So, one day I start going through my grandfather’s magazine collection-
No wait, wrong story.
Back in September, Nuffnang Australia were courteous enough to invite eight food bloggers out to dine at Steel Bar & Grill. The purpose of this meal was to persuade fence sitting bloggers to sign up with Nuffnang, as well as having an open discussion on the relationship between PR & food bloggers.
If you think this looks good, you should see the backside…
… of the menu. Oh, baby! Yes, the lady in what I imagine was a steel bikini was on the other side of the menu.
The meal was a set menu valued at $65, with the menu card outlaying the courses that we had in store for the eight food bloggers (Helen, Howard, Leona, Lili, Steph, Suze, Trish & myself) and the two Nuffnang representatives Dave and Dave at the table.
Yep, two Dave’s. To avoid confusion, one of the Dave’s went by a nickname. When it came to introductions, I’d heard it as Pavi, though I found out days later that it’s meant to be Kruppy.
Pavi? For a tall Caucasian male? Yeah, that didn’t confuse me in the slightest…
Anyhow, getting back to the starters, as listed they were:
Bread – levain, extra virgin olive oil. The bread, served warm, is flavourful contrast of textures from the crusty & chewy crust to the soft centre of the bread. The dipping oil wasn’t too bad. Somewhat fragrant and a little fruity.
Olives marinated with rosemary, thyme & garlic. The herb infused oil was served warm. I found this somewhat interesting for olives, as I tend to only see such olives being served at room temperature at best. The warmth of the oil certainly brought out the flavours and fragrances of the herbs and olives alike.
Freshly shucked Sydney rock oysters & cured salmon, orange, watercress & red onion. The oysters were wonderfully fresh and briny, served with an Asian-style dressing which I unfortunately are unable to recall what it tasted like.
The cured salmon wasn’t too bad. Along with the orange, watercress & red onion it serviced almost as a salad.
Wood fire grill chorizo, tomato & chili jam. These were utterly fantastic! If I wasn’t in pleasant company and surrounds, I would have disposed of the utensils and gone at these with my fingers without abandon. The smokiness already present in the chorizo was complemented by further smoke from the wood fire grill. The tomato & chili further complements elements within the chorizo adding another dimension to this dish.
The wood fired chorizo is a dish I would definitely look to order the next time I find myself at Steel.
Japanese seared beef salad – cucumber, sesame & daikon. This was another superb dish with wonderful, complementary flavours. The beef is served medium and is wonderfully moist and flavourful. The salad components were light and crunchy. I’ve had very few salads containing meat that was up to this standard. Another must order.
When it comes time for the mains, each one of the diners were given the option to select one of the four main items listed. The salad and mash were served to be shared by the whole table.
Baked potato gnocchi, rich tomato sauce, ligurian olives. Why I had to be the one to order the gnocchi eludes me to even this day (and it’s a number of months since that occasion). I know that I did it back then for completeness sake, as I felt that no one was going to order it (and I was right!). I felt I took one for the team on this one.
The gnocchi was dry and a tad pasty. Though wonderfully caramelised due to frying, all that was lost under the tomato sauce, both in flavour and crisp texture. The tomato base was so-so and finished with a sour note that I didn’t find particularly pleasant. Not that it was bad. It just wasn’t what I consider to be good.
Having sampled all the other dishes, this was my least favourite.
Wood fire grilled salmon, celeriac salad, basil infused oil. I had a sample of Trish’s salmon. This wasn’t too bad but far from great. The salmon was overcooked slightly, ending up with a somewhat dry piece of fish. The dressing from the celeriac salad made up somewhat for the lack of juices in the salmon though. The basil oil was basil oil. Nothing particularly noteworthy about it but it went alright with the other components on this dish.
150 day grain fed Sirloin, hand cut chips, bearnaise, watercress. This was my favourite main of the night, partly because Helen was so generous with the amount she gave as a sample. It was also the favourite of the table as most people had ordered this as their main.
The steak was cooked to a juicy medium. The bearnaise sauce, nicely creamy. The potato chips, which were more like potato bricks, were wonderfully crisp on the outside with a dense but otherwise soft centre. If you’re more into baked potatoes over fries, you won’t be disappointed with these bricks- er, I mean chips :)
Spiced chicken breast, roasted carrot puree, bok choy, ginger. Having sampled Leona’s chicken, I say that this dish would come second to the steak. The chicken breast was overcooked, lending a rather dry quality to the meat. Once again the accompaniment served to balance out the lack of moisture. However, one redeeming feature of this dish was the chicken skin. The skin was cooked really crisp to the point where it felt like eating crackling. Along with the flavourful spice coating, a plate of these chicken cracklings & a beer would go down a treat!
With the mains out of the way, I eagerly awaited dessert. Having learned from the mains, I did away with the concept of completeness and focused on what I wanted to get. Though would I make the right choice for dessert…?
Pavlova, double cream, passionfruit, caramelised banana. I wasn’t won over by any of the elements of the pavlova. With such a high stack & small surface area on the top, I felt that the ratio of pavlova-to-topping was thrown off i.e. too much pavlova. The caramelised banana was really nice though.
Caramel & pear creme brulee, date & walnut cigars. The creme brulee crust was wonderfully thick and crunchy, but not too thick. A pleasant bitterness drawn out of the caramel during the brulee process acting as a counterpoint to the rich, sweet caramel custard. Pieces of pear lie at the bottom of the custard, serving as a point of interest as well as a textural contrast. The date & walnut cigars remind me very much of baklava but without the syrupy mess that baklava often brings.
Chocolate marquise, grand marnier cream, pistachio praline. The afore mentioned pavlova was unremarkable. The creme brulee & cigars was remarkable and something that I would look to order.
That is, of course, if the chocolate marquise was no longer available.
Last, and certainly far from being the least, comes my dessert selection. Oh, did I ever make the right choice! This was by far and away the best dessert item on the menu, at least in my opinion.
Ever have one of those moments when you have your first taste of something truly special and for a moment you’re lost to the world? Your eyes involuntarily close. Your ears stop sensing ambient sounds around you. For a moment, your world becomes the focus of flavours, aroma and textures as your remaining functioning senses go into overdrive. You may even lose your sense of public decorum as you express and emit sounds that are otherwise unsuitable for prime time viewing.
I wouldn’t know cause I’m a guy, and guy’s don’t do that sort of thing. However, this would be one of the desserts to do it if we did :) The dense, insanely rich and slightly bitter chocolate tile. The velvety smoothness and subtle sweetness of the cream, along with its aromatic citrus note. The pistachio praline acts as a textural contrast but is itself noteworthy in its own right. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to follow that sub-par main than with this.
For those of you who want to know a little something about the Nuffnang guys, there were conversations and discussions going on through the dinner. Introductory small talk about the reason for starting the blog, day jobs, personal interests and the like. Later, discussion on the relationship between PR and food bloggers. The challenges the PR companies face servicing the needs of their clients with a blogging environment that they have no direct control over. Developing an understanding of the mind of a food blogger and what motivates us to we do what we do. How not to get on our bad sides like so many PR companies effortlessly seem to do time and time again. Our thought on “sponsored” posts i.e. advertorials, how to guarantee failure with a pitch, and discussions on blog integrity and “selling out”.
Stimulating conversations for those interested in such things.
To close this post, what are your thoughts of PR company’s involvement with the blogging community, food or otherwise? Thoughts on blog integrity, advertorials and “selling out”? I’d love to hear your comments.
Steel Bar & Grill
2/60 Carrington St
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9299 9997
The meal at Steel Bar & Grill was courtesty of, and with complements to, Nuffnang Australia.
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