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Eight’s a Nuff – Steel Bar & Grill

Lady of Steel

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…

Menu - Starters

… 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

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

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.

Oysters and cured salmon

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.

Chorizo

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.

Beef-Salad

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.

Menu - Mains

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.

Gnocchi

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.

Salmon

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.

Sirloin Steak

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 :)

Chicken

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!

Menu - Dessert

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

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.

Brulee

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.

Marquise

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


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The meal at Steel Bar & Grill was courtesty of, and with complements to, Nuffnang Australia.

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{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Simon Food Favourites December 7, 2009, 5:50 pm

    food looks nice. looks like it worked on most of you in being new recruits to the nuffnang dynasty except Steph who doesn’t seem to have ‘I server nuffnang’ on her blog and can’t check Trish link as it doesn’t seem to be working. i guess whatever floats your boat although personally i’d rather not have ads on my blog from companies that i may not endorse or associate with. but if they wanted to take me out to Tetsuya I might be interested to talk shop ;-)

  • Ellie December 7, 2009, 7:59 pm

    One question back to you: Would you have joint Nuffnang if you weren’t invited to the dinner?

  • Steph December 8, 2009, 8:30 am

    Yep Simon Food Favourites spotted right, I haven’t joined up yet, mostly out of laziness. I have nothing against putting ads on blogs, but I don’t really bother to read sponsored posts. Btw Simon your photos look like they were taken during the day, just awesome!

  • Belle@OohLook December 8, 2009, 9:55 am

    Very entertaining read, Simon! Regarding ads, I agree with Simon FF about not having ads that you don’t endorse (some of the Google Ads are horrendous). Re. advertorials, it’s up to you if you want to align yourself with a product. Go for it if you genuinely believe in the product or cause. It’s your blog, after all.

  • Simon December 8, 2009, 1:25 pm

    Hi Simon! So, what you’re saying is that you can be bought, or rather need to be bought (at a hefty price no less), in order to have a discussion with a PR company? Looks like you’ve said everything that I need to say on that matter.

    Hi Ellie! Yes, I was going to anyhow. However, the opportunity to meet with the people I was to sign up with was something I wasn’t looking to pass up.

    The one thing the dinner did do was give me a better perspective of what I was getting into, as well as give me an insight into their business philosophy. Given the wrong approach, I wouldn’t have signed at all. So, I guess you can say that rather than win me over, they didn’t screw it up :)

    Hi Steph! Thanks! That’s flash photography for you :)

    Hi Belle! Though I didn’t state earlier, I agree with both yourself and Simon regarding the endorsement of companies/products. One advantage of Nuffnang I found was that their ads are arranged into campaigns, of which you’re notified of ahead of time before the ad is posted to your site. Though I’ve yet to exercise it, there is always the option to contact them to opt out of an ad campaign that you do not want advertised on your blog or otherwise be associated with.

    I’m not trying to promote Nuffnang at all. Naturally, it’s up to you as to what you do. Just wanted to clarify that there is a degree of control over what ads are displayed.

    Regarding advertorials, I’m very much of the same mind. In fact I pull out of one recently that I had a post waiting to go out for because of last minute changes that I wasn’t willing to compromise the integrity of my blog over.

  • Anita December 8, 2009, 4:37 pm

    I like the look of the last two desserts. Absolutely gorgeous. I think it’s important to note when you are given something for free, which most food bloggers do. So I have no problems with people putting ads up on their site as it’s a personal choice and most people know ads and just that – ads.

  • Trissa December 8, 2009, 7:26 pm

    I think blogging is just another avenue (albeit new) that PR are using to get their client’s message out there – similar to magazines – for example – gourmet traveller, gourmet, etc… nothing wrong with that however, as with anything, you have to have some level of integrity when accepting ads…

    May I say, great subject for debate!

  • joey@FoodiePop December 9, 2009, 5:28 pm

    I need that chocolate marquise, stat! Looks so delicious!

  • Chib December 9, 2009, 9:03 pm

    Just visiting.
    The food look delicious

    Greetings from Rwanda

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