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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Yuletide dinner at Restaurant Atelier, Glebe with Australian Pork

EDIT: Restaurant Atelier has closed

Sometimes you need to hit "pause" just to appreciate all the good things in life. You would think the end is nigh, what with economic woes and flu outbreaks, yet if you stop just a minute and breathe, you'll find there are plenty of things to smile about and be grateful.

Even the official onset of weather means good things. I'm thinking rich hearty comfort food and cuddly doonas, big steaming mugs of hot chocolate and the childlike magic of fog and mist on a frosty morning.

Last week there was a big sprinkle of happiness in a little sandstone restaurant in Glebe. We gathered at Restaurant Atelier, host for a traditional Yuletide dinner featuring the joys of Australian Pork. It was a comprehensive gathering of food media that included, thanks to Melissa from Fooderati, a healthy contingent of food bloggers: Billy (A Table for Two), Howard (eat show & tell), Karen (Citrus & Candy), Lili (Pikelet and Pie), Lorraine (Not Quite Nigella), Richard (Here Comes the Fo0d), Simon (Simon Food Favourites), Shez (One Bite More)
and Suze (Chocolatesuze).

We started with canapes of pork neck rillette on the outdoor balcony, tender morsels of pork served with cornichon and green bean in a witlof canoe. It was a juggle of wine glasses (a total of seven different wines by Piggs Peake were served throughout the evening), canapes and conversation until we headed inside for the start of dinner and--at our table anyway--a crowd-bemusing onslaught of cameras and flash guns.

Stewart White from Whiteworks Public Relations and
Food Media Club of Australia President

This was more than an excuse to celebrate the winter solstice. As Stewart White, Food Media Club of Australia President and MC for the evening explained, it was also about celebrating Australian pork, especially in the wake of the current Influenza A (H1N1) outbreak, the strain incorrectly branded as "swine flu" even though you cannot catch "swine flu" by eating pork or pork products.

Christmas-themed table decorations

Bread and butter

The simplicity of quality bread and butter had my appetite whetted instantly. Thick slices of a good strong sourdough were served with a golden yellow disc of cultured butter, its distinctive tang so delicious I resisted the urge to eat it with a spoon.

Clockwise from bottom: Honey-glazed pork hock with roasted apples;
pulled neck salad with Crystal Bay prawns; and
grilled pickled loin of pork with celeriac remoulade

The entree plate was a trio of porcine textures plated with artistic attention-to-detail. The honey-glazed pork hock had a melting tenderness, its flavours almost Asian in influence, topped with the tiniest balls of roasted apple.

Pulled neck salad featured a bed of shredded pork paired with the incredible sweet intensity of Crystal Bay prawns. Grilled pickled loin of pork benefited from the clean fresh liveliness of celeriac remoulade.

Carving the pork rack

A ceremonial public carving of the first pork rack was done in the dining room for the benefit of guests. It didn't take much encouragement to get the food bloggers present into the arena for best photo vantage point. It was an unabashed attack of the pork-arazzi, I believe.

Whole roast pork rack

Pink and juicy

The pass

Left: Boned shoulder of pork roasted with a winter herb cure
on creamed parsnip and buttered kale

Right: Pot-roasted Murray Valley moisture-infused pork rack
with broad beans, pomme cocotte and pine mushrooms

The moisture-infused pork rack was juicy as promised, a generous thickness of barely pink flesh that was plump and soft, courtesy of a special brining process. Boned shoulder of pork had delicious rivers of fat, the decadence of pork lightened with the elongated daub of smooth creamed parsnip and greens of broad beans and buttered kale.

Pomme cocotte were gorgeous treasures of petite potato balls, so tiny and delicate and perfectly round [see pics of the whole pork rack above]. The fragrance and luxury of fresh pine mushrooms was also welcomed.

Poached winter fruits with Christmas pudding ice cream

Dessert was the comfort of poached winter fruits served with Christmas pudding ice cream, a soft and silky ice cream that had the heady spices and boozy aroma of Nanna's best Christmas pud.

It's after a bathroom stop with Chocolatesuze (yes, women really do like to use the bathroom in pairs) that we pause at the kitchen window and muse aloud about the pantry ingredients visible inside. So fascinated and deep in thought that even I startle when a loud voice directly behind us suddenly says "You can have a look inside you know. Seriously".

We turn around to see owner and head chef Darren Templeman observing us with a wry smile, and with that he quickly herds us into the kitchen for an impromptu tour.

The Oompa Loompa-sized entrance to the kitchen

The door! It's Oompa Lompa-sized! Having to stoop down to scoot inside causes me ridiculous amusement, but perhaps more so because it feels like I'm crouching to go inside a play kitchen.

Melissa and Suze demonstrate the height of the door

Pots on the stove, the deep-fryer is to the right

Darren is surprisingly chipper given he's just completed the night's service, showing us every nook and cranny inside the modest-sized kitchen. He shows us the tiny pantry which is literally a cupboard under the stairs--and it's so meticulously clean, neat and organised even Gordon Ramsay wouldn't be able to find fault.

Pacojet and Thermomix

I'm quite excited when I spot the Thermomix, the all-in-one weighing, chopping, blending, heating, kneading and steaming multi-tasking contraption. Darren's proud of his Pacojet ice cream maker, and demonstrates how he used it to make tonight's Christmas pudding ice cream.

He explains that given the undeniable reliability of cooking using a water bath, the stove is used less and less these days. I'm intrigued by the container of soy lecithin granules, nestled amongst the olive oil and vinegars too. Darren says this is used when they make foams, giving a bit more structure so it holds its shape between the kitchen and the diner.

Chef and owner Darren Templeman

We're sent home with goodie bags that include a 1.2kg rack of moisture-infused pork, a new pork cookbook from Australian Women's Weekly, recipes for the night's dishes, and, just in case anyone was worried about catching the flu from fellow diners, a bottle of hand sanitiser!

Now there's no excuse not to grab your pork!

With thanks to Australian Pork, Restaurant Atelier and Whiteworks for the evening's festivities.

View Larger Map
Restaurant Atelier on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Atelier (CLOSED)
22 Glebe Point Road Glebe, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9566 2112

Opening hours:
Dinner Tuesday - Saturday from 6pm
20 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 6/02/2009 01:36:00 am


  • At 6/02/2009 2:15 am, Blogger TheBigB3n said…

    1 simple word...JEALOUSY!

    after all that and your very own moisture-infused rack of pork too!!!!

    mmmmmmmmmmmm damn im missing out!

  • At 6/02/2009 9:09 am, Anonymous shez said…

    How did I miss the oompaloompa door?! That's hilarious. Also my-oh-my at how clean that kitchen is. Amazing...

    (Had a good chuckle at the "grab your pork" too).

  • At 6/02/2009 10:08 am, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    I love the idea of the porkarazzi!

  • At 6/02/2009 12:01 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great post and love the moisture-infused concept as well. Just a comment I thought I would shoot out. My wife has found Aussie pork to be too strong tasting. This is in contrast to the pork she had in Malaysia and then NYC. I really can't taste that much of a difference. Any thoughts?
    --"Johnny Forks"

  • At 6/02/2009 12:52 pm, Blogger TheBigB3n said…

    With regards to stronger tasting pork, did you buy your pork at a non-Asian butcher? Most food forward and Asian soceties tend to use meat from female pigs as it has a milder and sweeter taste. Male pigs have an almost odour like smell and also have a heavier not always pleasant taste.

    Which might explain how pork taste better in Malaysia and in NYC.

    Obviously feed, breed of pig and climate are factors, but Australia is pretty ok with all those.

  • At 6/02/2009 1:40 pm, Anonymous Veruca Salt said…

    Wow, I totally have kitchen envy. Must google the Thermomix machine. Sounds fascinating.

    Loving the oompaloompa door. Did you ask them why the door was like that?

    Very clever of them to do a pork dinner considering the current scare and misconceptions. I know I was too scared to eat chicken in VN during the bird flu scare.

  • At 6/02/2009 6:58 pm, Anonymous Howard said…

    Damn, totally missed the oompa loompa door. Any grand plans for your piece of pork ? lol @ grab your pork , I like that.

  • At 6/02/2009 7:00 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    hilarious that they gave you hand sanitiser! Meal looks amazing.

  • At 6/02/2009 7:30 pm, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    great pics as usual. i'm glad you took of photo of that little kitchen door as well. i wonder why they simply don't make it bigger. must be a pain walking in and out of it all the time.

  • At 6/02/2009 8:20 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Mmmm grab your pork! The oompa loompa door was cool but cant really be good for Darren's back (since he is quite tall!)
    Oh noess I missed out on the canapes!

  • At 6/02/2009 10:58 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    i now have the oompa loompa song in my head hmm oh now i want chocolate! and pork. oh the pork!

  • At 6/02/2009 11:48 pm, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    I need to be a girl next time so i got to tag along to see the kitchen!

  • At 6/03/2009 7:06 pm, Anonymous Yas said…

    PORK ME!

    (And Billy, even if you did get in to the kitchen you wouldn't get through the tiny door. ;p )

  • At 6/03/2009 7:19 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Re: TheBigB3n's comment.
    Yes, most of the places we bought pork from were Asian establishments (except for a beautiful organic loin we used to buy). I never knew about the female-male pig preference. Very illuminating. My wife has noticed the strong pork taste at Chinese BBQ joints here in Sydney as well.
    thanks!--"Johnny Forks"

  • At 6/03/2009 11:01 pm, Blogger TheBigB3n said…

    Hmm, well then its perhaps down to simple breed and feed. No other reasons possible really hmm

  • At 6/03/2009 11:10 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi TheBigB3n - Ahh there's nothing like a bit of pork p0rn to get people hot and bothered aye? And there's plenty more pork where that came from!

    Hi Shez - The kitchen was spotless and ha, it was easy to miss the door. I didn't even notice until I stooped to get inside. I love to grab my pork too!

    Hi Arwen - I can never resist a pun!

    Hi Johnny Forks - An interesting thread which I see BigB3n has already responded to. I can't really comment as I never ate much pork in NYC or SE Asia (never been to Malaysia). I would've thought our pork is stronger cos it's fresher :)

    Hi TheBigB3n - I never knew that male and female pigs tasted differently. Will have to investigate some more!

    Hi Veruca Salt - I've seen articles about Thermomixers but never actually seen one up-close. They're meant to be the bees knees and very reliable/accurate.

    There is a window above the door but not sure why so small. I presume the building is heritage listed? And yes, it's safe to pig out anytime!

    Hi Howard - Oh and you should've seen the secret chocolate river! haha - just kidding. Have yet to cook my pork. Still brainstorming the perfect recipe!

    Hi Gourmet Chick - The hand sanitiser was a quirky touch, and the dinner was great. Pork-a-licious!

    Hi Simon Food Favourites - I think the more dangerous aspect about the door is the coat hooks hanging at eye level! And I'm pretty sure you were the only person who managed a shot of the canapes - these rest of us were too busy drinking and eating :)

    Hi FFichiban - I presume the chefs don't have to walk in and out much during service, because yes, Darren is quite tall! Didn't realise you missed out on the canapes either.

    Hi Chocolatesuze - Ha, it's so hard not to think of the song whenever you even say the words oompa loompa! Now it's in my head too!

    Hi Billy - lol. See, going to the bathroom in pairs does pay off. lol

    Hi Yas - He'd make it. Just dangle some crackling and he'd be through there in a shot!

    Hi Johnny Forks - The great pork debate continues. I wonder if there's much info/investigation online?

  • At 6/03/2009 11:13 pm, Blogger TheBigB3n said…

    Do post what you did with the pork rack!!!! can bet its gonna be awesome!!!

    Yeah, try it out male vs female pigs, head to emperors garden to get some pork, head over to a western butcher to get more pork, come back, basic seasoning, sear, oven. Definitely strong contrast in taste!!! try it!!!

  • At 6/08/2009 4:29 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi The BigB3n - I cooked the pork rack over the weekend so expect a post soon, and that sounds like a worthwhile experiment re: the pork. Will have to look for willing volunteers :)

  • At 6/08/2009 7:13 pm, Blogger TheBigB3n said…

    ooo can bet the pork is gonna be awesome!!! cant wait!!! just sent u a tweet

  • At 6/14/2009 10:11 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi The BigB3n - The pork was great, but the crackling... yum! So much going on at the moment but will get the post up asap.


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