Dinner club 2011

In 2010, the Williams and Jacksons started a monthly dinner club. We ate great food, we became closer friends, we loved it. You can read about the places we visited here.

In 2011 the tradition continued. While the company has been just as good as last year, the food hasn’t been so fab. We’ve had a few bad picks – but I guess that’s what trying new places can sometimes mean. I’m sure though 2012’s dinner club will rock and I already can’t wait!

These are the 12 places we visited in 2011:

January: Ocean’s Eleven, in Five Dock was Ian’s choice and it was a good start to the year. I was highly sceptical to begin with, as he selected this place by googling ‘rad Sydney restaurants’. The food was fantastic though, really well priced seafood and super fresh Italian pasta. It was a stinking hot night so it was great to walk into a beautifully air conditioned space!

The only small downside of this place was that the waitress was trying to learn how to take orders electronically and it was fairly painful, but I’m sure by now they’ve ironed this out!

February: I picked Spice Temple which I’d been to once before with Leigh and David. I loved it the night I went with them but somehow on dinner club night we made some bad ordering choices and it didn’t really impress anyone. However I have to say that I’ve since been back for a work dinner and the food was ah-MAZE-ing!!!

May I digress slightly here to say that if you visit Spice Temple, my menu recommendations are:

  • Tingling prawns
  • Northern style lamb & fennel dumplings
  • Lamb & cumin pancakes
  • Stir fried quail & peanuts with steamed egg custard
  • Any of the pork bellies
  • Stir fried wagyu in the style of ‘ma po’. I didn’t know what ma po was but it turned out to be a combo of tofu and meat cooked in a spicy chilli and bean based sauce with water chestnuts, onions and mushrooms. Scumptious!
  • 3 shot chicken. This one’s cooked at your table with a shot of Chinese beer, a shot of soy & a shot of chilli oil. Loving your work Mr Perry :)

March: After seeing a good review on The Sydney Weekender of Radio Cairo in Cremorne , Jay picked it for his dinner club. It has a menu stretching from North African to Asian to Caribbean to the Southern United States.

The vibe was pretty chilled and relaxed which was nice for casual dining. My personal favourite for the night was a dish of potato wedges that we shared to start. I know that sounds kind of boring but it was served with a really tasty sauce that made me happy!

They don’t have a website which I have to say I find unacceptable in this day and age.

Overall for this place, I’d say that while the atmosphere is great and there’s a lot of variety on the menu, the food wasn’t amazing enough to make me want to go back.

April: Mel made an awesome choice in Rosso Pomodoro, Balmain. It’s pretty much the best pizza I’ve ever had. I always love the thought of pizza but usually after I’ve had it, I wake up the next day feeling thirsty and blah. Not this place though, their pizzas were fresh and authentic and I woke up the next morning wishing I could eat more for breakfast.

The place had a really great, buzzy atmosphere too. I dream of it often.

May: Ian’s turn again and he took us to Porteno in Surry Hills. It’s a great location, with waiters dressed in 60’s rockabilly kitsch. Food wise, the waiters didn’t really help us with our ordering so we ended up with way too much and mostly meat! Mel and I felt really heavy afterwards, although I will say (and I don’t think Mel agrees!) that it did all taste good. The boys on the other hand had no complaints about the meat fest!

The highlight of the night for me though, was the conversation that went like this:

Mel: I want to tell you something. Jay, should I tell them?
Jay: Yeah, you can tell them, it’s ok.
Mel (looking uncomfortable): Oh, I’m not sure.
Jay: It’s ok. Just tell them.
Ian: I’ll help you. I’ll guess. You’re pregnant right?
Mel (outraged): No!
Ian: What then?
Mel (sheepish, embarrassed): I can’t cook rice!

Cue raucous laughter from Ian and Neen.

Now Melly has a rice cooker and everything is ok but I still giggle about this.

June: Over the course of a month, The Dip was mentioned in every single food blog that I read so it seemed an obvious choice for my dinner club. This place is totally American. Think pulled pork, hot dogs, nachos and fries that come in baskets. It was cheesy, carby and pretty cute. You sort of have to go underground to get in there, you sit in booths and it’s named after The Dip from Roger Rabbit.

The food really only tasted a smidgen better than fast food though. Overall I’d say it’s good value for money but certainly nothing to write home about. Plus, on the night we went they were sold out of toffee apples and I was very disappointed!

July: We’d all been to the Ripples in Pyrmont before. E and I with David and Leigh where we had an amazing night at the Chef’s table and Jay and Mel had been there for a few nice lunches. So we all expected that when Jay picked the Ripples in Milsons Point that it would be just as nice as their other restaurant. Sadly, no. We had the fish and chips that they tout as the best in Sydney but they tasted fairly average. I think this place feels it doesn’t have to try very hard. They’re in a world class location with an amazing view but the food was below par considering the price. Semi fail. Sorry Jay.

August: Melly’s pick was Dedes,situated in Sydney Rowers Club, Abbotsford. At a glance, the restaurant seems lovely as it overlooks a bend of the Parramatta river. However the waiters basically ignored us all night and then were full of attitude when they did serve us.

I have no time for prententious waiters. I don’t understand it. They are waiters. Working in a rowing club. In the suburbs. What makes them think they’re better than everyone else?

They royally screwed up our order as well. The boys were happy with their meals but Melly and I felt jipped. When you pay more than $30 for a main, you expect it to be good. You expect the waiters to be on the ball. It wasn’t. They weren’t. I’ll never go back.

September: Ian chose Morena in Surry Hills by googling ‘best restaurant atmosphere + Sydney’. Morena was apparently the first restaurant to come up. I find his method to be a fairly rubbish approach to choosing a place but luckily it worked on this occasion.

The ambience was lovely – it’s mostly candle lit – and the service was great. Best of all though was that the food was really different. It’s Latin American, which is apparently the cuisine of 2011. Everything tasted really fresh and I liked that there were a few dishes we ordered where we couldn’t actually pick the flavours of what we were eating. We had to share our meals around a bit and guess. This kind of food exploration is exactly what dinner club is about.

Success Husband, success!

October: Both the ad agency I work with as well as a design agency I know have recommended Emon on a number of occasions. It’s close to both of their offices and they always have good things to say about it.

I chose it for October dinner club and we had SUCH a good night! Think fresh Japanese food, a super bouncy waitress and shochu (beer made from  potato) for the boys.

Ian tried edamame for the first time and I tried renkon chips for the first time. I think I’m a bit of a deep fried lotus root fan!

If you love Japanese cuisine I would highly recommend this place! If I cared to do a rating for any of the places we’ve visited, I’d give it four out of five stars. Although Ian did say afterwards that he thought it was kind of expensive for Japanese.

November:  Jay picked the newly opened Hard Rock Cafe at Darling Harbour. Hmmm. The food tasted like….food you’d expect from a restaurant chain.

Mel and Ian got the signature burgers which honestly looked like the dodgiest burgers I have ever seen. Neither of them liked them and in fact Mel was sick in the bathroom afterwards! It was that bad!

I had a pulled pork ‘sandwich’ that was actually served on a bun. The bun tasted like a McDonalds burger. So sweet and soft and unsatisfying. Bleh. I shall never return there. Totally over priced, totally average and totally crap service.

December: Tonight, for our last dinner club of 2011, Melly picked Ad Lib Bistro in Pymble. She’s wanted to go for ages so it seemed like a good choice for the end of the year.

The venue was pretty, really elegant but in a comfortable way, not pretentious. The service though, was totally shite! We had the most miserable, bitchy waitress who didn’t crack one single smile the entire night.

We went there with high expectations as the Bistro has been voted into Gourmet Traveller’s top 100 restaurants on numerous occasions. The food was nice but nothing special. So as an overall comment, I simply have to say – meh.

We’ve decided that 2012 dinner club is going to be the year of trying more ethnic cuisine. I can feel in my bones that it will be a success.

Eat on!

3 thoughts on “Dinner club 2011

  1. Yay! Good recap!

    I read this like I could imagine you saying it really fast without taking a breath! It is JOY!

    Cant wait til next year – I shall dub it the year of grassroots dining!

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