Noodlies, Sydney food blog contributor, Keren Lavelle gets a taste of a progressive dinner…
I have heard that back in the 1960s and 70s, there was a phenomenon known as the progressive dinner party. A group of friends would gather at one couple’s house for entrees (prawn cocktail?), go to another place for main course (boeuf bourguignon?) then stagger on to a third for dessert (pavlova?).
Random breath testing may have put an end to all that, but the concept was revived by King Street Wharf precinct last week (only it had classier name: a culinary journey). A gaggle of lucky bloggers met up for: a drink at The Loft, an entree at the Steersons Steakhouse, mains at The Malaya, and dessert at Casa Ristorante Italiano.
The Loft (above) is intriguingly and dramatically soft lit and cosy; no doubt on a summer night it’s also a great place to sit outdoors and catch breezes with your view of Darling Harbour. Our cocktail, a long Tasman Iced Tea, was no doubt conceived with a summer night in mind, but ours was a wintry, blustery night complete with downpours. No matter, it was but a short totter to the next venue.
Steersons Steakhouse is sharp and cool in appearance. Its theme of precision was carried through in our delicious entree, jokingly named Tongue ‘n Cheek (above). Paying attention to neglected organ meat had certainly paid off here. Beef cheeks which had been poached in a vegetable stock prior to being sliced and pan-fried were swathed in cucumber. Along with ultra-crispy bacon strips, they were a great textural contrast to the delicate slices of seared ox tongue lolling by dollops of artichoke cream. A crisp yet delicate Mamre Brooke riesling provided contrast to the creamy dish.
No rest for the wicked: we were off to 50 year veteran The Malaya, which moved here from George Street some 15 years ago. I was seated next to the third generation of the Wong family of restaurateurs, Duan, whose day job as an importer of wine has had a payoff in his inspired reworking of The Malaya wine list. Duan has selected wines more aromatic in style to suit spicy food. Our first dish of Kapitan King Prawns (above), introduced to the menu back in the 70s, was accompanied by very modern chardonnay from Orange.
Duan listened patiently to my tales of dining at the George Street Malaya when I was a student. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I preferred the old-style Beef Rendang to the more recent (1987!) coconut-based one, however worthy successor this one is (a delectable Cotes du Rhône assuaged my nostalgia). Another innovation (1996!), one to be celebrated, is the Szechuan Eggplant dish, once described as ‘pork belly for vegetarians’, consisting of wedges of marinated eggplant, crisp on the outside and so soft in the middle, stir-fried with shallots, cashew nuts and dried chilies.
I’m afraid after these highlights, few of us seem to have appetite for the desserts at our last stop, Casa Ristorante Italiano. An attractive, stylishly decorated eatery open to the fresh air, the Casa had prepared for us that Middle Eastern classic, the Orange Jaffa Cake (above), and decidedly nuovo pizzas: Nutella Pizza (below) and Apple Crumble Pizza.
Perhaps if you are the one to set out on your own King Street Wharf culinary journey, you should invert the order and kick off here.
Unlike the 70s groovers, there is no need to drive between venues, and it is fun to explore these plus the other bars and restaurants that make up the precinct.
King Street Wharf, Darling Harbour
- The Loft
- Steersons Steakhouse
- The Malaya
- Casa Ristorante Italiano
Keren dined as a guest of King Street Wharf.