You would have thought planning an outdoor event in Sydney at the start of February would be a relatively safe bet. Think again, Mother Nature has an ulterior motive this year ripping us off with non-stop rain. We had romantic intentions of hosting a unique event under the twinkling stars on a balmy summer evening. We'd dine by candle light in the middle of Centennial Park's perfectly manicured grass and enjoy some of Sydney's finest food.
At least one part of our master plan came to fruition. The food at Centennial Dining is worth battling a soaked umbrella and wet toes. Enter via the Woollahara Gates on Oxford St and take the long road veering right until you reach the floor to ceiling glass walled restaurant. For those brave enough to follow my instructions there was champagne on arrival and the lure of warm hospitality.
Staying true to our theme ‘Cooking Under the Stars’, the chefs were set up outside, yes they were under umbrellas and yes, we’re sure high up in the cloudy sky there were some stars. Standing in the dining room, looking out across the beautiful green park, prawns lined up on the BBQ, a drink in hand I thought, this is going to be a good night. After all, at least I wasn’t out running, leaping and stretching in the rain like half of Sydney’s crazy fitness junkies.
Head Chef Dwight Peters joined Centennial Dining just over two months ago and is here to stir things up. With a focus on locally sourced produce he aspires to educate diners on the concept of ‘paddock to plate’ and strengthen the relationship between supplier and diner. Dwight has been cooking since the age of six and worked with his mother and brother, both chefs, on cruise ships for years before working in five star hotels. Now with children of his own he enjoys foodie road trips to the fish markets and regional farms to teach his kids.
We had our own mini lesson with Dwight elaborating on the evening’s menu. To start, we had an amuse bouche of Yamba prawns and mango salsa. Perfectly cooked on the BBQ before our eyes and plated so delicately this was a great start before moving on to the entree. The Jasmine and miso cured kingfish, pea flowers, watermelon, ponzu dressing was almost too pretty to eat. I’m glad I did though, the sashimi style kingfish was very fresh and the watermelon really worked although I’d never tried the two together until that night.
For mains we had the Grange beef tenderloin, charred eggplant, cep and rosemary jus. This was a highlight dish of the evening with enticing presentation and strong flavours. My beef was cooked just right and I made sure I got every drop of the rosemary jus with the roast potatoes. For those non meat eaters, a mushroom gnocchi was on offer.
For dessert we had young coconut panna cotta, tuille and raspberry sorbet. I only wish the panna cotta was bigger as I absolutely loved it. Can I have the recipe please chef? Even those who don’t normally love dessert enjoyed this dish, though most were unsure whether to eat the flower or leave it as decoration. As with all good restaurants, if it’s on the plate it’s edible.
Centennial Dining is open 7 days a week for breakfast and lunch. It’s available for hire any night for a truly inspiring evening. I’ll be back, rain or shine.