25 February 2011

March into Merivale: Launch Party 2011, Sydney (24 Feb 2011)

The Ivy Room, 320 George Street, Sydney NSW 2000



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.


SNAPSHOT REVIEW:
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

Spiced Pink Grapefruit and Vodka Martini
SIMON FAVOURITE :-)

Mad Cow stand

Mad Cow's signature beef tartare — Not quite as good as a freshly made version at Kingsleys.

Mad Cow: Barbequed Rangers Valley wagyu flank steak with chimichurri sauce — Nice flavours

Ash St. Cellar stand

Ash St Cellar: Choripan - Argentinean style chorizo roll with romesco and aioli — Nice flavour

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 stand

Ms. G's: Chilli cheese dog spring rolls — Tasty flavours and interesting combination

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.
SIMON FAVOURITE :-)

Felix stand

Felix: Chicken liver pate with currant relish — Smooth pate with nice flavour and served with good crackers

Felix: Freshly shucked Sydney Rock Oysters from Merimbula — Outstanding
SIMON FAVOURITE :-)


Felix: Caramelised onion and goats cheese tartlet. First there was one but then they served two. More of a canapé than a dish.

Lotus stand

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
SIMON FAVOURITE :-)

The Beresford Hotel stand

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 stand

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
SIMON FAVOURITE :-)

Ucello stand

Ucello: Cuttlefish salad with rock melon, cucumber, mint and crispy prosciutto — Quite generous compared to others with nice fresh flavours.
WORTH TRYING

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.
WORTH TRYING

Bistrode CBD stand

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 stand

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.
SIMON FAVOURITE :-)

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

Chefs preparing in the kitchen


Ash Street laneway in full swing

Felix VIP area

The Ivy Room

The Ivy Room balcony

Drinks station

Possibly the best seats in the house to sit and relax

Some seating available — there's pasta on that tree!

DJ

Official professional photographers

Adriano Zumbo and friends outside Felix Bistro


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17 comments:

joey@FoodiePop said...

Fabulous! I laughed at "....grabbing food left, right and centre like seagulls in a feeding frenzy." LOL

Buffalo wing sang choi bow and cheese dog spring rolls sound interesting! Ms. G's is certainly creative!

lateraleating said...

As you said, some of the servings are big enough to make the 6-plate sampler a full meal. It's interesting that some of the great looking ones didn't really impress you and the other way around.

MelbaToast said...

Ha ha, I love that one of your pluses for the boys is the nicely dressed ladies - very cute!

It looks like a great event, esp if you have a VIP ticket. I would've struggled to pick just 6 things...but I reckon the Buffalo wing sang choi bow would've been on the list.

chocolatesuze said...

i am so sad i didnt get to try the corned beef! but oh how delicious were the martinis mmm

OohLookBel said...

I was wondering if the $20 cover charge would deter the crowd, but obviously not. Great coverage of the food and atmosphere in your photos.

Tina@foodboozeshoes said...

Well done - looks like you covered everything!

sugarpuffi said...

lucky!!! did u get to eat everything cause u were vip? D:

Mel said...

that was so much fun even just by reading and looking at the photos! :)

Champagne Jayne said...

What a great review Simon! I couldn't make it last night but felt like I was there thanks to your article. Hope we'll champagne again soon
Cheers CJ

Stephannie@StephtheChef said...

I shucked those oysters and made those tarts you ate from felix! :) Glad you had a enjoyable evening!

thang @ noodlies said...

wow, looks like a full on great event, the $20 looks like it was so worth it!

Corinne @ Gourmantic said...

Nicely done, Simon! It was lovely to catch up with you on the night :)

Dolly said...

awww

i missed out. so many yummii canapes..

:(

susan said...

what a great event! I would love to try all of that food.

Simon Food Favourites said...

hi joey, one day i hope to visit Ms G and see what it's all about.

hi lateraleating, it was a bit of a timing pressure too. you had to work out which ones would have been the dishes you wanted against the impending increase in crowds to try and get around leisurely.

hi melbatoast, with so many choices picking just 6 would have been pretty hard but i think most people would be tempted by certain dishes and not others to help narrow down.

hi chocolatesuze, the martinis were excellent :-)

hi bel, i think the cover charge helped a bit but there were some stands that were very popular and it was a little hard to get to see what dish they had on offer. arriving early always helps.

hi tina, i think i covered everything except the toilets this time ;-)

hi sugarpuffi, i got to try everything although i probably ate too much in the end. the things we do for research.

hi mel, glad you got an idea of what it was like.

hi jayne, i hope our paths cross again over some bubbles :-)

hi Stephannie, those oysters were some of the best cleanly opened shucked oysters I've come across — very impressive.

hi thanh, i think the $20 would have been pretty good value in the end although free is even better :-)

hi corinne, was great to see you again too. hope the rest of your night went well.

hi susan, i think you would have loved it :-)

Anonymous said...

Hey Simon

Did you see Dan Hong's twitter account re this post? He had a go at your review of March into Mervale and then got into a tweet debate with Simon Thomsen over the role of bloggers...Think he deleted it all in the end but pretty controversial...

Simon Food Favourites said...

hi Anonymous, i would have loved to see the twitter debate but unfortunately had no idea of it and haven't seen it. i wonder if anyone else has? :-)

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