Masterchef Pop-Up Restaurant

Masterchef Australia is well into their 4th season and it’s a wonder why they took so long to come up with the concept of a pop-up restaurant. The Masterchef pop-up restaurant opened its doors last week outside St Mary’s Cathedral featuring different past Masterchef contestants and celebrity chefs cooking up a storm each night. It’s sponsored by American Express and supports OzHarvest, a charity that rescues food which would otherwise be discarded. I’m really excited to eat tonight given that I am a huge Masterchef fan and also knowing that my dollars are going to a good cause.

I attended the restaurant on Saturday 7th July which featured Masterchef contestant Hayden Quinn (Series 3) and Martin Boetz (head chef of Longrain). The restaurant looks like a giant tent with big glass doors and an earthy atmosphere thanks to the many plants dotting the room. It also features a bar downstairs (no bookings required) and dining upstairs, but unfortunately tickets for all the nights are now sold out. When we arrived, we were promptly seated and our celebrity guests were introduced. They chatted to us about the concept and menu, which featured a range of entrees, mains and desserts designed by the celebrity chefs.

Lobster bisque with scallops – by Hayden Quinn

To start the night, we choose the two entrees made by tonight’s guests. The lobster bisque is served with a small lobster fillet, scallop and fish roe. I’m not an overall fan of the bisque itself and find it way too lobstery, but the seafood was soft and succulent. The fish roe also added an interesting textural element to the bisque.

Eggnet filled with pork, prawns, peanuts and caramelised coconut with a cucumber relish – by Martin Boetz

Next up is an Asian-style salad by Martin Boetz. The first thing I try is the side of pickled vegetables, which are very refreshing. I’m not a fan of the chunks of ginger in there but the cucumbers were quickly eaten up by yours truly. The eggnet covering was thin and fluffy. Hidden underneath was an assortment of bean sprouts, coriander, nuts, chilli and pork. It had a beautiful Thai vinaigrette tossed through it and was a lovely light entree to start with, as well as being quite a generous serving!

Seared duck breast with Aigre-douce sauce – by Justin Schofield

Onto the mains! These were not designed by tonight’s guests but were cooked by the dozens of assistant chefs hidden in the kitchen. The duck was accompanied with an assortment of baby vegetables, puree and an onion with a puff pastry. This onion added an interesting touch and was delicious with the pastry; however, the other vegetables were medium cooked and could have been a bit softer. Our duck breast was sliced into thick pieces and was seared to perfection – it was pink, juicy, soft and melted in your mouth. The only downfall with this dish was that the sauce wasn’t that interesting and I don’t think it pulled the dish together very well.

Roast rump of pork with crackling, potato puree, buttered cabbage and charcuterie jus – by Justin North

Next up was the pork. This was cooked beautifully with a layer of fat attached onto the side. The mash was creamy and soft, the sauce was delicious – very homely food for a winter night. However, one bad thing was that the crackling was way too hard. Even using my back teeth, my eating partner and I found it difficult to break with our teeth. A failed textural element to the dish.

Lemon and mint spring rolls with lemon syrup – by Marion Grasby

When it came to desserts, we made sure we picked the most interesting sounding ones to end our night. First up were some spring rolls filled with a creamy custard with a subtle refreshing mint flavour, though I couldn’t taste any lemon. Also, there were two things which caught me off guard with this dish. Firstly, the dish was warm – I expected the dessert to be cold, so this was an interesting change. Secondly, the spring roll was soft and soggy. I was hoping it would be crispy but unfortunately it was not.

Passionfruit puddle pie  – by Julie Goodwin

Next up was a passionfruit pie, which was a lovely fruity finish to our meal. I found that the pastry base was a bit boring and needed more sugar. The cream sitting on top didn’t really complement the tart and this also lacked sweetness, but thankfully the tart filling was quite delicious and the passionfruit seeds added some interesting crunch.

Cheese platter served with crisp bread, grapes, lavosh, strawberry and pinot jam

As if we didn’t already have enough food, we were given a cheese platter featuring four types of cheese. I still don’t really appreciate cheese, but tried them anyway. The one standing up like a small pyramid was the most delicious and creamy; the others remained unfinished as they were a bit too strong for our liking.

Throughout the night, Hayden and Martin came around to the tables to take photos and chat with all guests. This was a great touch to make any Masterchef fan’s night. Hayden was a very down-to-earth type of guy to talk to and happily answered some Masterchef questions which I always wanted to know.

Some show spoilers for you:

1. For the dishes which the judges do not try, the contestants do not eat them. Unfortunately, they are discarded and wasted. However, OzHarvest salvages as much as they can (such a waste – the TV crew should eat it!)

2. Two plates are actually plated up. One which is tried by the judges (shown on air), and another one which is plated later for filming and for TV (makes me cry knowing how much beautiful food is wasted!!!)

Overall, the food was only average due to the small disappointments in every dish and the food alone was not really worth the $100 price tag per person (if it wasn’t a Masterchef event).  However, the night was wonderful and kept me well entertained and the concept was well executed. Masterchef should definitely have more events like this! I was very happy to have met Hayden and pleased to know that all tips would go to OzHarvest and were matched by American Express (up to $20k).

MasterChef Dining pop-up Restaurant and Bar
St Mary’s Cathedral , College St, Sydney
Dates: 3rd July – 22nd July 2012
This event is now sold out for the restaurant.  The bar does not take bookings so you can turn up for a drink (the celebrity guests walk around there too!)
To see which dates each celebrity chef will be appearing – visit http://www.masterchef.com.au/dining.htm

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