24 September 2012

The Rocks Vintage Dinner under the stars, Sydney (21 Sept 2012)

Argyle Street and Kendall Lane, The Rocks, Sydney NSW 2000

Unique dining under the stars

‘In keeping with a traditional wine vintage feast, this menu celebrates the best food and wine from the Hunter Valley, Orange, Mudgee, Riverina, Hilltops, South Highlands and New England regions’

Thanks to Baroque Bistro for inviting me as a guest to the fully booked out The Rocks Vintage Dinner under the stars ($150 per person). Clear skies made for a pleasant night for diners seated along the crossroads of Argyle Street and the narrow Kendall Lane. Dishes and glasses of wine were exchanged for 'rocks' ranging between 1 and 3 rocks each and bottles of wine were available for more. Extra rocks could be purchased for $5 each so based on the entry price you're paying $60 for your choice of food and drink and $90 for the privilege of a seat. I guess setting up such an event doesn't come cheap although in previous years it seemed to be much more affordable ie $65 in 2010. With only 12 rocks to play with I had to choose my dishes wisely from the six participating restaurant stalls although I did get pretty full after about four dishes. The Pan fried scallop from Scarlett was the first dish to sell out due to being so popular. Luckily I got the last one which also ended up being my favourite dish of the night. A great combination of flavours with four plump scallops (apparently five earlier in the night) matched with a tasty celeriac remoulade. If they didn't run out of scallops I'm sure they would have sold many more. I also tried there Sticky beef short rib with tender and flavoursome meat but was quite rich and heavy on the palate. The pickled radish thankfully helped cut through the heaviness although a dish still best shared between two. Pan seared Cone Bay ocean barramundi from Saké was nicely presented and worth trying. The Salmon gravlax with potato salad from The Cut was a light tasting dish with predictable flavours although still nice. I would have loved more zing from the salad.

I tried a bit of another diners Braised beef cheek from Wine Odyssey Australia which was super tender as hoped plus a bit of the generous serving of Mirrool Creek lamb from Pony Lounge & Dining which was also good. La Renaissance Patisserie & Baroque Bistro was the only stall providing desserts so understandably were hugely popular towards the end of the night. They provided me samples of their Trio of chocolate milles feuilles and Raspberry mandarin and pistachio slice which were nicely presented and hit the sugar spot but I wondered if they should have simplified some of the plating to save them preparation time and hence reduce the queuing time. In any case they were still well-received along with the Café gourmand (two macarons with coffee). The good selection of macarons made it hard to choose a favourite. Labelling the macaron display would have made it easier for the diners to see what was on offer though. Roving entertainers, musicians and dancers provided a fun atmosphere and the hanging lamp shades and table setting was quite magical. Personally I think the price point might be a bit hefty for some to justify when you consider a 3 course meal at one of the restaurants would be less than $100 which would include table service and proper plates. My sneaky cheeky tip for the budget conscious would be book yourself a table on the balcony at Pony or outside at Wine Odyssey on the same night and you'll get the benefits of hearing and seeing the music and roving entertainment but you won't have the choice of dishes from multiple restaurants, be immersed in the magical dining atmosphere and receive discount coupons at the end of the night.

PROS: Fun atmosphere, Nice decor and table setting, Friendly event staff, Minimal queuing due to limited numbers, You get to choose dishes from multiple restaurants, Suitable for large group bookings
CONS: Very weather dependent, No table service so you need to get up and get your own food and drinks, Some dishes sell out, Pricing might be considered expensive for some, Pre-booking required
MUST TRY: Pan fried scallop from Scarlett, Macarons from Baroque
VERDICT: A unique and fun dining experience that's probably best shared with a small group of friends although the price might be hard to justify for some people considering you could get a 3 course dinner at these restaurants for under $100
Welcome drink of sparkling

12 rocks to exchange for food and wine. Extra rocks can be purchased for $5 each.

Allocated seating

Table setting

The Cut Bar & Grill
The Cut Bar & Grill menu

Salmon gravalax with potato salad, fennel & lemon mustard dressing

Tasmanian wilderness minute steak on roast capsicum, zucchini & eggplant

Saké Restaurant & Bar
Saké Restaurant & Bar menu

Pan seared Cone Bay ocean barramundi with butter soy and a buckwheat, tomato and edamame salsa dressed-with sweet yuzu ponzu

Salt and pepper tofu salad, sesame ponzu dressing

Edamame lightly salted soy beans in the pod

Pony Lounge & Dining
Pony Lounge & Dining menu

Slow cooked then grilled octopus, rocket, roasted peppers, red onion, parsley and capers

Thirlmere chicken with split green bean, fennel and asparagus salad, spiced aioli

Mirrool Creek lamb, smoky eggplant and white bean, roasted tomato, dressed rocket

Haloumi with split green bean, fennel and asparagus salad, roasted tomato, smoky eggplant

Wine Odyssey Australia
Wine Odyssey Australia menu

Beetroot, goats cheese and pistachio salad with balsamic vinegar

Braised beef cheek with pearl barley and pine mushroom risotto, spinach and hazelnuts

Australian cheese plate with Milawa Blue, Jindi Fire Engine Red washed rind, dried Muscadelle grapes and white-wine apricot jelly

Scarlett menu

Pan fried scallop, celeriac remoulade, watercress, kipfler crisp

Sticky beef short rib, pickled radish, coriander, shallot, ginger jelly

Pan-fried ocean trout, salad of fennel, salted cucumber, dill, asparagus, citrus butter

Le Renaissance Patisserie & Baroque Bistro
Le Renaissance Patisserie & Baroque Bistro menu

Trio of chocolate milles feuilles

Raspberry mandarin and pistachio slice

Café gourmand (two macarons with coffee)

You won't have to wait long to get your wine

7 flavours dancers

Roving entertainment

Live music entertainment

Lorraine (Not Quite Nigella) and Natasha (Food in Focus)

Katrina (Sip Your Style) and Me

Restaurant offers and discounts

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Christine @ Cooking Crusade said...

outdoor dining, what a lovely idea! stunning photos as always Simon! i am salivating over that amazing looking beef short rib - big fave of mine :)

Nic@diningwithastud said...

What a gorgeous night for it :) I must say, you look very smart in your suit

Simon Leong said...

hi christine, thanks for the positive feedback. outdoor dining is great as long as the weather stays good of course.

hi nic, why thank you, I try my best :-)

Amanda@Chewtown said...

I can't believe I missed this! I've been jealously reading a few blogger's posts on it and realised it was a spectacular event.

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