Are you an ‘underground dinner virgin’? Perhaps you’ve been following the crowd goss’ about ‘known’ and ‘trendy’, without stepping away from the spotlight for a real adventure?
Then why not consider taking a trip on the wild side! Grab a friend and book a foodie adventure, such as a popup dinner. There are many varieties on the Coast or just beyond: enjoy a popup in a known restaurant (such as Le Café Gourmand), ‘one off’ events ‘guerrilla’ style with the secret location being the home of a stranger or a local park (Goldtoast Supper Club), a regional celebratory food event (Kingscliff’s Long table Dinner or Scenic Rim’s dinner to celebrate Eat Local Week), a Chef’s Table dinner with a well-known chef in a secret destination (Lola and the Chef, Francisco’s Table) or in a commercial kitchen (Progressive Catering).
Still unsure? Let me tell you about our recent adventures:
Eating at the Chef’s Table
2/8 Pirelli St, Southport Ph: 0424 304 002
We set off with an address and a time, embarking on an evening where we would know nobody initially, yet sure we’d find friends before the night was through. Bound together by a common interest in food (and most probably wine), we’re willing to take the risk of a fresh experience, yet one bound up in mystique. Who will you meet? What’s on the menu? So many questions! But facing the unknown is all part of the adventure!
Progressive Catering’s popup is held in their commercial kitchen in an industrial area of Southport, with plenty of parking in streets nearby. Greeted by staff at the door and handed a complimentary glass of champagne, we mingle and talk to other diners before being seated. Chef Trent Morgan presides over a group of professionals, focussed on the food, but there’s always time to meet and greet, treating regulars to a chat and hug. To these guys, catering for sixty diners is a breeze, Trent having done large event catering for a cast of thousands at Movie World and on cruise ships. The kitchen lies at one end of the warehouse, the rest of the venue cleverly converting into a restaurant styled by Breeze Events.
The idea of a Chef’s Table is that you can see what’s going on, with the chef explaining the dishes and answering questions about the meal. There’s plenty of action to keep us going between courses, as we make friends with neighbouring diners, chat about the wine you brought along, watch the cooking action or plating up, and have a chat to the chef.
Canapés are served as we stand, and we wander around talking to other guests and the chef. The menu’s served in an alternate drop, leading to serious food envy when there are favourites on the menu. The Roast cauli velvet cino with parmesan and truffle is a knockout. Main course continued the Mediterranean theme, making great use of lesser known cuts, rustic country-style dishes, typical of French regional cuisine, the lamb served in a gratin dish. Time for dessert: Fig, ricotta and almond clafoutis, and a stunning Orange and Rosemary Crème Brulée.
Physically, we may have been sitting among strangers in a warehouse, but we’ve travelled a culinary journey into the French countryside, each step explained by the chef.
COST $75 per person BYO Alcohol; Check out Progressive Catering’s future events on their website. http://www.progressivecatering.com/
Le Cafe Gourmand Dinner (Last Friday of each month)
2545 Gold Coast Highway, Cnr Cronulla St., Mermaid Beach Ph: 07 5572 7793
For some café and restaurant owners, extending their hours and culinary repertoire by holding dining events on their own premises is a relatively risk free way to test the waters for extended trading hours, to stave off the monotony of routine, while showing off a larger repertoire of skills and dishes to their clientele.
Whatever the motivation, it’s a ‘win: win’ scenario, providing diners with a highly anticipated event where they can gather with a group of friends to enjoy food prepared by one of their favourite chefs, with all the advantages of a properly set out restaurant.
Having recently gained a liquor license, Le Cafe Gourmand’s chef Rémi Baron has pleased locals by offering two types of regular popups: a Sunday Session with nibbles and a Chef’s Dinner, both held monthly.
About thirty Francophiles are dining with Rémi at his ‘last Friday’ dinner, their tables spread out along the verandah and through the restaurant. With the venue being a converted former beach house, there’s a fresh but comfortable feel. Ambient lighting and tables laid out with cloths and flowers make the setting romantic, added to by the dulcet tones of French conversation which drift lightly across the room.
Rémi is the sole chef, so bookings have been staggered over a couple of hours.
We choose from French wine and beer to match the food. It’s a small wine list, but you can also BYO. It’s a delicious French-inspired set menu, balanced and not overly rich: Beetroot carpaccio presented in three ways, Confit duck terrine with apple and hazelnut salad, Tasmanian salmon with beurre blanc sauce and a classic Pear Tarte Tatin drizzled with salted caramel – exquisite!
How excellent it would be to share one of Rémi’s dinners with a group of friends or as a special family occasion. Rémi tells us that he does take group bookings for 10+ by arrangement, so then you could have the restaurant to yourself! Now there’s food for thought…
Cost: $59pp for four courses. Make sure you’re on the mailing list to gain a seat!
Long Table Dinner, Salt Village, Kingscliff Ph: 0418 720 048
It was to be an evening of fabulous food and entertainment under an umbrella of stars – ARIA’s French inspired Long Table in the heart of Salt Village in Kingscliff, the ‘kick off’ event for the Taste of Kingscliff and Tweed Coast, a ten day festival of food events to be held from 10 – 19 July. Unfortunately, the weather made a decision of its own, turning cold, rainy and blustery, so organisers rescued the event with the addition of a marquee, diners made last minute wardrobe changes, their French-themed attire now augmented by leather jackets, winter scarves and hats.
As we relaxed with a complimentary glass of bubbles and canapés on arrival at the 70 metre long table, diners relaxed and made new friends, closeness lubricated by the sense of adventure and flowing drinks from the Saltbar. Alongside, chefs and apprentices were waging their own battles with the elements as they prepared to present their signature dishes.
The Long Table Dinner is an annual event presenting five courses of French inspired cuisine and entertainment. This year’s theme was Moulin Rouge, the entertainment including singer Marissa Burgess and her fellow Moulin Rouge can can dancers.
Nothing could dampen our enthusiasm for a great night out, nor our admiration for our chefs and entertainers, whose goodwill and professionalism shone through to provide us with a fabulous night.
There are many other popup dining events. Check out Goldtoast Supper Club http://goldtoastsupperclub.com, Francisco’s Table (North NSW) https://www.facebook.com/FranciscosTable, Lola and the Chef http://www.lolaandthechef.net/, as well as other events advertised as part of festivals.
Disclaimer: Marj Osborne dined as a guest of these three events.