Launching a month of feasting
Thanks to Helen Lear from Stellar* Concepts Australia for organising a VIP pass for me to attend the official launch of March into Merivale. This years format changed from being a free-for-all party to a $20 coupon which included 6 tastings of your choice from 12 Merivale restaurant stands and 2 drinks of either sparkling, white wine, red wine or beer. To be honest I really thought it wouldn't be that popular since everyone was used to a free handout in the past but the event ended up being very well attended although thankfully the crowding seemed to be a bit more controlled than previous years since you had to decide what you actually wanted to eat and weren't just grabbing food left, right and centre like seagulls in a feeding frenzy. Having some food stands in the Ash Street laneway also helped to disperse the crowd from The Ivy Room and provided a nice outdoor area to mingle. The Felix Bistro was HQ for VIP guests which provided some cosy seating although unfortunately there wasn't much seating to be had in the general areas and very limited table space as well to set your drink down while trying to eat a two handed dish — I think more tables and seating might have been appreciated by all.
As a welcoming drink for VIPs only inside Felix was a very delicious Spiced Pink Grapefruit Vodka Martini which had the right balance of alcohol, sweetness and depth of flavour for me to try three of them to be sure — chief bartender Tim was adamant to make sure it was not known as a Spiced Orange Vodka Martini as previously thought. After perusing all the restaurant stands it was time to finally try the food and being a VIP allowed me to sample everything, so of course I politely obliged and tried it all. At first I thought if I had a $20 coupon for 6 dishes that it wouldn't be enough but it seems some of the samplings were larger than your usual canapé size and if chosen well you'd be feeling probably quite satisfied. Also in terms of value for money if you consider 2 drinks would probably set you back around $14 anyway then you're actually getting each sampling dish for around $1 each.
As a summary here's my list of favourite dishes I would have chosen if I was restricted to only picking 6 with a coupon:
1. Freshly shucked Sydney Rock Oyster from Felix
2. Buffalo wings san choi bow from Ms. G's
3. Thai inspired sea scallop and prawn ceviche from Lotus
4. Bamboo skewered BBQ chicken from Sailors Thai
5. Char grilled king prawns with lemongrass from Sailors Thai
6. Hemmesphere roll / Dynamite roll from Sushi e
Honourable mentions which were both tasty and substantial compared to other dishes:
7. Maccheroni baked with Castelmagno cheese from Uccello
8. Cuttlefish salad with rock melon from Uccello
Alternatively being an oyster lover I would have been pretty happy with 6 freshly shucked oysters and 2 glasses of sparkling for $20 which is probably the best value you'd find anywhere in Sydney other than buying a dozen oysters directly from the Sydney Fish Market and a bottle of sparkling from your favourite bottle shop to share between two people. All-in-all it was a very enjoyable night which seemed to run quite smoothly and the food-themed models and decorations certainly provided a very appropriate foodie backdrop and atmosphere. After 2 hours of feasting it was time to rest back in Felix VIP land where Chocolatesuze made a good point about there not being any dessert dishes this year — perhaps this is something for Merivale to consider for next year. Speaking of desserts, Adriano Zumbo was spotted amongst the crowd in Felix who was eventually approached by admirers of his macaron supremacy — I wonder what crazy flavour he'll come up with next.
Other Merivale events:
• 24 Feb 2011 - March into Merivale Launch Party 2011
• 24 Feb 2011 - March into Merivale Launch Party 2011
• 8 Sept 2010 - Establishment's 10th Birthday 2010
• 6 Sept 2010 - Establishment's 10th Birthday Promotion
• 9 June 2010 - A Feast for the Senses Launch Party 2010
• 4 June 2010 - A Feast for the Senses Launch Party Promotion
• 16 March 2010 - March into Merivale Launch Party 2010
• 16 June 2009 - Winter Feasts Launch Party 2009
• 3 March 2009 - March into Merivale Launch Party 2009
PROS: Quality food samples to try, Friendly service under pressure, Creative and party atmosphere, Chefs available to talk to about their restaurant, Nice use of Ash St laneway, Men will probably enjoy the abundance of dressed up women attending
CONS: Very popular, Very crowded at times, Very limited table space to rest your drink when eating, Not much available seating
MUST TRY: Freshly shucked oysters from Felix, Thai inspired sea scallop and prawn ceviche on prawn cracker from Lotus, Hemmesphere and Dynamite rolls from Sushi e, BBQ chicken and Grilled king prawn with lemongrass from Sailors Thai, Spiced pink grapefruit vodka martini from Felix
Sparking and Spiced Pink Grapefruit and Vodka Martini to start
Mad Cow's signature beef tartare — Not quite as good as a freshly made version at Kingsleys.
Ash St Cellar: Baked ricotta, fresh peas, lemon, mint and pinenuts — Very awkward to eat with a tiny fork, I think it needed something to bring it all together like serving it on a lettuce leave like a san choy bow
Ms. G's: Buffalo wings san choi bow — Just the right amount and crunch, taste and chilli hit although had to be eaten with 2 hands so where can I put my drink down now.
Felix: Chicken liver pate with currant relish — Smooth pate with nice flavour and served with good crackers
Felix: Caramelised onion and goats cheese tartlet. First there was one but then they served two. More of a canapé than a dish.
Lotus: Mini pulled pork and coleslaw sandwiches — I appreciated the flavours once I took off the top of the bun, maybe better served with less bread.
Lotus: Thai inspired sea scallop and prawn ceviche on prawn cracker — It looked a little boring but once you put the toppings on the cracker it was a fantastic combination of tasty fresh flavours with melt in your mouth crunch
The Beresford Hotel: Gnocchi tomato, basil and buffalo mozzarella — It looked promising but thought it lacked a real distinctive flavour
The Beresford Hotel: Porchetta Tuscan style roasted pork loin — Very good crackling after cooking for 8 hours although found the meat a tad too fatty for my liking yet had some nice flavours.
Sushi Choo stand
Sushi Choo: Japanese angel hair pasta, seafood reduction, mixed with sashimi and topped with dried seaweed. One of the hardest dishes to eat with a toothpick fork, FAIL, so couldn't really appreciate the flavours which seemed a bit lack-lustre.
Sushi Choo: Mini spicy salmon Temaki (hand rolls) — A bit dense and heavy with the seaweed and rice and thought Sushi e was better.
est stand Peter Doyle and TimeOut Sydney 2010 Taste Test winner Stephanie Coupland taking a well-earned drink
est: Juniper scented venison, cauliflower and coffee-cocoa — Looked fantastic but didn't really do much for me.
est: Sashimi of Queensland scallop, apple dashi, lime and hazelnut — Preferred this one to the venison but wasn't one of my favourite of the night. I much preferred their Tartare of Ocean Trout from 2009.
Sushi e: Paradise prawn with tomato aioli, coriander and wonton skin — Nice enough but nothing to set it apart from the rest. Needed something else to perhaps give it more lift and body of flavour.
Sushi e: Hemmesphere roll of salmon, avocado and jalapeno mayonnaise, Dynamtie roll of spicy tuna marinated in 7 peppers, chilli, sesame oil, sweet onion and cucumber — I thought this one was going to be quite dense but turned out to be really fresh and light with melt-in-your-mouth flavours. The Dynamite Roll certainly delivered on a wicked heat kick to the taste buds
Ucello: Cuttlefish salad with rock melon, cucumber, mint and crispy prosciutto — Quite generous compared to others with nice fresh flavours.
Uccello: Maccheroni baked with Castelmagno cheese, leeks and black truffle — Probably the most substantial dish of the night with tasty flavours although some of the pasta was a bit overcooked due to being maybe from the bottom of the pot.
Bistrode CBD: Cured salmon, celeriac and grain mustard — Flavours that work together but nothing particularly exciting.
Bistrode CBD: Wagyu corned beef and horseradish cream — Nice flavours with a tasty cream but lacking the wow factor.
Sailors Thai: Char grilled king prawns with lemongrass, apricot and chilli jam — I didn't think I'd like the apricot with the prawn but it worked really well together and enhanced the flavour experience.
Sailors Thai: Bamboo skewered BBQ chicken with Sailors Thai sweet chilli sauce — I though it might have been a bit dry but was fairly moist and bursting with flavours and would have been even better if just freshly cooked.
SIMON FAVOURITE :-)
Ash Street laneway entrance
Justine Hemmes and food-themed models
Justine Hemmes (the man behind some of the best parties in Sydney) and Me
Food-themed models preparing for crowd walkies
Call me shallow but I'm a sucker for having a photo with food-themed models — I thought the use of food as clothing and accessories was very cleverly done.
Felix VIP area
$20 coupon includes 6 food tastings and 2 drink tastings
March into Merivale passport — Visit all 12 restaurants for their $33 deal by 29 April and receive a $100 voucher to enjoy at any one of their restaurants until 31 December 2011
A very popular moment at The Beresford Hotel stand
Ash Street laneway in full swing
Felix VIP area
The Ivy Room
The Ivy Room balcony
Adriano Zumbo and friends outside Felix Bistro
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