It started off a beautiful Sunday morning when I’d gotten out of bed, ready for a huge day at Taste of Sydney. BOOM. Thunder. Storm. Violent winds. By the time I’d made my way to the festival grounds, the skies were cloudy, and the grass was muddy. But you know what? A rose eaten at any other place tastes as sweet! You know, if you’re into eating fresh flowers.
One of the main events of the day was the food splendor presented by IconPark. What are they? The world’s first online crowd-funding platform dedicated to building dream restaurants and bars. It works by letting you pledge your votes, angel-investor style, by pre-buying foods and drinks from your restaurant team. We’re starting off in Season One, with each season hereafter lasting for three months. This brilliant idea was dreamed up by Dean McEvoy (food and multi-million-dollar-Internet-company entrepreneur, finger-painter) and Paul Schell (jaw dropping hospitality concept designer). I caught up with Paul Schell who introduced me to the concepts of each of the six hopeful contestants, where they put on offer one dish and one drink. Of course, in typical foodie gluttony, I tried them all!
Blackcats are envisioning modern mixology with old world, pinup girl culture from a time more simple. Just look at that huge smile on Jay Gray, their drinks aficiando!
The Pork & Prawn Gumbo had well stewed pork immersed in the flavour, with prawns that were cooked perfectly, but without the gumbo flavour I wanted to run through the whole dish. However, how flavour can be infused in prawn that is easily overcooked I have no idea…one day it will happen and I will be amazed.
Their drink on offer was the East Side Rickey that punches you in the face with flavour! I drank this slowly to savour the kaffir lime, and let the gin gradually become stronger as I sipped.
British India Trading Co
With dishes inspired from their Michelin trained Chef Matt Taylor’s journeys through Britain and India, this team ventures to take you to the grandeur of vibrant India, where a dish takes you strolling through regal peacock strewn lawns.
The Boneless Beef Rib was yum! The meat was so tender, while the power of mustard is cushioned just the right amount by the carrot butter. And who knew okra could taste so good? Equally tender, they had a velvety, gelatinous texture that I personally love – but can attract a niche audience.
The East India Co Fizz was fairly light, with subtle jasmine hints that linger tartly on your tongue. I’m impressed that the gin didn’t overtake the jasmine!
Sedgewick Ave focuses on Art – on the street, in your cup, and on your plate! They exude cheeky fun with the prank they pulled as part of their first round proposal; tagging the Season One shopfront with “Sedgwick Ave.”
The De-Boned Chicken Wings had a juiciness that came from the sauce, but the game-changer for me here was the grilled watermelon and light blue cheese sauce combo – surprisingly amaze-balls. However, it would’ve been food heaven if the watermelon was grilled so that it’s still fresh on the inside, but we need to remember to cut them some slack. It’s a food festival after all! These chefs don’t have their usual kitchen mechanics with them.
The Curbside Hard Lemonade was sweet, sweet, sweet! Some more powerful lemon and a touch more whiskey would’ve done it for me, but for those with a sweet-tooth this is perfect!
Think honky tonk tunes and good ol’ Southern food, with moonbeam passion that induces tattoos of prime beef cuts on BBQ extraordinaire Elli Challenger!
The Smoked BBQ Beef was cooked for 16 hours, to result in a tenderness that melts when cut with a brisket texture. Now I generally find slaw too bitter or too covered in mayonnaise for my liking, but their cabbage slaw nestled underneath combined perfectly with the smoky beef so that every bite wasn’t too heavy on the senses. One request? More smoke!
Their Sweet Iced Tea Cocktail balanced the bourbon with black tea, with the lemon leaving a clean aftertaste.
Min Joo Social is named after the brother eldest son of David here, the man with the pans! Their dream concept is beef and beats inspired by the colourful South Korean city of Seoul.
I was so excited for the kimchi mayonnaise in the Fried Chicken Tortilla, which needed more of a sour twist to show some kimchi loving. Nevertheless, spicy mayo taste with Korean fried chicken texture? Hot, crunchy, satisfying. I preferred it without the tortilla, as I like my chicken as is, but my table partner loved that it helped soak up the sauce to give a bigger flavour bite.
The K-Pop Lychee Mojito do the delicate lychees justice, where they linger as the coconut and rum flavours build up.
Stanley Street Merchants
Chef Matt Stone gave me their vision in five words: ethical, Australian, fun, sustainable, good-times! Does the name look familiar? Matt was the cook behind the loved pop-up Greenhouse at Sydney Harbour in 2011.
True to vision, this dish is full of Australian flavours, from the paperbark that the Chef selected himself to the bush tomato and fennel flavours that make me want to be a jolly swagman camping by the billabong. The only thing I would ask is for the whiting to come through harder than the paperbark. That said….
…Chef of the day sliced, seasoned, and fed me my own piece of bush tomato. Talk about hospitality!
The West Winds Gin and Watermelon Smash calls for more refreshing sweetness from the watermelon, but I love the watermelon mint taste-sation!
Two teams will be eliminated today! I honestly want all these teams to have their own restaurants, but a choice must be made, the power is in your hands. The remaining 4 clans will be battling it out until votes close next Monday 24th March, followed by the grand opening of Winner Number One’s restaurant on 22nd April in East Sydney. Who do you think it will be?
78 Stanley Street, East Sydney NSW
Doors open to the public on 22 April 2014
Phone: (02) 7901 0396
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of IconPark