My friend Juanita has a highly successful dinner club. For the best part of nine years, her and a small group have friends have got together every second Wednesday night. They go to different restaurants each time, taking it in turns choosing the venue. They also try not to spend more than $15 or $20 each. It’s quite an exclusive club with no new members in nine years. Only the people who started the club + their partners are involved.
When Juaneets used to talk about dinner club to Mel and I, we would nod, listen and feel tremendously jealous that we weren’t part of it.
So in 2010, we started our own. It’s just Jay, Mel, E and I. We don’t really have any rules except that we do it monthly, take it in turns picking and we try not to go somewhere where three of us have been before. Quite by accident we realised that we got through the whole year without ever going somewhere with the same cuisine.
These are the twelve places we visited in 2010:
January – Bistro Ortolan was Ian’s choice and it was a good start to the year. I myself am not a fan of French food really but the others loved it. And even if you don’t love French fare, you can hardly sneeze at a two hated restaurant. It was a gorgeous venue with impeccable service and I got to try bombe alaska for the first time. It was the bomb indeed!
February – I picked African Feeling in Newtown. I LOVE African food and get a craving for it at least once a year. I hoped the others would love it too but Melly found the dishes a bit oily.
March – This was Jay’s month and I gotta say, this was possibly the worst dinner club experience of the year for me. In fact it was possibly even the worst food experience of my life. We went to an Austrian Schnitzelhaus which was a Hamish and Andy inspired decision. Jay and Ian entered a schnitzel eating challenge which neither of them could finish. The smell of the deep fried everything overwhelmed me as we walked in and I felt sick watching the boys try to consume a kilo of schnitzel plus chips. Hideous.
April – This was one of my favourites of the year. Mel picked a’tavola which I’d wanted to go to for ages. You know anything in Crown Street will be good and oh it was. The pasta was freshly made and tasted completely divine. We also had a highly entertaining time eaves dropping on a family feud happening at the table next to us.
May – Ian’s turn again and he took us to Satang Thai, a busy restaurant near his work. The food was good and we got to hear all about The William’s Fiji trip. A great night!
June – I picked a delicious Polish restaurant in Glebe called Na Zdrowie. This was another one of my favourites for the year. Juanita and Tim had taken us there before and it was even better than I remembered. We had seriously divine food, especially the cabbage rolls and I have been wanting to go back again ever since.
July – Jay promised to redeem himself after the schnitzel house experience. And redeem himself he did. We went to South in Neutral Bay. They claim to have the best Southern American food in Sydney and they aren’t wrong. Think crab cakes, pulled pork, pumpkin pie, and pecan pie. It was bliss! And we had our first dinner club guest, James joined us for this one. I want to go back there too!
August – Mel picked a local Japanese restaurant in Glebe called Teriyaki. They had the best complimentary condiments EVER, especially the dried sushi. We washed our bento boxes down with cider and beers and had a great night.
September – Ian’s turn again and this was a bit of fail really. We went to Zaaffran at Darling Harbour for a random Indian BBQ and it was as average as can be. E was a total lazy ass and did no research for his turn. He just googled ‘good restaurants in Sydney’ and of course the first place to come up was a restaurant that does paid advertising. To me, if a restaurant has to rely on more than word of mouth, they ain’t that great. Zaaffran is a case in point.
October – I picked El Manara in Lakemba. Again, this was a place Ian and I had been before with Juanita & Tim but there seemed to be less on the menu this time. It was probably the cheapest dinner club ever. We spent less than $15 a head. Melly can’t say we didn’t give her a real slap up meal for her birthday! The Lebanese cakes from the shop across the road were yuuuummm.
November – Jay took us to Braza Churrascaria in Leichardt. I’m quite a fan of the Brazillian BBQ thing so I liked this place. We also had awesome gelato from the Forum afterwards.
December – Mel picked the venue for our end of year celebration and we went to Wildfire at Circular Quay. We had the best seats in the house, fabulous cocktails and the dumbest waiteress ever – it was a fabulous night! We all agreed though that it too expensive and while we wouldn’t go back, it was a good experience. I think we’ve been spoilt by dining at Cafe Sydney and that’s our benchmark for special dinners!
And now we start again. Hope we’re still doing monthly dinner clubs when we’re 80 years old!