Friday, February 24, 2012

Wok+Wine Sydney

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the global underground dining event that is Wok+Wine. They describe themselves as the 'world's most delicious social network' and base their concept in simplicity - 40 people, 40 pounds of jumbo prawns and 40 bottles of wine. No chairs, no cutlery, and a secret location that is only revealed 24 hours before the event. This is not strictly a food event, not a networking event, but an opportunity to engage interesting and diverse people in a night of conversation fuelled by great food and wine. Locations change with every set-up and this time the venue was the board 'Excited' room, lent by Naked Communications in Surry Hills. Decked out with chandeliers, tapestry print wallpaper and a hidden bookshelf entrance, the space was small and when filled with people, seemed to overflow with chatter.

The 'Excited Room', Naked Communications

When co-founder Peter Mandeno entered the room with the giant wok of steaming prawns, all talk subsided to a murmer as we watched him spread the first batch onto the palm leaves lining the table. The aroma was intoxicating, and we could only wait in twitchy anticipation for them to cool down enough to eat. Peter took this time to talk about Wok+Wine and its concept before proceeding onto briefing us on the ideal prawn eating technique. He explains that although the most commonly consumed part of the prawn is the body, most of the juices and flavour conjugate in the head, which is too frequently discarded.

Round one

The technique he demonstrated followed four simple steps, also displayed on posters on the walls of the room - rip, lick, bite, suck. When the head is removed, you rip off the outer shell, lick it, then bite down on the soft part of the head and suck out the flavour. Rather gruesome sounding, but delicious tasting. You then move onto the body, peeling outwards from the bottom, after which you take a chunk of the fresh bread and dip into the sauces. Finish with a sip of wine.

Cake Wines

On wine, the social lubricant of choice that night was a Cabernet Merlot by Cake Wines, a local label based in Surry Hills from which 25c from each bottle sold is donated to FBi radio (94.5FM). Still barely above the legal drinking age, I can't claim to be a wine aficionado of any sort nor give any proper descriptions but I can say I did enjoy the drop very much.

Digging in

Fresh jumbo prawns

The jumbo prawns were these beautiful big suckers with sweet juicy flesh, I generally never eat shellfish but these were amazing. The flavour of the sauce was incredible, rich, garlicky with a little chilli; the entire process of peeling was entrancing and the taste so addictive, I just kept eating until there was a shamefully big pile of empty shells sitting in front of me. The best part for me though, was the bread - fresh crusty loaves which were soft and dense on the inside, perfect for mopping up that ridiculously good sauce.

The process of getting hands on with the prawns made for a fun and messy atmosphere and is probably the best way to enjoy food and company. There was a lot of laughter, finger licking and involuntary foodgasm moaning.

Getting your hands dirty

How to effectively use the bread

When bellies became full with prawns, attentions returned to the wine and conversation. Most people came as group or with a buddy but I went in solo - being thrown into a room full of strangers was daunting at first but the aspect of communal eating easily broke the ice and I wound up meeting so many lovely and interesting new people.

Empty bottles and empty shells

Full glasses and lively conversation

Fresh pineapple for dessert

Later in the night, Wok+Wine co-founder Lizzie Shupak came around with 'dessert', a big bowl of refreshing pieces of sliced pineapple, the sweet tartness of which was a brilliant way to cleanse the palate. If you'd fancied something a little stronger, there was also ice-cold Lemon Z limoncello shots on offer.

Limoncello shots

Thank you to all involved for an unusual and mesmerising night - Peter and Lizzie for creating such an amazing concept and organising each event, Cake and Lemon Z for the tasty drinks and Naked Communications for your mind-blowing spaces (think Alice in Wonderland). Most of all, thank you to all the lovely people I met, for the fantastic conversations and the countless laughs. I will be back next time!

Naked Communications


  1. What an awesome concept? How does one get involved/invited?

  2. You can sign up to their mailing list for future events on their site :)

  3. Love the idea of it all!