Tuesday, October 24, 2006

ARIA Restaurant, Macquarie Street, Circular Quay

ARIA Restaurant, Macquarie Street, Circular Quay
Tuesday 24 October, 2006

Tonight I had the opportunity to meet Gordon Ramsey. The anticipation.....especially after our disappointing meal at Claridges in London. My sister had sent this review off to Gordon as he, apparently, loves to receive feedback and is diligent about following it up. As a massive fan of Gordon, she was mortified that he, or a member of team, had not acknowledged the feedback.

So, tonight I was really keen to meet the man in person and hear what he is all about - is he the foul mouth chef, the devoted husband and father, the passionate foodie or the empire builder? The promotional blurb from his website - states,

"Gordon Ramsay will be touring Australia to publicise his autobiography Humble Pie, Gordon Ramsay's Sunday Lunch and Other Recipes from The F Word and his latest range for Royal Doulton chinaware. As part of the tour, in addition to his signings, Gordon will be giving interviews with Sydney Morning Herald, The Herald Sun Weekend as well as various leading morning and afternoon television shows."

Surprisingly, Matt Moran's website did not acknowledge this visit - however they were hosting the dinner and taking the bookings. We had received our instructions from ARIA that we were to arrive at 7pm promptly. The instructions from ARIA stated,

"Please note bookings are grouped into tables of 10 throughout the restaurant. Gordon Ramsay will be roaming around the restaurant on the night to ensure every table has a chance to hear him speak. Any cancellations made after Monday 9th October are non refundable. We very much look forward to welcoming you."

We arrived at 6.30pm to have a drink at the bar only to discover that the ABC shop had already set up their table inside so we could buy Gordon's books before the crowds struck. Bonus! We took our seats at Table no. 1 (believe there was no significance to this whatsoever) and watched the eager diners arrive while savouring the 2006 Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc.

The trouble was we sampled about 5 glasses of this before we received our first dish at 8.30pm! I shouldn't lie there was a starter - mango & crab salad - that barely hit the sides but was light, summery and delicious. Funny that...Delicious magazine were sponsoring the event, so we had to sit through their inane Editor fumble through the welcomes, introductions etc before handing over to Mr Smith from Shaw and Smith who spoke to us like he had been roadtesting the wines all afternoon. He then handed over to Matt Moran who laughed his way through some background as to how he & Gordon met, their friendship over the years, like two competitive bulldogs each vying for first place, and their alliance with Singapore Airlines. It was hilarious.

When Gordon took the microphone there was an anxious silence....but he delivered. His first comment was about doing talk back radio with John Laws that morning - how can anyone take a guy seriously who wears gold glasses, rings, headphones and talks into a gold microphone...what a tosser! Next up...the Queen Mum, code for Kerri Ann (she's just as old). We sat and listened as he blasted his way through Rockpool and Neil Perry, Glass and Luke Mangan and the cookbooks that no regular foodie could ever hope to cook from......that would be 'The French Laundry' by Thomas Keller and 'Ducasse: Flavors of France' by Alain Ducasse.

At this point, our stomachs were rumbling but we were enjoying every moment. The food that ARIA delivered (all represented in Gordon's 'Sunday Lunch' cookbook) was:

- Haricot soup with tiger prawns (delightful creamy soup with a massive prawn and tail)
- Ceviche of Petuna ocean trout with chilli, lime, grapefruit and coriander (light, fresh flavours...the trout was divine served with shaved cucumber and sprinkled with the chilli, lime, pink grapefruit and corriander)
- Saddle of lamb stuffed with apricot and cumin (probably the best lamb dish I have ever tasted - tender with a moderate crispy outer served on creamy mash and spinach)
- Cardomon custard tart with blood orange sorbet (the tart wasdisappointingg, bland but the blood orange sorbet wasmagnificentt).

When the lamb was served one of dinner buddies cringed as it was served medium rare. She hesitated before one of our other dinner buddies waved down a waiter and asked for it to be returned and cooked a little more. Not a problem. Having listened to Gordon on Triple M radio that morning I knew his opinion on this. At the end of the day he (and Matt) are only in business because of their customers. That means, if a customer wants their meat well done you do it well done.

There was a surprising Q&A after the main meal where we learnt a little more about each chef - Matt's favourite restaurant is L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas located within MGM Grand; Gordon wrote his latest book, 'Sunday Lunch' to put women back in the kitchen because, god knows, they shouldn't be on the roads; Gordon and Matt provide exchange programs for their chefs between their restaurants; and Matt is heading to London shortly to judge the Gordon Ramsey Foundation scholarship. You can tell they are great mates and the banter between them is priceless.

It was lots of fun and when they announced Gordon would be signing his books we jumped up. He was very gracious, sincere and approachable - he spoke with each and every person, including me. I explained I had eaten at Claridges last month and he asked if I had enjoyed it - my response was, we had a great night and my sister is a big fan. He laughed and signed my books before leaning over and kissing me on the cheek. Look, it doesn't take much but he won me over in a big way.

Matt was also in good form, he signed my dinner buddies' books as well and invited one into his kitchen. It was a relaxed night with lots of laughs and I enjoyed every moment.

What did I learn tonight? There was one throw away comment that stuck......there's something very exciting happening in Paris and neither Gordon or Matt can say anything else............stay tuned.

ARIA Restaurant - 1 Macquarie Street, Circular Quay - (02) 9252 2555


Note: Photo image is the property of ARIA Restaurant.


Anonymous Rodders said...

Steph, love the blog - and am very pleased that the establishment I work at rated highly with you.

I am curious if you have tried Bird, Cow Fish at surry hills yet?

Other fav haunt at the moment are
Selah at Circular Quay ( great if catching a movie at dendy)

Many Thanks


3:13 pm  
Blogger Steph said...

Hi Rodney,
Thanks for checking out my blog.
I haven't been to either, so will add them to my list - I appreciate the suggestions. Keep them coming!

8:45 am  

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