I was super excited
at the idea of the evening: one of my favourite shows, The F Word
, adapted for the local market with Matt Moran
as Gordon Ramsay. $40 for 3 courses too. All good.
Set in a built-for-the-show restaurant in East Sydney, the fitout was as good looking as the staff. It was all a bit of fun, applauding like performing monkeys when Matt walks in (chef worship really is an insane concept, one which I am unashamedly engaged in). It seemed to follow the UK version quite closely, except sadly there was no Giles
(I think there was an equivalent, but I had no idea who he was, and I know these things) and our celebrities are the usual flunkies; last night were Anthony Callea and Bella and Evan from Pink Salt (this must be the My Restaurant Rules
replacement for 2007). The crew swarmed around the tables all night, boom mikes and cameras zooming in non-stop - at first we wondered if we really should be discussing our number of sexual partners but by the end of the long night we really didn't care what was being picked up. Girls went around interviewing tables over what they thought of the dishes: here we are, foodies, and all we could say was, "it was nice" - "the squid was nice"..."the pork was nice". I challenged Kath to say the sauce was "piquant" (you try and say it) but she chickened out! This is what the presence of cameras does! You just go all jelly! You try and be relaxed and natural and you sound like a twat!
The premise of the show is that three amateur cooks of a different profession each week (doctors, flight attendants...) cook for the 50 diners and supervised by Moran. Us diners judge whether the meal was good enough to pay for. Last night the cooks were butchers, and we both thought they did a good job. Overall we enjoyed our meal and the $40 was good value (even though they didn't bring back our change, but we were just too tired to care). The entree of salt and pepper squid with bok choy was nice (oh god, there it is again). OK, it was cooked well, and the bok choy was a good choice for base. The sauce was a little sweet but had good flavours. Not bad for the ubiquitous Sydney dish. The main of roast pork, with kipfler potatoes, brocolini, roast pears and caper butter caused quite the controversy. I enjoyed it. The pork was cooked to perfection, juicy and clean flavoured (as I'm not a huge fan of pork). Sure, the crackling wasn't very crispy, but I'm in the school of thought that any crackling is good crackling, and I have pork so rarely that I'll enjoy what I get. The brocolini was cold so the resting butter sat there not melting, but it was cooked al dente. Let's not forget, three people cooking for 50 is one hell of a challenge, and one that would leave me rocking in the faetal position. The butter was chunky and salty; a little less salt and it would have made a nice accompaniment for steaks and vegies. The problem was the mini roasted pears on the side were a bit superfluous and would have benefited from a drop of glaze on the plate; but the butter negated that option, so they sat there not adding much to the dish. The potatoes were the hotly-contested part of the night - on the menu they were simply noted as 'kipfler potatoes' and they came out crushed, with a little garlic and olive oil. I loved it, the texture, the flavour of the kipflers, the rustic look and taste. Many of the diners, Kath included, were outraged (yes, outraged - there was shouting from around the room) that it wasn't mash. It didn't say it would be mash, so why expect it? I'm kind of sick of mash when eating out anyway, it's on every dish and most restaurants are doing it very smooth and creamy these days. This rustic, chunky approach was lovely, and I plan to do it myself more often. At this point Matt came out from the kitchen as apparently only 20 of the 50 diners said they would pay for their meals and pleaded for people to rethink, considering the hard work the butchers were putting away in front of the hot stoves. Since when did everyone expect haute cuisine? It screamed of inner-city snobbery and it royaly gave me the irrates. Dessert was white chocolate pannacota with citrus salad. I was worried when I read of the pannacotta, there was a point years ago when every restaurant was serving it up and doing them badly (most still are). There's nothing worse than that gelatinous taste, however ours were surprisingly well done. The white chocolate was slightly gritty but didn't detract from the smooth and white chocolatey mouth feel. It was served with orange, blood orange and strawberries marinated in zingy citrus, and sprinkled with crunchy pistachios - and it worked. Unfortunately tea or coffee weren't offered and it should have been, it's a proper full stop to a meal.
I think production-wise it could have been a bit sharper: it wouldn't have hurt to give us a rundown of the evening, or for Moran (or anybody in charge) to thank us for coming at the end of the night. Moran should have saved his appeal for higher scores till the end of the meal - I wouldn't have blamed the butchers for spitting in our pannacottas after such a hostile response. Moran threw around a few 'bollocks' and I think he's trying to be a hard man, but he's not a hard man. Let's not pretend to be Gordo. But it definitely was a fun night and fab to do something so unique. Looking forward to seeing the final result when the show hits Channel 7 sometime this year.
A big thank you to Anna
for the heads up for the evening, and it was funny seeing another food blogger Emily
at the next table. Kath
is a great dining companion as always. Go read all their reviews. PS what was with the insane amount of water being served? It could have cured our drought!
Cameras and mike booms and faux celebs - oh my!
Salt and pepper squid with bok choy
The controversial roast pork, kipflers, brocolini, pears and caper butter
White chocolate pannacotta with citrus salad and pistachios