‘ I told you we got off the bus too early,’ I hissed as we jogged across the crossing, the little red man flashing at us.
‘ Better to be safe than sorry’, Lara Croft retorted back at me as she also struggled with power-walking in her new heels.
I had been invited to an exclusive Food Writer and Bloggers’ dinner at Wooden Spoon Bar & Restaurant this evening, and Lara Croft had readily agreed to be my plus one for the occasion. Our evening had already gotten off to a rocky start with the trains all being delayed by 15 minutes, resulting in the missing of our connecting bus, then catching the next bus and now getting off too early and having to power-walk the remaining distance in patent heels.
Wooden Spoon is located on the bustling Military Road in Cremorne, and situated close to the Hayden Orpheum, making it an ideal location for drink and dinner before or after a show. Walking in, I agreed with the comment The Sister had made when I told her where I was going; she’s been past previously and described it as a ‘very trendy-looking place’.
Hmm, are those champagne flutes being prepared for us, thought I? ;)
From memory, there were about 12 bloggers and their plus ones in attendance, and I recognised two faces from the Food Bloggers’ 2012 Christmas Picnic from a week ago: Flick Your Food & Food Porn Nation. I also made a new acquaintance, being Sir And M’lady Dine Out.
We were offered a cocktail to kick start our evening and after perusing the cocktail list for a very long time (everything looked so delicious!), we settled for a Daim Soutar and a Hazelnut Mojito.
Lara Croft’s Daim Soutar was a very sweet combination of Baileys, Frangelico and Amaretto mixed with a little cocoa powder and fresh cream. It had the most amazing waft of cinnamon and when I sneaked a sip, I was surprised that the consistency of the cocktail wasn’t very thick, as is the norm for most of these dessert wine-based cocktails.
My Hazelnut Mojito was a mixture of fresh lime, mint and chocolate sugar, muddled with Barcadi Rum and Frangelico, and topped with crushed ice and soda. Being a Mojito fan, I generally look down my nose on any variation from the original, but I threw my pre-conceptions out of the window as soon as I had one sip of this baby. I never would have thought hazelnut, mint and lime could possibly work together, but oh my goodness. If you don’t have the time for the food here, at least come here for a cocktail. Or two.
We were served Polenta Chips with a gorgonzola cheese dipping sauce, arranged like Jenga blocks. Quite cute, really!
There were a couple that were slightly burned on the undersides, and I found the texture of the chips didn’t really agree with me. It was a little more on the dry side rather than fluffy. Although having said that, I have only had creamed polenta before.
I had originally thought we were going to be sharing the tasting menu in the bar area, so I was surprised when we were led behind the bar to the back room to the dining area. Dark wooden tables and chairs are arranged in the cosy back area, with the big black umbrella and lanterns giving you the impression that you’re dining outside, when in fact there’s a brightly-lit gym upstairs. But let’s not think about gyms while we’re eating, shall we?
As I had hoped, we each had a champagne flute of sparkling, however it wasn’t on the drinks menu so I can’t provide you the name. It was one of the nicest sparkling wines I’ve had, smelling very sweetly of honey. I also asked for a glass of Alpine Valley Sauvignon from the drinks menu, as I absolutely love New Zealand Sauvignons from the Marlborough region.
I examined the menus before us and I was very pleased with the look of the five course set menu.
The Zucchini flowers, goats cheese and basil, tomato and beans was the first course from the menu. I felt that the zucchini flower could have been nicer with more batter and tempura-ed, but the goats cheese inside popped as soon as the flower was pierced and oozed out in the most delightful way. The salad was lightly dressed with olive oil and lemon.
The Seared Scallops with green pea and lemon crush, bacon brittle, was lovely, with two of the fattest, meatiest scallops I’ve ever seen. The green pea puree was nicely seasoned, taking into account the natural saltiness of the accompanying bacon. Scallops with bacon/prosciutto/pancetta = always a winning combination!
I caught a whiff of coriander as soon as the dumplings were placed in front of me – oh no! At this time the lights were dimmed, so I apologise for the stark nature of the photo. The dumplings on the left were the Peking duck and bamboo with ponzu sauce, while the ones on the right were Prawn, scallop and chive with roast chilli and palm sugar syrup.
I was surprised to get a big hit of chilli as soon as I bit into the duck dumplings, which threw me a bit off balance. Normally I love a bit of subtle heat, but if I can leave it out I will, as I find it dulls the receptiveness of my tastebuds to other flavours. But nothing that a mouthful or three of wine won’t solve ;) The duck was minced, cooked ’til tender, and the dumpling wrapper was silky. The prawn ones were probably my favourite of the two, reminding me of the very popular prawn har gow from yum cha.
Our last two courses arrived at the same time, after anything not being used from the table was cleared away with a flourish, and I quickly noticed why. Both courses came out served on wooden boards – truly a beautiful, rustic way of serving! These two courses were my highlight of the night.
The Crisp skin pork belly, celeriac puree, candy apple jus portions were simply enormous. Each portion was about 5-6cm in diameter and 3cmm tall. The celeriac puree was to-die-for, as was the melt-in-the-mouth fattiness from the belly. I will be perfectly honest here when I say that when I bit into the crispy skin, I let out a little involuntary moan of sheer pleasure – it was just simply that good. Luckily no one around the table heard me.
The Mini beef mignon, wild mushroom salad, Shiraz emulsion sauce was, in my opinion, the most beautifully presented dish of the night and it seemed almost a shame to eat it. Almost. It was quite Jamie Oliver-esque in presentation. The beef mignon was cooked to a tender medium, and topped with the peppery and creamy Shiraz emulsion sauce.
It was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had. My knife (not even a proper steak knife) simply glided through the meat. The wild mushroom salad was a refreshing mixture of brown mushrooms, watercress and mixed leaves.
And as a little gift for each of food writers, two macarons and a thank you note in a gift box. Naww – how sweet! :)
At this stage I felt ready to pop and Lara Croft was yawning and wavering, so we decided to make our way home. A delightful evening, and I’ll be sure to come by Wooden Spoon again when I’m next in the area!
Wooden Spoon Bar & Restaurant
362-366 Military Rd, Cremorne NSW 2090
(02) 9904 5636