01 March 2011

Grasshopper: Laneway Dinner, CBD Sydney (23 Feb 2011)

Off George Street, Between King and Market, Next to RM Williams
1 Temperance Lane, Sydney NSW 2000

A true laneway small bar

Thanks to Belinda Lai and fellow team members Martin and John from Grasshopper for inviting me along to this very special Laneway Dinner as a thank you to their supporters and to showcase some of their restaurant food — they’re definitely more than just a bar for drinks. For a true Sydney laneway small bar experience you can't really get more authentic than Grasshopper at the moment — it reminds me of visiting The Croft Institute without the colourful lane graffiti and excessive smelly rubbish from rear entrances of Chinese restaurants. I love the long table outdoor setting tonight with gnomes, bowls of fruit and a retro cassette as your place card — I ended up with Almighty Bach. The bar and restaurant inside has touches of quirky retro décor which gives it warmth and character. This is one bar that doesn’t take itself too seriously and knows how to have some fun.

Upon arriving guests were treated to a lethal yet pleasurable cocktail of Sake and rum with fresh lime served in a science beaker, and for those of the smoking persuasion two types of cigars were on offer supplied by Bogart's which is located in the nearby Martin Place Shopping Circle. The banquet menu was prepared by Chef Stuart Mitchell — apparently he’s worked at the Gordon Ramsay restaurant Boxwood Café. To start the feasting, platters of Berkshire pork and chorizo terrine with a rustic texture were shared amongst the 40+ guests with smoky slices of bread. Next was my favourite of the night of Whiskey and earl grey tea cured king salmon. Great combination of flavours served with ultra thin and crispy homemade crostinis — I’d happily have this one again. If you’re a lover of meat and pepper then the Fillet steak 'au poivre' with port wine shallots and brandy butter sauce would satisfy you well although my mouth was starting to burn due the liberal coating of ground pepper so I had to eventually slice most of it off, but meat was tender and tasty.

The flavoursome and smoky Roast pumpkin with balsamic and parmesan reminded me of the enjoyable pumpkin dish I had at District Dining — I wish I could cook pumpkin like this at home. For dessert the Coffee crème brûlée was a crowd pleaser served in a tiny jar but full of flavour, followed by a nice hit of coffee cream that lurked underneath. Served with kitsch teaspoons reminded me of simpler times with Grandma. An abundance of four cheeses were then distributed down the table. The slab of Bleu de Basque was good but quite mild compared to say Roquefort. The Pecorino Romano had the right amount of sharpness but my favourite was the creamy rich flavoured Old Telegraph Road Fire Engine Red which is a brand I first discovered at Avido.

During the course of the banquet five wines from Izway were generously poured although I’m not sure why they were all red with four of them being shiraz. A white wine would have perhaps better matched the king salmon and a dessert wine with the crème brûlée to better appreciate the dishes. As a final drop the 18 year old Bunnahabhain Islay single malt whiskey was served in a glass jar just the way Greenhouse by Joost like to roll — perhaps such fine scotch deserved a better drinking vessel but Grasshopper is all about being down-to-earth, unpretentious and having fun.

Other visits to Grasshopper:
23 Feb 2011 - Grasshopper Laneway Dinner
27 May 2010 - Grasshopper pop by

PROS: Quirky décor, Relaxed atmosphere, Interesting location, Down-to-earth atmosphere, Friendly staff, Bringing life back into the Sydney laneways
CONS: You’ll feel safer walking with someone else down a dodgy looking laneway at night, Drinking wine out of a pewter goblet can overpower the bouquet and taste of the wine, There is a limit to how much pepper you can put on a steak
MUST TRY: Sake and rum with fresh lime to kick start your night, Whiskey and earl grey tea cured king salmon, Old Telegraph Road Fire Engine Red

Sake and rum with fresh lime

Berkshire pork and chorizo terrine with spiced peach chutney

Whiskey and earl grey tea cured king salmon

Fillet steak 'au poivre', port wine shallots and brandy butter sauce — so much pepper it was starting to make my mouth go on fire

Roast pumpkin, balsamic and parmesan

Coffee crème brûlée with pistachio biscotti

Cheese platter: Bleu de Basque, France; Old Telegraph Road Fire Engine Red, Australia SIMON FAVOURITE :-); Quickes Clothbound Cheddar, England; Pecorino Romano, Italy

(L to R) Wines 2009 Izway 'Three Brians' Grenache, 2010 Izway 'Izway' Shiraz, 2009 Izway 'Bruce' Shiraz, 2009 Izway 'Harold' Shiraz, 2008 Izway 'Harold' Shiraz

18 year old Bunnahabhain Islay single malt whiskey — a glass jar is probably not the best way to appreciate this fine drop


Road (laneway) closed for private dinner — got love the use of milk crates as a barricade aka Chinese screen

Truck showing how small the lane way is

Setting up the table

Martin greets the guests with cassettes that serve as table spot numbers. Used as credit card holders on a normal day

One of my favourite creative business cards — Label combined with playing card

Hello Mr Gnome, what's for dinner?

Table setting

Almighty Bach welcomes me to my luck spot

Candles and goblets

Bogart's cigars to sample: Dominican Republic Macanudo Diplomat Maduro, Demitasse Cuba El Rey Del Mundo

Band in the laneway playing background atmospheric music

Guests enjoying a pre drink and cigar

Entrance to Grasshopper

Kitchen upstairs with Chef Stuart Mitchell (right) previously from Boxwood Café

Grasshopper feature wall and seating

Lounge and lamp seating


I wonder if that retro phone still works?

Stair entrance down to grasshopper with matching couch and retro TV

Glass jars for tap water

Post dinner cigars and chats

Capturing the night

Laneway to the stars

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Tina@foodboozeshoes said...

What a pretty feast - everything is made better by being in a laneway.... :)

joey@forkingaroundsydney said...

Wow, looks cool. That terrine looks so good!

Gastronomy Gal said...

Arghhhhhhhhhhh! That looks like a SUPER cool idea. I love that they have thought of everything. tapes are coming back into fashion aren't they! i wondered why a fellow blogger had placed a tape on the table but then realised it was actually an iphone case. v.cool. P.S knomes are gorge.

Simon Leong said...

hi tina, thankfully it wasn't raining or that would have been a real disaster :-)

hi joey, if you're a lover of terrine there was plenty to eat.

hi gastronomy gal, they certainly showed attention to detail in the planning. i think i've seen those iphone cases. very cool idea. although in 30 years time i'm sure there'll be some new amazing technology and they'll have covers looking like iPhones which will be considered so retro hehe

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