An Epic Epicurean odyssey
POSTED ON JANUARY 21, 2015
A nine-hour dinner that pampered all my senses, teased my intellect and blew my mind. I was seduced by the Australian gastronomic experience.
Recently, Australia “invited the world to dinner” and declared that for this path-breaking occasion, three of its top chefs would be cooking together. I confess, initially, I was skeptical, but sure, I was flattered and thrilled to be invited as one of the 80 (only 80) “global food influencers” by Australia. I was going to be in fabulous company…superstar chefs like Heston Blumenthal, Alice Waters, Matt Preston, Maggie Beer, writers like AA Gill and many others. It was not a dinner, but an epic that is best explained in chapters.
Chapter 1: A 15-MILE-LONG DINNER
We begin ‘the’ day on a sunny, windswept pier in Hobart, Tasmania, with the finest and fleshiest oysters pulled fresh from the ocean, complemented by House of Arras sparkling wines and a live orchestra. We are then ushered onto speedboats, zipping through bracing icy winds to a picturesque rocky island dotted by fire pits and pink flowers.
CHAPTER 2: ON AN ISLAND
We are now on the island, at Ben Shewry’s restaurant, Attica, coddled in the warmth of soft blankets, as we devour the freshest of seafood being grilled by Australia’s greatest chefs—Neil Perry, Ben Shewry and Peter Gilmore.
Amidst fire pits and indigenous storytellers, the three head chefs of Restaurant Australia treat the guests to the first of many creative courses—King George whiting in paperbark and grilled baby corn with forest anise from Ben Shewry; Peter Gilmore’s charcoal-grilled West Australian marron with wasabi butter and roasted wallaby tail broth; wood-roast Tasmanian lobster with kombu butter and charcoal-grilled Tasmanian abalone with liver, sake and mirin dressing by Neil Perry. They were all complemented by outstanding Australian vintage sparkling bruts.
CHAPTER 3: DINING IN THE MUSEUM
We then sail across in a huge boat to the iconic Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and fireworks light up the sky as we climb up the fortress. MONA, which sprawls across eight acres, is also home to a winery, brewery, restaurants, luxury accommodation and much more.
Here, the main courses are served on a gargantuan snake-shaped table. We are seduced by amazing flavours and textures of the freshest produce (be it beef, seafood or kangaroo). At MONA, the three chefs blurred the lines of cooking and art, each presenting a unique course
served with six matching Australian wines. Ben Shewry presented salted South Australian red kangaroo and bunya bunya; Peter Gilmore prepared a dish of smoked and confit pig jowl, black lipped abalone, koji, fermented grains, shitake and seaweed; Neil Perry served grilled sirloin, braised cheek, oxtail and tea- smoked oyster red curry.
CHAPTER 4: ROVING SWEET AND STICKY CELEBRATION
After non-stop eating, as we walk down to a lower floor of the museum for the dessert course, we see bird nests on mock trees, each with sweet white eggs. Here Ben Shewry sits behind his ice-cream cart and serves us dollops of seduction—his famous Blue Wren eggs. Peter Gilmore serves fresh lychee, vanilla, rose, coconut prune, salted caramel, jersey cream; while Neil Perry’s date tart mango, pandan and coconut thrills us. We also sample the first raw milk blue cheese to be produced in Australia, King Saul by South Australian cheese makers, Udder delights. The experience was rounded off with a decadent cheese board, which is produced by Bruny Island Cheese Company and Holy Goat.
A dinner that spanned nine hours, sure it was epic!