When I was invited by Lime + Tonic to try their new progressive dinner around Surry Hills I jumped at the chance! I love the idea of getting to experience a number of different restaurant all in one night (ticks a few off the ever growing list that way). The idea of strolling up the little backstreets of Surry Hills between courses is also quite appealing and mysterious - all through the evening I felt like I was on a secret adventure!
I first thought Lime + Tonic were another voucher company, but they actually specialise in unique experiences and "things to do" in various cites around the world. Think of them as your personal concierge if you like. As well as these great progressive dinners, they offer regular style dinners, tours and fun activities. You join the site (free of charge) and the experiences are yours for the picking. I've got my eye on their $50pp dinner at Table for 20 (somewhere I've ALWAYS wanted to go to) as well as a tour of London in a mini (car that is, not skirt)!
Normally you'd go on an experience like this with friends or family but tonight's dinner has been arranged by Lime + Tonic for a small group of media + bloggers.
Entree - Sugarcane Restaurant
Our group meets up at modern Vietnamese restaurant, Sugarcane - a lovely little eatery that is tucked away on Reservoir Street. Again it's somewhere that I've always wanted to try (I promise I really don't say that about everywhere I go, honest)!
The interior of the restaurant is very sleek, modern and comfortable..totally the opposite of what I was expecting (which was possibly something more dark, rustic and "street foodish" where we'd perch on stools and get numb bums and sore backs within 30 minutes)!
We are greeted at Sugarcane by our friendly waiter, George, for the first part of the evening. A menu, plus a glass of wine plus a map of our travels for the night awaits us - a helpful detail if you're navigating this experience by yourself as most people would be.
Our entrees at Sugarcane are really wonderful. Fresh + zingy flavours, generous servings and a good variety of dishes which gives me a great idea of what this restaurant has on offer. The food is very clearly Vietnamese with a modern presentation. It's delicious.
The crisp pork hock + green mango salad comes with a prawn cracker that's nearly as big as my face. The salad is tart and flavoursome and the pork is indeed crispy (and delicious). The prawns on rice cakes with caramelised sugarcane are a lovely, delicately flavoured bite-sized morsel and the salt + pepper squid is meaty, tender and the batter is crisp with just the right amount of saltiness.
We take a detour from the menu for our next three courses...and I have to say I'm happy that we do as the crisp skin chicken with shallots and blood plum sauce is the dish of the night for me! The chicken is so tender and is blanked in a thin, savoury crust that is just a little bit salty and has an earthy flavour of shallots. The lamb ribs are so tender that the meat just melts of the bone and the rendang curry of Wagyu beef is a wonderful, warming dish for a cold winter's night. What a GREAT restaurant. I cannot wait to come back and explore the menu some more.
Sugarcane is at 40A Reservoir Street, Surry Hills. Phone them on 9281 1788.
Main Course - Bar H
Our hour at Sugarcane is over all too soon (too much chatting + photographing on my part I think) and we head out onto the streets of Surry Hills and wander to our next restaurant for the evening.
Bar H is a very popular neighbourhood restaurant and is where we enjoyed our main courses. The restaurant is really busy and + buzzing it's an exciting space to be dining in. I really enjoyed my first meal here so I'm happy that it's one of the stops on the progressive dinner.
The chef + owner of Bar H has worked with Kylie Kwong and it's evident that her style of modern Asian cuisine (without the bugs, grubs and native vegetation) shines through in this menu. Big bold, modern flavours are married with traditional Chinese ingredients. It's a winning match.
Our mains kick off with our choice of drink (red or white wine, or a beer) as our waiter runs through our dishes for this part of the meal.
The steamed fish is a light and delicate dish that is vibrant with the zing of fresh ginger and shallots. I really enjoyed this and it's the sort of dish I wish I knew how to cook at home. I'm sure it's simple, but there's also a lot of flavours happening in this little bowl. Next up is a steaming-hot clay dish of dong-po pork - fatty pieces of pork that are pan-fried then cooked in their clay pot. The pork is so tender, fatty but not oily and the pot has little sheets of tofu, pieces of ginger and pumpkin lurking with in. It's a good winter dish.
We're offered an extra dish by the head-chef + owner of Bar H, Hamish Ingham who's sitting at the bar enjoying dinner himself with his wife on the night we visit. I quite like that the chef of a restaurant would have dinner at his/her restaurant on a night off...I think it really shows how much they like what they've created. Our special dish is special indeed - sheets of rice noodles topped with a sticky sauce, bonito flakes and TRUFFLES! Fancy!
Our mains come with a generous serve of fluffy white rice and (strangely) a side salad of mixed leaves that doesn't quite match the rest of the food served here. We didn't really make friends with salad on this night - poor salad. Bar H is SO dark so we had to come up with some inventive ways to take photos in our to write out blog posts. Props to Simon who has brought his nifty little video light along (I think he got a sore arm by the end of the night)!
Bar H is at 80 Campbell Street, Surry Hills. Phone them on 9280 1980.
Dessert + Cocktails - Longrain
Last stop for the night is Longrain where we get to linger over dessert and cocktails.
Longrain is a cavernous space, with a large downstairs bar area. Totally not what I was expecting. It's big, modern, industrial, yet the space still feels intimate and cosy thanks to the dark lightening and wooden furniture. Chairs are placed in sets of two along the long share-style tables, so couples can cozy up next to each other for an intimate dinner for two.
Our dessert had so many great things going on in such a little bowl. Every mouthful of the young coconut jelly with mango, black sticky rice, coconut tapioca and passionfruit sorbet was bursting with exotic flavours and textures. If I closed my eyes I could be on holidays in Thailand (if only).
The chili infused tequila in the Acapulco Gold cocktail was delightfully warming -- the heat from the chilli radiating down into my belly. The chilli was warming + nice, rather than blow your head off spicy. A really clever drink.
Longrain is at 85 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills. Phone them on 9280 2888.
I really enjoyed the progressive dinner offered by Lime + Tonic, especially as it was totally new way of dining for me. The experience felt quite exclusive + adventurous, like some sort secret supper club. It was also really nice to have a little stroll between courses and let some of the food digest.
I think a progressive dinner like this would be a fun thing to do for a birthday party with a small group of friends or family (or perhaps even a hen's night for foodies). And, it's certainly something different to do on date night.
For more information on the Lime + Tonic progressive dinner visit their website.