Taste of Sydney 2011 - a festival of eating, drinking and the search for a shady table.
Honestly, I wasn't going to go to Taste of Sydney this year - the high cost of tickets ($25-$30 for standard entry), the risk of inclement weather and the outdoor setting did not make me enthusiastic at all. Then I saw some of the dishes that were on offer and I changed my mind like a fickle, mind-changing
glutton food-lover. And I prayed for dry, cool weather (the Bureau of Meterology said it would be partly cloudy with chance of showers).
I always like to go to the Saturday afternoon session of Taste, so I aimed to arrive at 12pm, grab a table, eat and drink for 1.5 hours, walk around a bit then go home. The day sort of went to plan. After lining up for tickets and buying $60 worth of crowns (tokens with which to pay for the food), I got a feeling for how hot it was going to get and made a beeline for the nearest table with an umbrella (not too near the loud bandstand). Then I got out my list of 'dishes I must get' and sent my dining companion out to collect.
This is what we had.
From Assiette and District Dining: Crispy pork belly with cashew nut caramel, watermelon and mint ($12); Spicy free-range chicken with lime aioli and coleslaw ($10).
The pork belly skin was quite chewy rather than crispy, though the meat was moist and tasted of Asian spices. The watermelon and radish were very refreshing, though I think this dish was overpriced given the size. The chicken was fantastic (much better than KFC, dare I say).
From Restaurant Balzac: Crisp Wagyu beef with wild mushroom and truffle foam ($12).
This restaurant always surprises with its wonderful pork and beef offerings, and this spring roll was excellent. Like a beef Wellington, the meat inside was pull-apart tender, and the 'foam' was like cream of mushroom soup with lots of truffle flavour. This dish was so good, it was almost enough for me to forgive the constant emails from Restaurant Balzac since I got on their mailing list 2 years ago.
From Berowra Waters Inn and Ad Lib Bistro: Slow cooked fillet of ocean trout with French onion soup puree and peppered oxtail croustillant ($12); Chilled Vichyssoise, oyster beignets, salmon roe ($10).
The salmon was perfectly cooked (it always amazes me how the restaurants manage to churn out hundreds of dishes of mainly high quality). The 'croustillant' was oxtail meat wrapped in pastry and very tasty but the French onion puree was extremely strong-tasting and reminded me of Bonox or boullion cubes (not in a good way). The Vichyssoise was fantastic, like a creamy foam with an intense flavour of leeks, and the 'pop' of salmon roe balls.
We had to buy another $30 worth of crowns because I forgot to factor in drinks. This is a limonata ($4), a cider ($6) and a 'beer and nuts' ($8) from Cotton Duck restaurant. I later bought a bottle of water as well ($4).
Now onto the desserts.
From Bird Cow Fish: Tiramisu roulade with caramel sauce ($8)
From Otto Ristorante: Amedei milk chocolate mousse with salted caramel and fresh berries ($8).
The Tiramisu had a wonderfully strong flavour of coffee/Tia Maria, but the serving was a bit small.
The milk chocolate mousse from Otto was more like a tart and was INCREDIBLE. The mousse was so light and the salted caramel was hidden in the centre. The base of crumbs was matched with chocolate crumbs on top of the rich chocolate glaze. And the size was massive, I could barely eat all of my half.
In our wanderings after eating, we came across the Sensology cocktail-making classes which looked fun. There were the usual cookware, wine producers, cake outlets (Patisse shown here) and 'purveyors of fine meats' to inspect. I didn't try it because I already had it last year, but the massive paellas from Aperitif smelt marvellous, full of seafood and saffron. And that's my 'must eat' list above - printing out the menus beforehand really helped me to focus on the end goal.
So in the end, I'm glad I went. It's annoying that Sydney's Taste is held outdoors while Melbourne's is inside. This weekend's weather was fortunately fine, but very warm and uncomfortable when you're sitting in the sun (and can't afford the air-conditioned VIP area). Most of the dishes we had were lovely, but rather over-priced when you factor in the entry fee as well. All up, we spent $94 on food and drink for two people, which is quite a lot for lunch. I wasn't too full afterwards, though being in the heat made me a bit woozy on the walk back to Paddington. But that's probably just my being out of shape for an afternoon of lazing about and stuffing myself! So, for Taste of Sydney, it's Adieu till next year.