As we ate our dinner outdoors last night, another couple sharing our table was celebrating.
‘It’s our fifth anniversary,’ she began, ‘so we thought we’d go to a restaurant….’. ‘But then we said, let’s come here,’ he finished for her.
Good call. Instead of eating at just one restaurant, by spending the evening at Taste of Sydney, they got to choose from 16 top Sydney eateries.
We tried three. My succulent suckling pig in a Sonoma sourdough panino came from Pilu at Freshwater’s tent, Gordon’s braised Cape Grim beef cheek and glazed onion pie (pronounced ‘delicious’) from Bird, Cow Fish, and our Asian comfort food dessert of tapioca, lychees and jackfruit from Longrain.
This is Sydney’s second Taste Festival, one of several held in major cities worldwide. Last year’s one, also held in Centennial Park was a runaway success, and this one, which runs from March 11-14, seems set to do just as well, if not better.
Outdoors, in brilliant late afternoon sunshine (OK, there had been rain and wind beforehand, of course), it was a perfect autumn evening in the park, complete with the mingled aromas of so many cuisines. What an ideal spot for people to relax with a glass of wine and a plate of something wonderful.
This is so Sydney, we said.
Wanting to absorb it all, we did a quick circuit of the grounds: stands offering tastes from most wine regions in the country, regional produce – cheeses, saltbush lamb, fruit juice – several breweries, some sensational vodkas and limoncello, knives, cookware, books.
And then of course the various restaurants ranged around the perimeter, each with menus offering three choices, priced in Crowns (the standard Taste Festival currency) that gave more than enough opportunity to create the ultimate personal-choice mix-and-match degustation.
El Toro Loco with a huge paella pan simmering with mussel studded rice offered a touch of theatre, the Longrain bar was pumping, and I got to finally meet one of my favourite sourdough bakers – The Grumpy Baker, looking anything but.
Those who weren’t eating gravitated to the coffee carts or the bars, or maybe the Taste Kitchen to watch a cooking demonstration, the Wine Theatre for a tasting session, or the Chef’s Table tent to participate in a round-table a face-to-face discussion with some of Sydney’s best chefs.
Thursday night, opening night, seemed to be for couples, the after work inner city place to be. My guess is the weekend will bring families, as it did last year.
Sydney is for everyone, and Taste of Sydney should suit anybody’s taste.
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