Saturday, March 10, 2012

Taste of Sydney Festival 2012

After torrential downpour and flash flooding cancelled the first night of the Taste of Sydney Festival, we arrived at Centennial Park the following day for the Friday lunch service to be greeted by hot, unrelenting sunshine and wet grounds. That's Sydney weather for you - we went home with sunburnt faces and muddy shoes. Climate fail aside, a great time was to be had thanks to Simon from The Heart of Food for the admission passes. If you're unfamiliar with the concept of the festival, imagine a big field of pop-up restaurants, serving a selection of four or five of their dishes from which the idea is to create a DIY bespoke degustation course compromised of various courses from various establishments. There are also other fancies such as cooking demos and classes, wine tasting, cocktail making classes and product exhibition stalls, but we were here for the food. The currency set up for the event is 'crowns', where 1 crown = $1, but must be purchased beforehand as none of the restaurants accept cash. The system can be a bit of a pain as crown tokens must be purchased in books of 10, 30 or 50 and most menu items cost 8, 10 or 12 crowns; but we managed to make it work and sampled five dishes for an even fifty (although I realised when writing this post that this was only because we unwittingly shorted someone 2 crowns, whoops).

Cauliflower Soup, L'Etoile
Chilled Cauliflower Soup with Bleu Cheese Crème $8 (crowns)

We encounter Manu Feidel outside L'Etoile filming a promo, where starstruck fans stood around whispering excitedly (quoth a schoolgirl, "He's so hunky!") and we had to fight through the small crowd and his star power to secure our first course, the chilled cauliflower soup with blue cheese crème. Served in an unassuming plastic cup, the flavour surprised our taste buds as if to scoff at us for our prejudice of its presentation. Cool, smooth and impossibly creamy, the rich soup seemed more like a luxe puree of cauliflower and subtle, creamy bleu cheese. A lovely and perfect start to our lunch.

Fritters, A Tavolta
Salt Cod, Potato and Truffle Fritters with Tarragon Mayonnaise $10 (crowns)

Next up was the fritelli di barccala, patata e tartufo, cute little fritters of salt cod, potato and truffle served with tarragon mayonnaise. We weren't really sure what cuisine these are as A Tavola is Italian, the internet is telling me salt cod fritters are Puerto Rican and I initially thought these were French croquettes but yay, cultural confusion! These were pretty tasty, a crisp exterior and soft filling of mashed potato and salty fish topped with peppery rocket. My unrefined taste beds failed to detect the truffle but the tarragon mayo was a great accompaniment, if a little scarce.

School Prawns, Quarter 21
Fried Hawkesbury School Prawns, Prosciutto and Rouille $12 (crowns)

I had school prawns for the first time last week at a launch party with fabulous food and I couldn't get enough so needless to say, the fried Hawkesbury school prawns, prosciutto and rouille at Quarter 21 was on our menu. The most generous serving of our choices that day, the prawns came in a cup/bowl hybrid container which held a satisfying amount. These were ridiculously crisp and moreish, the salty crunch crumbed shells were dangerously addictive and tasted even better with the mild rouille and a piece of prosciutto. I demolished these and didn't leave many for my dining companion. Whoops.

Pork Belly, Longrain
Crisp Pork Belly, Pickled Daikon and Chilli Jam in a Sweet Roll $12 (crowns)

Pork belly? Necessity. This slider is the crispy pork belly, picked daikon and chilli jam in a sweet roll from Longrain restaurant. Two slices of the most glorious roasted pork belly, encased in a layer of crackling and fat, topped with a mild chilli jam, tucked into a sweet bun speckled with sesame on a bed of pickled daikon and carrot. Words cannot describe my love for pork belly. This is unarticulated deliciousness dressed with Vietnamese flavours, the tangy pickles reminding me of a good old bánh mì, the chilli adding a tiny kick and sandwiched by a mini bun reminiscent of brioche.

Panna Cotta, The Montpellier Public House
Pepe Saya Buttermilk and Vanilla Panna Cotta with Poached Fruits $10 (crowns)

Our final course was dessert from The Montpellier Public House, sadly two crowns short of their signature Eton mess, we settled for the Pepe Saya buttermilk and vanilla panna cotta with poached fruits as I have heard nothing but lyricals waxed about Pepe Saya butter. The panna cotta was smooth and sweet, very vanilla and a little creamy, topped with a nicely sour berry compote. It was nice, and unanimously enjoyed but desserts are not really my thing (no sweet tooth, can you believe it?) so I can't be trusted to pass unbiased judgement on sweetie treats.

Overall a fantastically fun afternoon, we spent as much of it as we could scabbing samples, perving on the bartender at the Black Label Juice astroturf garden, hogging Rekorderlig's foosball table and sheltering from the sun in the Lilydale picnic area, listening to The Last Resort perform an amazing cover of Erykah Badu at The Argyle Bandstand. I'm just glad we didn't end up like this poor guy in the sun.


  1. Looks like you had a great day :)

    The pork belly slider looks utterly fantastic. It was a shame to miss it!

  2. Those prawns look so delicious! Looks like a perfect way to spend a day :)

  3. Mmm, a fruity panna cotta to end a perfectly great festival day out. Looks great!