The Taste of Sydney festival has always been a great way to have a progressive dining experience. You can have an entree from a restaurant in Balmain, main course from a CBD diner followed by dessert from Mosman, all without leaving scenic Centennial Park. These aren’t just ordinary restaurants either, but some of Sydney’s finest. Her Majesty would be positively green with envy at the number of hats these restaurants have between them.
Taste of Sydney invited me along with five other bloggers to replicate the Taste of Sydney experience in the real world by attending 5 restaurants in one evening. All we were told is that we would be visiting 3 mystery restaurants for an entree, a main course and a dessert bookended by cocktails at Sake and Longrain.
I arrived at Saké in the early evening to be greeted with a Sweet Budo, a cocktail featuring fresh grapes muddled with a punchy Kozaemon junmai saké & citrus. It was sweet, but that additional of a grade 3 sake was enough to give it some punch and texture. Chef Shaun Presland introduced us to the 3 dishes that Sake will be presenting at Taste, Pan Seared Barramundi, Hiramasa Kingfish Ceviche & Hiramasa Kingfish Double Crunch Sushi Roll. All three dishes were beautiful with the sushi roll having soft notes of yuzu. The ceviche hit all the right notes of sweet, sour, salt and spice to make this dish my favourite of the three.
It was soon time to make our exit and move to the first mystery venue. We split off into two groups with each group having a different itinerary. We had a driver waiting for us outside to take us to the first venue, so we jumped in the car and were on our way. Very, very slowly. You see, while at Taste of Sydney each of the restaurants are mere metres away from each other, we had to contend with traffic and traffic was bad.
Thankfully we weren’t too late to our first stop, the spectacular Flying Fish. Almost on cue, a large cruise ship sounded its horn as we exited the car and by the time we were seated at our table gazing over the harbour, the ship was on its way. Here we had what will be a new feature at Taste of Sydney, the Icon dish. Icon dishes are only made in limited quantities at each session, and only by select restaurants. Head chef, Stephen Seckold explained to us that Flying Fish will be presenting its signature Seared Yellowfin Tuna with Ruby Red Grapefruit, Sweet Crackling Pork & Black Pepper Caramel as its Icon dish and it’s not hard to see why. The dish has been a favourite ever since the restaurant opened. The tuna is lightly rolled in chilli salt before being seared for subtle kick. Only 10 servings of this dish will be available each session, each served on a plate signed by executive chef Peter Kuruvita so my tip is to get there early if you want to try it.
We were soon on our way again and trying to guess where our next destination was, on what I had dubbed ‘The Amazing Taste’ due to our constant travelling. Our next destination was Four In Hand where we tucked into some delicious Roast Suckling Pig. Crisp pork belly, pork loin and pork rib was served with cauliflower, cauliflower puree, Eastern Suburbs greens which had been foraged that day from Clovelly, prunes, radicchio & colcannon mash. While the suckling pig will be served differently at Taste of Sydney, it is a dish to look out for.
For our final stop, we headed back in to the CBD for dessert at Quarter 21. We were expecting one dessert, but the chefs had a surprise in store for us. We were going to have four. We were served a pre-dessert of carob, compressed apple, meringue and a ginger beer sorbet. It was a great palate cleanser and introduction to the dessert that will served at Taste of Sydney, the Hokey Pokey Icecream Sandwich. I’m a big fan of dark chocolate and honeycomb, so this dessert was a winner for me. We were also presented with two other desserts that are served in the restaurant, Mango and Passionfruit Bombe, Macadamia, Yoghurt Sorbet and a Warm 68% Alto Beni Zokoko Chocolate Pudding, Cherries & Coconut Ice Cream. The desserts were all impressive and I made a mental note to come back to the restaurant to sample their main courses. Head Chef Justin North will also be presenting cooking classes at the event for children and adults and they will be well worth attending.
With palette fatigue setting in, we made our way to our final destination, Longrain to sample the cocktails being served at the Longrain Bar at Taste of Sydney. There will be four cocktails available, and I selected an Acapulco Gold. Crushed chunks of lemon and lime are combined with chilli, vanilla, Cazadores Tequila and citrus soda and boy this had a chilli kick.
After swapping stories with the other group about our dining adventures it was time to go. It was a fabulous night, although I’m grateful that Taste of Sydney means I’ll be able to do it all again soon, without the traffic.
Taste of Sydney Festival is on from the 8th – 11th March 2012 in Centennial Park, Sydney. For tickets and further information visit www.tasteofsydney.com.au
Jeremy Bowell attended as a guest of Taste of Sydney and Stellar PR.