Uni­ver­sal night black and bub­bly

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence - JU­DITH ELEN FOOD DE­TEC­TIVE

FRESH from an­nual hols, the staff at Uni­ver­sal Restau­rant in Syd­ney’s Dar­linghurst are back with a flour­ish for their sec­ond year, and Dom Perignon 2000, $290/$49 a glass, served in DP’s sig­na­ture black crys­tal flutes, is on the toast­ing menu.

With the doors barely open, chef Chris­tine Man­field hosted a Seven Sen­su­al­i­ties Din­ner as part of Syd­ney’s re­cent Dom Perignon Week. The nor­mally open-tothe-night and flam­boy­antly orange and hot pink restau­rant was wrapped in black vel­vet, din­ers sat at a black-swathed com­mu­nal ta­ble dec­o­rated with white or­chids, sipped Dom Perignon 2000 and smoky vin­tage teas from tea mas­ter Madame Tseng ( Yu Hui Tseng) of La Mai­son des Trois Thes in Paris, and tasted an ex­tra­or­di­nary line-up of mini-plates. Even the Uni­ver­sal reg­u­lars, of whom there were sev­eral, were as­ton­ished, though FoodDe­tec­tive sniffed out what might have been a faint aroma of pro­tec­tion­ism from the French pres­ence. The din­ner is an an­nual tra­di­tion of the cham­pagne house, which cre­ates the seven dishes; Man­field had added seven of her own to the list. But what could be more Aus­tralian than chal­leng­ing tra­di­tion? And what more French than up­hold­ing it?

This month a Raise the Red Lantern din­ner fea­tures Man­field’s re­gional favourites, to hon­our Chi­nese cul­ture and the Olympics (Au­gust 28, $125 sans wine).

As for those staff hols, Man­field tells De­tec­tive the team took off in all di­rec­tions, from Buenos Aires to the Royal Mail Ho­tel in Dunkeld, Vic­to­ria. She and part­ner Margie Har­ris ex­plored St Petersburg (‘‘caviar good but ex­pen­sive, good fish pie and couli­b­iac, but food gen­er­ally dread­ful,’’ she says).

And Si­cily. Man­field tells De­tec­tive they sought out tra­di­tional an­ti­cosi­cil­iana dishes. Sira­cuse and Cata­nia were high points ‘‘ but the whole is­land is jammed with de­light­ful plea­sures’’, she says: the pro­duce mar­kets, even in small towns, the fish and the ‘‘ baroque towns of Noto and Mod­ica, which have Italy’s best gelati and choco­late, re­spec­tively, and are not to be missed’’. www.uni­ver­sal­restau­rant.com; www.dom­perignon.com. ■ MEAN­WHILE, down at The Rocks in Syd­ney, Neil Perry is dress­ing for din­ner once again at Rock­pool af­ter his brief flir­ta­tion with ca­sual din­ing un­der the name Rock­pool (fish). ‘‘ Fish’’ has been dis­creetly re­moved from the door and the white linen is back on the ta­bles. Travel&In­dul­gence ed­i­tor Susan Kuro­sawa puts on her glad rags and re­ports ( Ta­bles , this page).

Perry plans two new Syd­ney open­ings: Rock­pool Bar & Grill in Jan­uary (flagged in De­tec­tive , Septem­ber 29-30 last year), and Spice Tem­ple late this year. ■ AUS­TRALIA’S ‘‘ Dream Team’’ of wines, se­lected by ex­perts Max Allen and Camp­bell Mat­tin­son, will be lined up for tast­ing at Syd­ney’s Land­mark: Great Aus­tralian Wines Past, Present and Fu­ture. Rar­i­ties such as Gi­a­conda Chardon­nay will be matched with emerg­ing su­per­stars of the same style. Most are in lim­ited sup­ply. Glebe Point Diner chef Alex Kearns’s menu will match the dream: $235 a head, Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art, Au­gust 20. www.wine­fo­cusaus­tralia.com.au. ■ AND back at the Royal Mail in Dunkeld, Old Masters Wine Din­ners are reg­u­larly hosted by the ho­tel’s som­me­lier, Lok Thorn­ton, and the Royal’s ex­ten­sive cel­lars are plun­dered for rare tastes. A Vic­to­rian Masters din­ner is next, a ‘‘ snap­shot of what makes Vic­to­ria one of the world’s great wine-mak­ing states’’, with wines from Gi­a­conda, Craw­ford River, Bass Phillip, Mount Mary and more, served along­side a 10-course tast­ing menu by Royal Mail chef Dan Hunter. Au­gust 22, $450 a head. www.royal­mail.com.au. ■ MIXED drinks are on the agenda in Bris­bane, with cock­tail and canape pack­ages at Bris­bane Hil­ton’s Be­low 7 Lounge. (Three cock­tail choices for each sip­per.) Book­ings, be­tween 10 and 30, $65 a head. (07) 3231 3166; michael.berger@hil­ton.com. Al­ter­na­tively, find out how to mix your own cock­tails. $59 a per­son in­cludes interactive pre­sen­ta­tion, canapes, glass of sparkles, cock­tail kit and recipes. Septem­ber 27 and Novem­ber 22. Book­ings: (07) 3231 3231. ■ SLOW Food Syd­ney has con­tacted De­tec­tive to point out that last week’s Slow Food men­tion ( De­tec­tive , July 26-27), which re­ferred to a vote of ap­proval for the for­mal reg­is­tra­tion of Slow Food Aus­tralia from the in­ter­na­tional body, was am­bigu­ous.

In prac­ti­cal terms, Slow Food is al­ready flour­ish­ing across the states, with more than 3000 mem­bers in 37 con­vivi­ums, mak­ing it the fifth largest as­so­ci­a­tion in the world net­work. www.slow­food.com. ■ AB­SO­LUTELY Abruzzo Tours, which De­tec­tive has trav­elled with and still savours the me­mory, of­fers a true in­sider’s look at cen­tral Italy with unique food ex­pe­ri­ences. AbAb has a gourmet long week­end, Wine and Dine in the Apen­nines, for those al­ready in Italy. Slow-food, cook­ing class, vil­lage mar­ket, tast­ings. De­parts Pescara air­port, Abruzzo. Un­til Oc­to­ber 26 and dates in 2009; $975 a per­son twin share. www.ab­so­lutelyabruzzo.com. ■ DE­TEC­TIVE loves: Cho­co­latier Koko Black has cre­ated two ‘‘ dark new treats for Fa­ther’s Day’’ (Septem­ber 7): co­coa nibs or whole roasted cof­fee beans in 74 per cent dark choco­late blocks ( De­tec­tive won’t be re­lin­quish­ing hers); $7.50, 100g. www.kokoblack.com. ■ DE­TEC­TIVE loathes: In full agree­ment with Queens­land reader Clive Hodges who loathes the fact many res­tau­ra­teurs con­tinue to ig­nore noise, De­tec­tive is de­vel­op­ing a chronic throat prob­lem. Din­ers of­ten need to shout at each other to be heard, Hodges writes. ■ FIND of the week: Sof­i­tel Went­worth Syd­ney chef Jess Ong’s en­tree of seared Her­vey Bay scal­lops on a soft bed of parmi­giano reg­giano-scented po­lenta with a dress­ing of minced truf­fle, ba­con and chives; on the menu at Gar­den Court and alone worth a visit. www.sof­i­tel­syd­ney.com.au.

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