The amazing thing about living in Brisbane is that as relaxed and easy-going as the city appears to be, I can't even begin to exhaust the list of things to do and places to try. One might expect that for a big city like New York, Shanghai or even Sydney and Melbourne but Brisbane has a reputation of having less going on, which I think is unfair and has been gradually been adjusted in recent years.
Last Friday night, Marc and I were invited to a wine and food event at the Queensland Cricketers' Club. For others who don't know, this is located at The Gabba stadium in East Brisbane. It is on the 3rd floor, approachable from Vulture Street, opposite The German Club. When I went to highschool, mum drove me past The Gabba literally every weekday. Now that I live in West End, I still drive past it often. Never did I realize there would be so much more to it than a sporting ground.
We arrived after the event officially kicked off (parking difficulties) and entered the venue a bit confused and dazed. I hailed down a staff member and she indicated to us that the large dining space with hoards of people gathered was where we were supposed to be. Most guests had already arrived and were merrily sipping on beverages and munching on canapes.
Thorn Clarke Pinot Noir Chardonnay
A fantastic waiter, Sid, who we interacted with many more times throughout the night greeted us and poured a glass of sparkling wine each for Marc and myself. This was described to us as 'very moreish' and I couldn't agree more. I sometimes get a bit queasy from sparkling wine but this one was the most drinkable I've tasted. We sipped merrily and wandered around to gather our bearings.
This room was large and had amazing uninterrupted views of the cricket ground. Nothing was on at that particular moment in time but it was still a spectacular sight to behold. Later in the night, we learned that the Queensland Cricketers' Club has the only venue in all the stadium with its own full kitchen. This is why it can host fine dining food events whereas other rooms and boxes require catering services.
We had the wonderful privilege and honor to be seated at the winemaker's table with Helen McCarthy from Thorn-Clarke Barossa Winemakers herself. There were some other wine and media personalities present and the MC of the night, wine blogger Steve Leszczynski, was also at our table, along with marketing manager, Jaclyn Pringle who invited me to this event.
I spent a moment perusing the menu, which also introduced each recommended wine pairing. This was invaluable for me to reference throughout the meal because I have a terrible memory at the worst of times and it is definitely not improved by wine.
Fillet of John Dory, Jerusalem artichoke, mussels, salted walnuts and verjuice
Eden Trail, Eden Valley Riesling 2014
The first course of the evening was John Dory with mussles, salted walntus and verjuice. This was paired with a 2014 reisling. I found the fish to be very tender and there were more mussels than I expect in an entree. The verjuice dressing was absolutely delicious and I loved how the walnuts complimented in both flavour and texture. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical reading 'walnut' on the menu but it worked together so well.
Next came the most theatrical course of the night. Being of Chinese ethnicity, I'm quite familiar with Peking duck and its manner of serving but it was still exciting to see a chef carve up a duck in front of a crowd of a hundred or so. What was most alluring was the duck aroma. It filled the entire room and set our stomachs grumbling. The duck meat was served to us on a bed of pancakes, with Asian dressing and fresh carrot and cucumber.
Honey roasted whole duck sliced and served at the table, mini pancakes, cucumber, shallots, coriander, Asian soy and spiced plum dipping sauce
Thorn Clarke William Randell Barossa Shiraz
The pancakes are different to the thin, plain pancakes traditionally used for Peking duck but I quite like the elastic almost cake-like quality to them. This was a very well-received dish. The duck was served with a shiraz, which Helen complimented as a match that is less obvious but works perfectly.
Sliced hopkins beef sirloin, truffle and parsnip, mixed forest mushrooms, green peas, red sorrel crisp and red wine jus
Shotfire Barossa Quartage
The beef sirloin was served next, with parsnip puree and mixed forest mushrooms, paired with the Shotfire Quartage. The beef itself was a tad on the chewy side, something I have found to be consistent at all large scale catering events (they serve everything well done so that everyone can eat it) but the mushrooms were remarkable. They were so tasty I would love a bowl of those mushrooms with some pasta. I heard others at our table agreeing.
Mandarin and chocolate caramel clafoutis, orange ice cream, biscotti and candied nuts
NV 18 Year Old Tawny
No multicourse meal is complete without a sweet finish. Here, we tasted a warm clafoutis, whose sweetness was gently offset by the cooling and bitter orange ice-cream. I enjoyed the accompanying biscotti and candied pistachios. Of note was the matching dessert wine. I normally find dessert wine to be too strong and sweet. Maybe I was just drunk by this point but I found the dessert wine here to be perfectly drinkable and not overwhelming.
Shotfire Barossa Quartage
I'm a huge fan of wine but in terms of actually knowing or being able to appreciate what I drink, I am below the level of wine novice. If I even began to try and describe the wines we drank, beyond "yup I liked it" or "it was so so", I would sound like a try hard nob. This is why my wine descriptions barely go beyond that, a description of what we drank and not anything more in depth. I do feel that it was more of a wine event than a food event though, and as a food blogger, it was interesting to be at an event where it felt like the food was presented to compliment the wine rather than the other way around. There was a definite focus on wine and as basic as my wine knowledge might be, I enjoyed listening to the Thorn-Clarke story and learning from the experts at our table.
Although this particular event has passed, the Queensland Cricketers' Club frequently arranges similar fine wine dinners for its members. You do NOT have to be a member to attend! How great is that. For more information about the wide range of membership options, please refer to the QCClub website.