It's a cold July night and 6 people are gathered in an Eastern Suburbs flat. The reason for this synchronised gathering? Food. Of course. Or, more specifically, a celebration of winter food.
We've all responded to a menu posted online. The rules were clear: no changes will be made to the menu for allergies, first in best dressed, strictly 6 seats up for grabs and cancellations resulting in a ban for a number of future events. In short, it's a pop-up restaurant cum seasonal feast cum social experiment. A small number of people, brought together by food, placed in a small, contained environment for a few hours. With a suggested donation being a nominal amount for the amount and quality of food on offer, the event is an ultimate social equaliser. Truly anyone can participate (provided you have the right connections, of course).
This Isn't Tetsuya's was created by the inventor/chef as way of sharing the goodness of the season with people he mixes with. Couple this with some curious beverage matches for the food, season-themed music and numerous courses and you have an almost paganistic tribute to the season at hand. The creator aims to hold a This Isn't Tetsuya's event every season, using the same rules that we played by this time.
And what of the food? When we arrive we're given appetisers of olives; grilled artichoke and persian fetta bruschetta; and wagyu and mashed pea tarts. This is washed down with the TIT1 (the name of the event) official cocktail of fernet branca (an Italian bitters) and ginger beer. Also on offer is some sparkling wine and a selection of curious beers.
Seats are taken for the first course: a take on pea and ham soup. Pea and porcini broth with mashed peas, a poached egg, oven dried prosciutto and truffle oil. This is matched with a blanc de blanc sparkling wine from Tasmania. It's a clear picture of winter that empties our minds and prepares us for the meal.
Next up is a dish named "Marco Pollo", the chefs take on the misconception that Marco Polo stole pasta from the Chinese for the Italians. Smoked chicken (pollo being chicken in Italian), roasted chestnuts, cabbage and broccolini sit with a piece of gnocchi in a bold, Chinese-style sauce. Probably my dish of the night. A harmonious union of east and west. This was matched with a Petis Chablis.
Also popular was the main course, Greek-style, slow-roasted lamb shoulder served with roasted seasonal vegetables, a tzatziki made from cheese, mache and a reduction of the cooking juices. The lamb was mercilessly soft, falling apart at the touch. The Paringa Estate Pinot Noir which accompanied it was a fantastic wine.
Before dessert we were given a palate cleanser that took the form of a warm sangria, filled with seasonal fruits. Almost like a mulled wine, it was comforting and refreshing at the same time.
Finally, we were given a dessert called "hot chocolate for breakfast". A dark chocolate tart sat with cereal milk mousse, roasted marshmallows, cornflake praline and hot chocolate jelly. An interesting dish which conjured up the memories of eating bad things at the wrong time of the day when you should know better. Matching this was a beer. The chocolate stout from American craft brewer Rogue.
We all finished digesting the meal over a few more beers and glasses of wine and then disappeared into the cold winter's night, in different directions, possibly never to meet again.