shucking Pambula Rock Oysters ($18/6) while you wait.
They fit well with the event's themes by the key ingredient - rock oysters - being indigenous to Gadigal Country; and by having a female oyster grower - Leicia McKillop - at the company’s helm.
I liked the tight briny bivalves so much, I went back for seconds, teaming my second half dozen with a hoppy Philter XPA Beer ($9) and the more laid-back Philter Lager ($9). They’re brewed in Marrickville by one of the country’s most highly regarded female brewers, Sam Fuss.
Looking a bit like a yellow shower curtain, Yuwaalaraay artist Lucy Simpson’s modern sculpture Grandmother Tree didn’t really make sense to me until a break in the clouds let some fast fading sunlight through.
The field was suddenly ablaze with long golden beams of light, a perfect cue for Sampa the Great to take to the stage.
Just one of a diverse line-up of mostly female artists from around Australia, Sampa the Great, or Sampa Tembo, was born in Zambia but has lived here for the last three years.
She fuses word-play and slam poetry with beats, creating a lush hip hop soundtrack to enjoy with a Lemon Myrtle Tom Collins ($14) in your hand.
Despite being perched on the edge of Sydney Harbour looking at lots of open space, the first resident noise complaint came in at 7.44pm. Sydney, this is why we can’t have nice things.