It is quite possibly the funnest event of the Secret Foodies calendar.

Our annual Christmas in July event brings out the festive cheer in everyone in the form of daggy reindeer jumpers, funny Kris Kringle presents and of course plenty of delicious food and wine.

After more than six years since our inception the same theme has never been repeated twice with the exception of a few annual events. Day of the Dead, Champagne Degustation and Christmas In July. Guaranteed to sell out evey year, finding a venue that can accomodate this popular event is often a challenge. This year we headed north to the newly opened Hunter Gatherer bar in North Sydney. Located on the rooftop of the Greenwood Plaza this striking venue was opened by the same owners as Bondi favourites The Corner House (where we hosted one of our first ever events in 2010).

The food philosophy at Hunter Gatherer, as the name suggests, is inspired by simpler times when produce was hunted, gathered with no processing. A time when everything was naturally organic and biodynamic without the fancy title or inflated price tag. Michelin trained head chef Paul “Mick” Micklewright and his team really let the produce speak for itself with a focus on seasonal meals shared between friends and family.

This was the perfect ethos for our Christmas in July event and an exciting challenge for the kitchen. It was also a challenge for me as the host. This was the first time i’d hosted a lunch and dinner back to back but with ticket sales selling out in the blink of an eye it would have been Scrooge-like to not open another sitting.

Guests arrived at the restaurant, in their finest Christmas attire and were instantly warmed up with a glass of mulled wine made using Grant Burge merlot. After mingling around and bopping along to Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas everyone was seated for lunch. For starters we had Kurobuta pork rillette croquettes with a kohlrabi apple remoulade. We also had some delicious house treacle cured Goulburn River king trout served on rye with Cooks Co-Opp egg mayonnaise, caper berries and trout roe. I think i’ve found my favourite open sandwich topping. This was an absolutely delicious combination.

Moving on to entrees, boards of cold cut meats and house pickles were place on the table before us in between people pulling their Christmas bon bons and telling terrible jokes. The paper hats were donned while enjoing fresh market vegetables and toast dipped into warm, gooey raclette. Both the starters and entrees were paired with Mud House Sauvignon Blanc.

In between entrees and mains it was time for Kris Kringle. Guests were required to bring a present wrapped and ready to swap. The rules were simple – the gift needed to be less than $5, made or regifted. Each year there are a mix of thoughtful, strange, delicious and down right hilarious gifts exchanged. This year was no exception from cowboy hats to dvds, cook books, scratchies and even a lone avacado (that can often cost $5 a pop at certain grocers).

After clearing the colourful wrapping paper it was time for mains. We switched over to red, drinking glasses of the Mud House Pinot Noir (a delicious drop) that went well with the roast turkey and stuffing. Pigs in blankets also made an appearance and accompanying sides included ripped sprouts with ham and chestnuts, Wollemi honey roast carrots, French style peas and duck fat roast potatoes.

This is the second year we’ve partnered with Mud House Wine for our Christmas in July event. A New Zealand brand, their Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are very quaffable and popular amongst our guests.

For dessert the chefs chose to steer clear of a predictable Christmas pudding and instead made Xmas bars with brandy caramel sauce. Inside each of the bars was a layer of ice cream and Christmas style brownie coated in coconut oil chocolate. They were rich, delicious and definitely inspired a few of us for dessert variations at our own Christmas dinners this December.

After dessert we had a Q&A with one of the chefs, Chris and the General Manager, Stephen who told us more about their suppliers. Then it was time for us to reset the tables and get ready to do it all again for dinner. And for those of you who are wondering, yes I did eat two Christmas meals that day, with no nap in between. No judgement, right?!

xxMs Darlinghurst

To see all of the photos from the event click here.

Hunter Gatherer
Greenwood Plaza 36 Blue St, North Sydney NSW 2060