Event management company, Secret Foodies, takes those with a taste for adventure on an underground culinary journey. Lauren Arena recently went along for the ride.
It’s 4pm on Thursday afternoon and I hear my phone buzz. It’s a message. Containing a secret note – instructions of a time and place: Be at Clarence Street in Sydney at 7pm for a champagne degustation.
“We like our guests to expect the unexpected,” Secret Foodies founder, Alex Adams, says.
“As we get older there aren’t as many surprises in life. So much of what we do for work and in our social life is planned, so it’s nice to have a special surprise, especially when good food is involved.”
When I arrive at the destination I’m delighted to discover that tonight, I’ll be dining at Arras, a contemporary fine-diner in the heart of the CBD where chef, owner and Yorkshireman Adam Humphrey serves modern cuisine inspired by French and British classics.
As more and more guests arrive, the dining room is positively buzzing with like-minded gourmands eager to meet, eat and make a toast to good living. It’s a great networking opportunity and Ms Adams says, while good food is a constant factor, no two events are ever the same.
“When we host a pop-up event, we consider every detail, from the food and wine, right through to the staffing, theming and timing.
“We also work closely with chefs, caterers and venue owners to design a menu that reflects their style and food philosophy. For example, Matt Kemp (formerly of Balzac Restaurant) is really into sustainability, so we hosted an event called ‘lambathon’, where he created a seven-course degustation using alternative cuts of lamb.
For tonight’s event, chef Humphrey’s bespoke four-course degustation is full of surprises and the menu, deliberately deceiving. A starter of ‘potato salad’ is a far cry from the mayonnaise-sodden mess I remember eating as a kid. Instead it’s crispy and flavoursome with grilled lettuce, potato croutons and potato vinaigrette.
Following this are two intriguing fish dishes – the first is ‘Salmon and tzatziki’, a neat square of roasted salmon with dill jelly, plain and (what seems to be) cumin-infused yoghurt, and pressed cucumber; and the second, a smooth blanquette of mulloway with lentils, broad beans and artichoke. Both dishes are complemented by a glass of Piper-Heidsieck rosé sauvage, a robust and fruity champagne with hints of cherry and blood orange and a crisp acidity that works well with the fish.
Then it’s onwards to dessert, a lush strawberry foie gras with rosewater brioche and champagne jellies that’s both textural and delightfully delicate; but before the night is up, out comes the restaurant’s signature petit fours – a food experience in itself, with brightly coloured, bite-sized treats arranged on an elevated Perspex platter. Inspired by traditional English sweets like coconut ice, mini Yorkshire puddings, peanut brittle, and sugar shards dipped in sherbet, these devilish morsels ensure everyone goes home with a smile (and a sugar high).
As well as fine dining, Secret Foodies creates bespoke events for private functions and corporate groups of all shapes and sizes, including a 200-person Mexican fiesta complete with mariachi band, food truck and pop-up bar; a rooftop picnic in the CBD; a farmyard feast in a heritage-listed barn; and team-building activities like cocktail master-classes or wine tasting. m