They had me at "edible". When I read that email about a series of pop-up dinners exploring the culinary history of immigration to Australia, I knew I had to go. Well, if I managed to secure a seat, that is. A couple of days of anxious waiting later, here I am in a private apartment in Sydney's Eastern suburbs, mingling with eleven other like-minded (lucky) foodies.
As I'm sipping the excellent rum cocktail I was offered on arrival (rum was the drink of choice for the first settlers and was even used as a currency in the early days of the colony), British food & design duo Rachel Khoo and Francesca Unsworth tell us about the concept behind tonight's menu.
"We wanted to explore the influence of the various waves of immigrants that have shaped Australia's culinary landscape, from the early days of the penal colony to the gold rush and arrival of the first Asian immigrants," Rachel explains.
The lovely Rachel tells us about tonight's menu. Each guest is asked to read out loud a little note explaining the why's and how's of each dish.
Rum cocktail | Sneak peek into the kitchen
The six-course dinner starts with a bush-tucker inspired mise-en-bouche, followed by a lovely kingfish carpaccio served in a seashell (fish was a staple item in the Aboriginal and early settler's diets). Then we're served Malaysian squid satay and the most exquisite cups of tea, with hand-made tea bags containing an aromatic mix of herbs and spices, and a skewer of marinated crocodile (the dish is as tasty as it is beautiful - very Alice in Wonderland-ish).
The last savoury dishes include a bushbride's ration pudding with Granny Smith pickle and a hand-made pie with caramelised mushroom puree to die for.
Hand-made savoury infusion with crocodile skewer | Lemon and lager frozen cocktail
What a fabulous night we had! Two very talented hosts, delicious food, a beautiful table and lovely foodies around the table. And we learnt very interesting things about Australia's culinary history along the way (a bit shameful it had to come from two Brits... but all the more credit to Rachel and Francesca for helping us explore our own heritage!).
Big debate over the pavlova | Rachel and Frankie making fairy floss
If you're visiting Sydney and are interested in unique dining experiences, pop-up dinners and off-the-beaten-track foodie destinations, my bespoke tour company Mytinerary can create tailored itineraries just for you. We're here to help, so don't hesitate to leave a comment below or email me at myriam[at]mytinerary.com.au if you have any question or special request.
So tell me, dear reader, if you were to time-capsule the most iconic Australian dishes ever, what would you pick up apart from the usual Vegemite, mince pie, Arnott's cookies biscuits (thank you Simon for pointing me in the right direction!) and pavlova??