Tuesday, January 26, 2010

LA MINT RESTAURANT & BAR - East Sydney: Launch of Food Bloggers Award by Australian Food Media Awards

What a nice way to spend a warm Sydney evening...champagne, funky canapes, a bunch of foodies and a free porking!

This was the way I spent last Thursday night at the launch of the Australian Food Media Awards' new food bloggers category for their 2010 awards. I welcomed the little frisson of excitement when the invitation arrived. Another blogging event - what fun!

How very exciting that the blogging community has grown to such a size and visibility that the Australian food writing professionals formerly known as the Food Media Club of Australia, feel they should officially recognise the medium, and how great that the mighty Australian Pork Corporation have put their money where their mouth is by sponsoring the award. I'm looking forward to the nominations and subsequent awards night, and am really excited to be part of the process in its infancy.

The night began well, (I was having flashbacks to the Jenius book launch where the screamingly hot day ended in a mega storm that gave me such grief getting to the event), and I managed to make my way to East Sydney with no real issues. Only a little after the 6.30 deadline, I managed to glide in, and was the proud guardian of a champagne flute fizzing with Grandin within literally SECONDS. Way to go baby!

I managed to find my fellow yum yummers quickly amongst the fray and after our quick hello's turned to greet an unknown couple who turned out to be the delightful Liz and Ian Hemphill, founders of Herbies Spices. What an interesting and easy-to-chat-to couple they are. Ian, it turns out is also the Chair of Judges for the Australian Association of Food Professionals and, although not judging the awards this year (due to his own book entry in the 2010 awards), is usually instrumental in the process. (Disclosure: Yaya is rather addicted to Herbie's Fragrant Sweet Spice which is the secret to better gingerbread and Ian says it is great on porridge!)

(NOTE: Also worth noting that Ian Hemphill has stood down as Chair of Judges for the Australian Food Media Awards 2010 to avoid any possible conflict of interest. Yaya's Yummers wish Ian the best of luck this year. We'll be rooting for you! Or porking for you??) Note added by Lobo.

After a quick chat our attention was drawn to Stewart White, President of the Association, on the microphone welcoming us to the event. Stewart has been promoting food and wine for 26 years, and also writes "the digestive tract" and is a great believer in the power of the food blog. Not only that, we also gleaned later in the evening, he has a penchant for green tree frogs! Another interesting man!

Next was Liam Silk who was the representative from Australian Pork announcing the exciting news that they will be proudly sponsoring the inaugural Food Bloggers Award as well as launching their highly entertaining new Pork Ad onto YouTube live. The ads use the old "get some pork on your fork" hook, but go one step further in the cheeky stakes with a wife telling her girlfriends conspiratorially that she "porked" her husband last night and thinks she'll do it again tonight! Very funny. I'm sure it will appeal to the Aussie sense of humour, and will certainly be a campaign to remember.

On top of this, we were shown the goodie bags that had been supplied by Australian Pork for each of us, which had us all salivating and wondering how we could do our pork. It included some super tasty Rosemary stuffed pancetta (we had ours simply with salad for dinner the following night) and a perfectly plump and pink Murray Valley pork loin which, I have also cooked up tonight and was impeccable! Yummo!

As all this was going on, wait-staff laden with trays were at every turn. The location was La Mint Restaurant, a French/Vietnamese place which has been serving East Sydney locals for the last four years. I hadn't heard of it before, but will certainly visit again. Not being on the main drag, it doesn't get many walk-ins, so the fact that its been alive and kicking for four years, means they have returning diners or word-of-mouth clients which is always a good sign.

Back to the canapes, trays of Papillotes aux deux fromages or Camembert and Cream Cheese Wontons, Vine Beef Rolls, Pave de Porc or Caramelised Pork Belly which melted in the mouth, spoons overflowing with Banana Flower Chicken Salad, lashings of Grandin sparkling, we also enjoyed refreshingly cold Vietnemese 333 beers (perfect for the hot balmy night), and delicious non alcoholic lime juices with crushed ice and mint. Not too sweet, and extra refreshing. We had decided early in the evening to stick around for a meal, and were delighted to be offered a generous discount (we had also been given a discount voucher on arrival for later use) for any bloggers dining.

The event was slow to wind up, no one wanted to leave, but eventually, most of the bloggers happily skipped out the door laden with their little insulated bags of Australian Pork, some skipping speedily to release their blogs. The tables were put back into position and the regular diners filled the restaurant. Now for the real business of eating. Although not particularly hungry, as the canapes were copious and frequent, we found we were all pulled towards dishes on the menu (and all wanted to try the Beef seven ways..alas this takes two hours so we will have to return for that particular delight). We started with Escargots a la mint which was huge snails baked in the shell with tomato, chilli and mint. Not the usual garlic butter, so it was a nice change. This was served with cute little baguettes to soak up the buttery juices..mmmm..my kind of entree.

Next was Pancake a la Mint a delicately flavoured coconut pancake stuffed with prawns, mung beans and vegetables. This came with a really nice variety of green salad leaves including some peppery Nasturtium leaves which really made the dish for me! I have them growing my garden and love to add both the flowers and leaves to my salads. Chilli Pepper Soft Shell Crab was a great big pile of salty crispy deliciousness. We made short work of it all very very quickly, so for some un-hungry bloggers we did rather well. But wait..there was more! Saigon Crispy Chicken with tamarind sauce. We were absolutely delighted that the proprieter Leanne Lai, INSISTED that we were brought EXTRA SAUCE. It was piquant and zingy, and perfect for the succulent chicken and that skin really was crispy!

Oxtail a la Bourguignonne came next, with zucchini, mushrooms and carrots. Really soft and flavoursome, I loved this one. Ok, at this point, we all had a quick discussion, I say quick because although a little weary we all agreed on the one point, and that was to continue with desserts! We couldn't come this far and not try at least some of them. We decided on three to share, as to have more would be quite piggish (excuse the pun..oink oink), and we found that one of the three we wanted wasn't available, so we shared a serving of Devil Chocolate which was incredibly rich. A little too much for me, but stunningly chocolatey, it was Dark Chocolate Ice Cream with Cognac and Chocolate Sauce. Lucky we shared, this was amazingly strong flavoured and they weren't sparing with the Cognac either! Poles apart from this, we chose Caramelised Sweet Potato which was crispy fried shavings of sweet potato on Vanilla Ice Cream with Cinnamon Syrup. What an amazing combination. I loved all the elements separately, and was amazed that together they worked beautifully. Who would think it? Crispy fried sweet potato, soft sweet ice cream, and warm syrup..? I love the concoctions that creative foodies come up with.

Right, that done..we simply HAD to leave. It was now late, and there was only one other table of bloggers left. It had been a very long and satisfying night, so thanking our hosts, Stewart White, Leanne and Yardley Kyling (who does the PR for a swag of other restaurants as well as La Mint), we gathered up our Pork bags, and fled into the night. Being well after late night shopping, we felt happy in the thought of a quick drive home..alas, this was not to be.

The city was gridlocked, every exit was banked up with cars trying to get across the Harbour Bridge. There was work being done, and exits had been closed, we couldn't BELIEVE the effort and time it took to get out of town. Finally, happy and full, we all got to our destinations and to a well-deserved sleep.

La Mint Restaurant is found at 62-64 Riley Street, East Sydney. 9331 1818.


  1. Love your review guys! So great to have met three of you too!

    Glad to see you enjoyed your dinner there afterwards too; looks good and I'll have to remember to use my voucher soon.

  2. Hi Joey, make sure you do, and if you have two hours..do the 7 ways beef..we all intend to! It is always great to put a face to a name so was stoked to meet you too..see you at the next one.

  3. free porking HEHE! it's good to see what dishes you had after. the soft shell crab and crispy chicken sound good. might try those with my discount voucher. :-)

  4. Looks like you had a ball! So sad that I had to miss it but thankyou for your comprehensive coverage! :)

  5. Great writing HB! You brought it all back and I loved that you mentioned the gridlock!:D

  6. Loved the food so much we went back for dinner the next night. Could not resist more pork belly!

    Also worth noting that Ian Hemphill has stood down as Chair of Judges for the Australian Food Media Awards 2010 to avoid any possible conflict of interest.

  7. So I don't understand. Were there any awards on the night, or was this an introductory dinner to announce that there will be blogger awards? When are the awards themselves happening?

  8. Thanks for everyone's comments! It was a fabulous night of meeting lovely people and eating interesting things. It was the launch of the Food Bloggers' Category of the Australian Food Media Awards which take place every two years. The 2010 awards will take place later on in the year, check out their website for more details: http://www.foodmediaclub.com.au/index.php