Image source: Taste Of Sydney

Taste of Sydney has long been one of the best food events on the calendar to attend each year. Showcasing the best star dishes from some of Sydney’s best restaurants, it allows the masses to experience a taste of fine dining all in one location.

Located at Centennial Park from Thursday March 10 to Sunday March 13, the atmosphere was buzzing on the opening night. Operators were ready to go and the smells of food wafting from the tents teased your taste buds.

The festival restaurants use a crown currency to avoid the exchange of cash with a card that one loads with money. One crown is equivalent to one dollar. This makes the outlets more time-efficient and allows you to keep track of how much you are spending. 

taste_2South African Garden

As a new feature of the Festival, this area hopes to shine a focus on the little known South African cuisine. Featuring new food and wine offerings, this cuisine focuses largely on the ‘braii’ a classic South African BBQ grill, which is used to cook meat.

The garden includes some of South Africa’s best and most renowned chefs under one roof, spreading the knowledge about South African food and how delicious it can be! The garden hosts a series of cooking demonstrations with traditional South African recipes and wines.

Nel Restaurant

The 2015 Time Out Food Awards People’s Choice award winner Nel Restaurant showcased some inventive dishes. Having travelled the world and worked in some of the best Michelin starred restaurants in the world, chef Nel Robinson’s menu features a fusion of flavours such as Black Pudding Donuts filled with caramelized apple puree.

taste_20The Box of Treats (6 crowns) was an interesting fusion of sweet bites mimicking little petit fours. It contained an eccles cake with lemon curd, a gooey passionfruit chocolate truffle and black pudding doughnut. The doughnut was an unusual little thing and merged savoury and sweet elements with a distinct black pudding element. Meanwhile the truffle was liquid gold!

Biota Dining

Biota Dining hails from the beautiful country town Bowral, located 90 minutes drive from Sydney. The influence behind its chef James Vile’s cooking, is to use sustainably sourced ingredients from the produce rich surrounds to the Southern Highlands.

taste_5His dishes included an inventive Braised Wallaby Taco (12 crowns) consisting of slow cooked wallaby, fermented wild greens & bean paste in a corn taco. This was a delicious plate and despite taking our national icon to the plate, all was forgiven with the amazing flavour it yielded. The beans were a prominent part of the dish and seemed to almost drown out the meaty flavour, but still proved moorish.

Their dessert option Salted Pine Caramel (6 crowns) included a chocolate shell of salted caramel and the unusual inclusion of pine to the mix. This dish with the pine coating is definitely not for the faint hearted, the flavour resembles a forest floor if that’s what you’re into.

Kensington Street Social

Only a newcomer to the Sydney restaurant scene that has recently opened as part of the Chippendale– Central Park development in the Old Clare Hotel, it has quickly soared to popularity. Offering an experimental menu influenced by British and Mediterranean origins and aiming to use local produce this wowed.

taste_11The Social ‘Dog’ (10 crowns) proved a favourite take on the classic ‘Aussie sausage sanga’, with a pork & fennel sausage, green apple, black pudding, cheddar and mustard. The addition of black pudding supplied a new element of flavor, but combined key star ingredients in an impeccable flavor alliance. The winning element of this dish was the bread– a crispy buttery house made brioche- that was next level!

Thievery

With their Middle Eastern eatery in Glebe, the guys from Thievery have created a mouth-watering menu for Taste of Sydney. Following the Sydney obsession, and in light of recently opening their new Surry Hill’s store Butter dedicated purely to Fried Chicken, they have crafted the Thievery X Butter Kebabs (8 crowns). This takes the boring old Kebab you grab after a big Saturday night out, and unites it with Butter’s famed fried chicken. The chicken is sickly good with a crispy outer batter served with a twist of das-hi-naisei making it ever-so morish and delectable. Finished with pickles, its mixed it up to create a great new combination merging two all-time favourites together.

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The Kebab theme continued with a dessert offering of Ice Cream Kebab with fig jam & walnut ice cream, rose floss, almond & sesame (8 crowns). The dish was a nice sweet, with its imaginative ice-cream flavor and attention-grabbing addition of fairy floss.

4Fourteen

Now a Taste of Sydney veteran, chef Colin Fassnidge began showing with his original restaurant outpost the Four in Hand serving up some of the most delectable plates of the festival. Having since departed the Four in Hand, Fassnidge has turned complete focus to his Surry Hills venue 4Fourteen.

taste_13With his a signature dish including Sucking Pig with spiced slaw & pickles (12 crowns)– a plate of slow cooked pulled pork with fresh slaw, carrots and a spiced aioli. Everyone was raving about the Icon Dish Pig’s Ear Schnitzel with green sauce (14 crowns), which sadly we were too full to try.

taste_14By far, my favourite sweet treat of the entire festival was the incredible 4Fourteen Popsicle! A Popsicle of white chocolate parfait, duche de leche & crumble (6 crowns) it had the most incredible thick gooey caramel sauce with a refreshing white chocolate ice cream stick, and shortbread crumble adding texture, it proved the ultimate dish of the night!

Porteno

This Sydney institution rose to fame upon opening with its Argentinian inspired menu of food and extensive wine list. With a flaming fire pit in the middle of the room, this acts as the centerpiece to their cooking, boasting amazingly tender some and smoky meat. After getting a bit too excited cooking one day, a fire escalated out of control destroying the restaurant, yet they quickly found their feet and reopened in no time.

Their menu at Taste featured their star dishes, including their Icon Dish of Porchetta, Braised Green Beans with lemon, olive oil & BBQ’d chilli chimichurri (20 crowns) with juicy and tender pork, everyone was raving!

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The Crispy Brussel Sprouts with mustard vincotta vinaigrette (6 crowns) showed how an average underrated vegetable could be transformed into something else. Deep-fried to golden perfection dressed in a tangy mustard sauce, this is the ultimate vegetarian dish. Definitely a must-eat!

Salaryman

This Surry Hills newcomer showcases a modern fusion Japanese menu full of twists. The Chashu Pork Rib Roll (8 crowns) with smoked tonkatsu sauce, onions and pickles saw yet another pork dish on the Festival menu. Featuring slowly cooked pork meat stuffed in a roll with smoky sauce and the sharp addition of onions and pickles to complement, it was one dish I would definitely have seconds of. Served in a light milk bun, with a perfect golden top, it was a delectable bite size delight.taste_12

MoVida

The Melbourne born tapas restaurant has experienced huge success since opening in Sydney, with its huge lines and big crowds. The Spanish style restaurant is now also among the growing impressive food offerings at Sydney Domestic Airport.

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Their menu featured Mojama- air dried tuna, compressed watermelon & marcona almonds (6 crowns) which was innovative and beautiful. The standout was the Pinchitos Morunos (10 crowns)a skewer of Flinders Island lamb, marinated in moorish spices and cooked before your eyes over a charcoal fire. The lamb was tender and the spices were finger-licking good! Perfect to satisfy all the meat lovers out there!

taste_18Otto Ristorante

Another Taste of Sydney veteran, Otto boasts some of Sydney’s best Italian food at the picturesque Jones Bay Wharf in Woolloomooloo. As one of Sydney’s finest restaurants, enjoy their some of their best dishes without the price tag.taste_1The Prosciutto, Stracciatella, Fichi e Aceto Balsamico (10 crowns) exceeded all expectations as one of the best prosciutto dishes I’ve ever eaten! With San Danielle prosciutto of the highest quality, melty stracciatella cheese hidden beneath, fresh fig wedges & balsamic, the combination of all these ingredients together was absolutely incredible.taste_16The Cocco panna cotta with coconut pannacotta, crumble & coconut ice-cream (6 crowns) is a must-eat for those sweet tooth’s out there. The entire dish worked perfectly with a layer of passion fruit cutting through all the sweetness and coconut, whilst the smoothest coconut ice-cream was a welcomed refreshing addition to the dish.taste_15For those looking to splurge the Icon Dish of Spaghetti all’Aragosta is for you at 69 crowns. With fresh spaghetti, crayfish, cherry tomatoes, chilli, garlic, brandy, napolitana sauce and basil, it is visually dazzling with an entire crab shell encasing the pasta.

Firedoor

Another award-winning restaurant new to the Sydney recent scene in the past year, it has quickly cemented itself as a leader. As its name suggests, cooking methods are inspired by wood and fire in new and distinctive ways.taste_4The Firedoor Fries (10 crowns) were an example of something very imaginative with a play on the traditional McDonald’s fries, featuring a handcrafted red fry packet embedded with Firedoor’s logo. The butter beans were crispy, cooked freshly on a grill and served with a moorish romesco ketchup. One of the exceptional dishes of this year’s festival!

Three Blue Ducks

This Bronte local has experienced an expansion to the growing holiday destination Byron Bay, where their restaurant focused on local produce and seasonal menus. For those who haven’t been fortunate to venture to Byron Bay, the menu features the star dishes from their Three Blue Ducks at The Farm outpost.

Kitchen by Mike

Many have been missing chef Mike McEnearney’s famed Kitchen by Mike since closing in August, with its fresh salads, delicious sweets and amazing mains, prepared in house each morning with a daily changing menu. His devoted clientele can look forward to something new, with Mike set to open an airport venture at the Sydney International Airport. In the meantime and if you’re not travelling, make sure to try his menu at Taste of Sydney.taste_6The Cucumber Salad with ginger, sesame and mirin (6 crowns) was a revitalising and healthy palate cleanser after all the heavy food. With the aromatic ginger complementing the sesame and mirin cured cucumber, this light vegetarian option was delectable. Meanwhile the Roast Pumpkin with nigella and spiced yoghurt (8 crowns) was perfectly cooked with crispy edges and soft insides. The yoghurt was enlivened with a mix of harissa. My only qualm would be the mean portion of one small pumpkin piece.

Other Attractions- Favourite picks

taste_10Try some delicious caviar and cheeses at the Simon Johnston stall right as you walk in.taste_9The MexTrade stall is showcasing Tequila Arette to make fresh margaritas. The friendly boys will give you a Mexican hat to wear while you enjoy a freshly shaken cocktail.

taste_8Another favourite was the Madhouse Bakehouse with the most decadent chocolate brownies – you would be silly to leave the festival without one of these babies! They also sell cute cookies with crazy phrases such as “I Luv you like a fat kid loves cake” or “Keep Sydney Open”.

taste_7Lurpak Freestyle Masterclass

In my opinion, the best butter on your supermarket shelf, Lurpak can make almost anything taste good, because as my grandmother always taught me “Butter is Better”. Using butter to create some snazzy recipes in 15 minutes this masterclass books up quickly.

Electrolux Masterclass

As the key sponsor for this year’s Taste of Sydney festival, the Electrolux Chefs’ Secrets and Taste Theatre is home to a series of masterclasses by some of Sydney’s best chefs including Quay and Bennelong’s Peter Gilmore and Rob Cockerill, Luke Mangan and Nel’s Nelly Robinson. In this hands-on cooking class, chefs aim to give advice, teach skills and provide useful hints with practical sessions where participants get involved in every step of the process.

  • Red Balloon who sell experience based items such as hot air balloon rides, sea plane adventures with fine food, or progressive dining experiences is hosting masterclasses such as pizza making, cupcake decorating, sushi & sashimi or cheesemaking.
  • A Taste of Beef and Lamb focuses on sustainable farming of sheep and cattle. With live demonstrations using fresh produce to inspire you when cooking at home, they’ll even teach you how to pair dishes with wines!
  • The Bundaberg Distillatorium will educate you on everything there is to know about rum, its origin’s and distinguishing features across the Bundaberg range.
  • The Wine Society offers unique food & wine advice, wine education, events and wine plans. Their tent is the ideal place for wine-lovers with tips on serving wine, tasting wine or matching food & wine, with various masterclasses throughout each Taste session.
  • Victorinox Chefs Skillery will also offer masterclasses educating viewers about foraging, cocktail making with high profile chefs from the many of the Festival’s restaurants.

The 2016 Taste Of Sydney festival is held at Centennial Park, from Thursday 10th to Sunday 13th March. For more information, go to tasteofsydney.com.au.