Calle to Cavern Pop-Up Dining at Emmilou, Surry Hills

On a breezy spring night, we were invited by the lovely team at Lime & Tonic to take part in an exclusive pop up dining experience in Surry Hills. We were quite intrigued by this fun concept, which combines a bit of adventure with our favourite pastime of eating out. The idea behind all of Lime & Tonic’s offerings is to create memorable social experiences by putting together a selection of the best restaurants and activities in Sydney.

I’ve been to the Surry Hills neighbourhood countless times over the years but have always just gone straight to my chosen location with the least amount of wandering possible. But tonight we were going on a quick treasure hunt before dinner, giving us a chance to explore the quiet backstreets of one of the most fascinating suburbs in Sydney with its eclectic mix of old terraces and new, hip eateries.

We spot a bunch of people with maps on the street corner that we’ve been told to meet at and our exploration of Surry Hills begins! After some quick introductions, we wander past landmarks we hadn’t noticed before and even learn a little bit of trivia in the process (like where an old jail used to be). Eventually we wind up finding our “treasure” (limes with sticker numbers on them) which act as our tickets for the lucky door prize of the night.

We walk a bit further down the alleyway where the basket of limes was hidden and find the Lime & Tonic team awaiting our arrival. They have set up the “pop-up” part of the night with candles lighting up a table with glasses of champagne and round wooden trays of canapes ready for us to tuck into after our walkabout. We enjoy the bubbles which went nicely with the light nibbles of buckwheat blini. I liked the plump orange salmon roe on top of the dollop of creamy yoghurt, bursting with savoury flavour in your mouth. The blini was shaped like a mini pancake and had a slightly sweet taste to it.

Buckwheat blini with yoghurt and salmon roe

After around half an hour of alleyway mingling, we were then told by the friendly restaurant manager Ryan to head down the road to Emmilou. We entered the backdoor through the kitchen before emerging in the stylish interior of the restaurant itself. We were hit with a buzzing ambience, thanks in part to the graffiti like white scribblings on the red walls which gave the whole place a youthful, funky vibe.

We sit down at a long table and see what’s on the specially designed 5 course menu tonight. The chef has put together dishes using organic Australian produce with a “paddock to plate” concept in mind, using interesting ingredients like artichoke and quail. We slather some chunky tomato relish onto the bread provided as we wait for our first course.

In the first course, the thin slices of artichoke are surprisingly tasty and had an interesting crispy texture because it had been fried. It didn’t taste like artichoke at all, especially because it had soaked up the lightly creamy milk curd and manchego cheese. The broadbeans didn’t really add much to the dish, but luckily it had plenty of flavour already.

Globe artichokes, fresh milk curd, broadbeans and manchego

For the following dish, the small pieces of quail breast were tender and succulent. There was no hint of the dry and stringy texture that this part of the bird is usually susceptible to. The chestnut puree sauce was a lovely accompaniment to the quail, with the grains of wild rice providing a nice carb base. There was also intensely flavoured pate on the side which gave an extra hit of creamy saltiness to the dish.

Pan fried quail breast with chestnut, wild rice and mushroom

Next up was the artfully presented trevalla dish, with a refreshing orange puree sauce and diced carrot bits. This was a rather ordinary dish as we thought the carrots and olives didn’t really elevate the fresh flavours of the fish.

Poached blue eye trevalla with black olive, orange and carrot

The thick medallion of lamb was delicious, with a crunchy outer skin encasing buttery soft meat inside. The bulbs of baby onion were quite strongly flavoured, even for an onion lover like me and I would recommend not popping the whole thing in your mouth.

Roast saddle of Suffolk lamb with lentils and baby onions

To finish off the night, we have a delightfully presented dessert with the deceptively simple ingredients of coffee, chocolate and milk. It sounds ordinary enough at first but the chef has done an amazing job adding depth of flavour and textures. The fluffy sponge cubes soak up the frothy cocoa cream and sweet milky sauce to create a delectable treat.

Textures of coffee, chocolate and milk

We thoroughly enjoyed our night of culinary experiences and treasure hunting. It was definitely a more social way to have a night out where you can meet new people over a meal at one of the trendiest restaurants in Sydney. The upbeat atmosphere of the restaurant was a perfect match for the adventurous vibe of the event and I’m keen to come back to try out Emmilou’s regular menu of tapas and cocktails!

Excuse Me Waiter participated in the Calle to Cavern Pop-Up Dining Experience @ Emmilou as guests of Lime & Tonic.
Calle to Cavern is also featured as part of Crave Sydney 2012.

413 Bourke Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Phone: 02 9360 6991

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