I miss lunch. No - not the meal, the experience. I miss the midday sharing of food and fresh air in an environment where I don't look at a screen or drop bits of salad on my keyboard.
As a Sydney local, I avoid Darling Harbor like I would swine flu. The bait of seagulls and over-priced restaurants with average food and a touristy vibe are about as appealing as leprosy. I found equally as tenuous as I am spoiled for choice in the Eastern Suburbs and surrounding areas. Working near the airport, the idea of going to the city is also a foreign concept. It's overpriced, congested, and I try to avoid it. If duty calls, I remind myself to wear sensible shoes for the stroll and expect to pay inflated parking fees. Due to a friend's introduction I was invited to a meeting at The Meat & Co. in Darling Harbor with one of it's CEO, Bradley Michael and his very savvy crew of marketers Mona and Kristy. I was eager to accept the invitation as Bradley is an unassuming fellow with a twinkle in his eye and a passion for remarkable culinary experiences and is very passionate about his restaurants. I booked the meeting so that I could avoid traffic and get to see the kitchen and Group Executive Chef Kavi Hurrydoss in action. When I arrived I was pleasantly surprised.
Having never visited a Meat & Wine Co restaurant before I was first impressed with the it's luxe decor. The rich chocolate leather armchairs welcomed me. The bottles of wine lining the foyer wall aroused my curiosity and made me ever so slightly thirsty. (hmm the power of suggestion is still very effective and the wine elegantly merchandised here...) No attention to detail had been spared here and I couldn't help but photograph the fascinating orange urn like sink fixtures and noted the beautiful incense that permeated the ladies room. Eclectic, but minimalistic and beautifully lit. I felt at home. The restaurant was pristine and walking past the open kitchen I was easily both fascinated and entertained. It was well maintained as well as elegantly fit out and the stainless steel polished until it shown. I was greeted warmly and showed attentive hospitality. After my meeting and discussing food, my stomach insisted I get something to eat quickly and I opted to solo dine.
The Meat & Wine Co. menu offered safe traditional steakhouse fare and a few Aussie local items like Kangaroo and on Kavi's recommendation I started with the lightly coated Calamari. The Tamarind dipping sauce was just the right blend of sweet and tangy without being sickly and it's kaleidoscope-like hues of yellow, red chili flecks and orange livened the plate with a splash of color. The Calamari was tender and fried to a golden state of perfection.
The main course - The 250gm Wagyu striploin of a marble score of 6 - hit the spot. Served flanked with truffle oil-infused potato gratin and a lattice of fresh crunchy asparagus it looked great and smelled amazing.
Maybe the velvety meat tasted better as I enjoyed a quiet moment and indulged a few senses, like seeing the sunlight shimmer on the harbor or felt the early Autumn breeze drift in from the terrace I was seated in front of. I don't know.
In addition to a great meal the service was exceptional and far better than I anticipated from a restaurant with a high ratio of touristy guests. Most restaurants along this strip don't care because of the unlikeliness that the guest will return. (This experience disproved that theory, with wait staff doing quality checks post service, clearing plates in a timely manner and delivering delight to other guests simultaneously - I wasn't special, everyone was special.)
My solo lunch, with wine, costs about $80, however the price is on par with far inferior restaurants in the immediate proximity. Best of all - over a glass of Heathcote Shiraz, I revisited an old friend who at times forgets to stop, smell the sirloin and enjoy the journey - me.
The food was simple and elegantly presented and I rate this Sweet Escape spot a 9 out of 10.
Would I purposefully return (plan a night out there)? Yes
Would I recommend it to others? I did and will.