The word Deus (“day-us”) in Latin literally translates to “God”, and in the conventions of Greek tragedy where “God” could emerge from the wings suspended from ropes operated by a pulley, it was dubbed “Deus ex machina”, or “God from the machine”.
How appropriate then, for a cafe attached to a custom motorcycle shop to go by this very name. Deus didn’t set out only to sell custom parts and hand-built motorcycles, but to celebrate a culture of creativity. The Deus ex Machina showroom/cafe/headquarters in Camperdown, Sydney is a shrine to ‘run-what-you-brung’ resourcefulness and street-honest industrial art, and was our venue for The Wine Society and The Umami Project’s collaboration pop-up restaurant last Wednesday evening.
I had requested the company of Brother Bear, who was more than happy to accompany me to this event. We arrived a little early but it gave me ample opportunity to check out the decor and snap a few photos of our starting nibbles: Root Vegetable Shards with Miso and Tahini, served with a glass of sparkling, the Society Directors’ Selection Grand Cuvee 2010, King Valley.
To give you a bit of background information, The Umami Project is the creation of ex-Masterchef contestant Vern Fitzgerald, who previously worked in sales with The Wine Society. The Wine Society have recently sought to explore wine pairings with elaborate meals, and it was with this idea in mind and the collaboration of these two bodies that we had this gorgeous pop-up restaurant this evening.
I’m still somewhat of a novice when it comes to wine – I’ve enjoyed it on its own before, but I’ve never had a meal with wine paired specifically to each dish and so was very much looking forward to the experience. Luckily Peter, the Marketing Manager for The Wine Society introduced each wine at the beginning of each course and named its characteristics, and I was surrounded by members of The Wine Society so I could ask them their opinion so confirm my own thoughts!
Once we were seated, our first course to arrive was the Smoked Eel Croquettes with Watercress and Japanese Vinaigrette, paired with a Picarus Riesling 2011, Clare Valley. The slight acidity of the white cut through the oiliness of the batter on the croquettes, and once you broke open the croquettes it was full of soft, creamy mashed potato and a delicate smoked flavour from the eel.
The second course was a beauty. The Moshio Sashimi with Shaved Fennel and Pickled Vegetables arrived beautifully presented, and paired with the lightly sweet Purple Hands Pinot Gris 2012, Adelaide Hills.
The star dish of the evening however, was most definitely the Pho Inspired Duck Two Ways, which came with either a Leconfield Cabernet Merlot 2012, Coonawarra, or the Society Directors’ Selection Pinot Noir 2012, Tasmania – where the latter had won the best Pinot Noir at the Adelaide Wine Show.
The Pinot Noir was considerably lighter in flavour and texture and I probably preferred it paired with the duck dish. As much as duck is a gamier meat, it is ultimately poultry, which should be paired with a wine that’s lighter on the palate. The duck had been served two ways in true respect to the duck – a Chinese-style roast duck breast, and the rest of the duck stuffed into tender, flavoursome dumplings. The broth was also incredibly tasty, and we spotted a gentleman at one of our neighbouring tables picking up his plate and drinking the residual soup when his spoon had failed him!
The Cabernet Merlot was full of rich depth and flavour, but for me more suited to drinking on its own than with the duck.
And last, but not least, dessert. A Coconut and Pandan Leaf Pannacotta with Almond Tuille and Macerated Strawberries, paired with one of the most delicious dessert wines I’ve ever tasted – the Society Premium Selection Morgan Botrytis Semillon 2012, Hunter Valley, which had summery apricot and coconut notes and was ridiculously good both with the dessert and to just sip on its own.
Creamy, perfect, coconutty pannacotta, crispy and buttery tuille, sweet strawberries – what more could you ask for?
Well, maybe an espresso to finish your meal. Unfortunately I couldn’t touch mine as with my low caffeine tolerance I’d be jumping off the walls into the early hours of the morning.
As our incredible four-course meal drew to a close, it allowed me ample opportunity to chat to some members of The Wine Society, and of course the amazingly talented chefs for the evening. I also managed to grab a few photos with Vern, Nicky and Daniel.
An amazing evening and I won’t hesitate to say that it was one of the best dining experiences I’ve had yet. The Wine Society and The Umami Project are looking to hold even more pop-up parties in the upcoming year, so I strongly encourage anyone with a keen interest in wine and food to participate.
In the meantime, I’m waiting on my dessert wine (ordered with a Wine Society member discount, of course!) which I think will go very nicely with some blue cheese 😉
For more information on The Wine Society or the Umami Project, please follow the links below: