Sean’s Kitchen has become an Adelaide favourite in the short time it has sat proudly on North Terrace. It has brought high end dining to a more casual level, but kept the exceptional quality that has become synonymous with the name ‘Sean Connolly’.
Sean’s passion for the communal experience of dining is shared by friend and fellow larrikin Paul West. Paul is a well-rounded (in experience, not stature) chef with a paddock to plate style ethos who also happens to be the host of popular TV show, River Cottage Australia.
It’s this shared mantra that brought the pair together to create a truly spectacular Tasting Australia event: Dinner in the Company of Paul West at Sean’s Kitchen.
The stunning location was buzzing from start to finish and to the brim with guest eagerly anticipating a prestigious evening ahead.
When the duo took the ‘stage’ so to speak at the start of the night, to introduce themselves and the menu, it became very apparent that what we were in for was not, in fact, a meal presented to us by culinary Gods that we should worship (well it was, but that wasn’t the point) but instead great quality food to be shared amongst old friends and those with a passion to make new ones.
When Sean opened with the line, “When I was asked if I’d like to be involved with this I thought, f**k it, I cook all the time. I’ll let someone else do it for once” the room burst into laughter and barely stopped right until the end. The f-bombs barely stopped either, but with Sean’s cheeky Yorkshire accent and infectious giggling, even the most stern faced diners couldn’t help but crack a smile.
So, to the food! The menu was prepared by Paul to showcase some excellent South Australian produce without frills and opulence, but instead letting the beauty of the ingredients sing by themselves.
All dishes were shared style dining, to encourage you to communicate with those around you. We began with Country Style Pork Terrine with pickles and artisan sourdough, Wood-Fire Grilled Octopus with radish, peas and grilled lemon and Vegetarian Pissaladière with smoked red onion, baby capers and caper leaves. Again, each was simple and magnificent with the highlight for me being the terrine. A dish that shows the whole can be so much more than the sum of its parts (ingredients of which we thought it best not to quiz them on).
This was paired with a choice of simple gin cocktails, we went for Barrel-Aged Settlers Gin and Tonic with Thyme and Orange Segments. It was the perfect mix of deep and refreshing.
The mains that followed were without a word of a lie, absolutely exceptional. We asked each of the guests on the table which was their favourite and no one could come up with a definitive answer.
Again all the dishes were sharing style, encouraging guests to chat and giggle whilst serving out huge pieces of meat, salad and risotto. The Grass Fed Angus Pure OP Rib simply could not have been cooked better. When quizzed on how he’d seasoned the meat, Paul said merely old fashioned salt and pepper. This spoke volumes about the quality of the meat and the skill of those behind the scenes cooking it.
The Butternut Pumpkin Risotto that came uniquely served in a clear tube (and looking slightly like a fruit smoothie) was stunning. Even chef Connolly stated he thought it was better than his own Pea and Parmesan Risotto. Big call. But one with some merit.
And then, of course, there was the BBQ’d Saskia Beer Chicken with roast heirloom carrots and a green tahina sauce; this, with a side of Shaved Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli and Walnut Salad. This had to be the most unexpectedly exceptional dishes of the night. The burly, red meat loving males of the table even exclaimed it was the best chicken they’d ever eaten and they’d order it again over their favourite steak.
Between courses Sean and Paul ran commentary on their history and allowed questions from the crowd. Paul told tales of how during his training as a chef he worked in some of the finest restaurants in the nation; although his appreciation remains for this style of dining, it wasn’t what his country upbringing had taught him to love and appreciate about food. “I watched a brilliant chef spend 4 weeks attempting to create the perfect ‘mushroom soil’, he tried all sorts to try and get this dirt to taste just like a mushroom, and you know what? After four weeks it still tasted like nothing. That’s when I thought this is bulls**t, this isn’t what dining is supposed to be about.”
He went on to say that food is merely a spoke in a much bigger wheel; that we live in a country with no barrier to access to nutritious and outstanding food and how lucky we are as a nation to be able to share that so readily with our family and friends.
Food is a centrepiece of celebration and has been for centuries, Paul highlighted that somewhere along the path, we’ve moved away from that. The pair’s construction of this event certainly brought that concept back to the forefront of the dining conversation. The commentary was thought provoking and highlighted the importance of a genuine dining experience. But as Sean then brought up “Mate, we’re just here to talk about the f**king food.”
And with that came dessert. Apple Tarte Tatin with Tahitian vanilla ice cream and a Chocolate Semifreddo with pistachio praline. Once again, quite simple dishes that when well executed, made the ingredients sing.
All in all, this was an wonderful evening hosted by two exceptional gentlemen (cough scallywags cough cough) It showcased to locals, interstate and international guests the simple wonder and high standard of South Australian produce.
It’s events like Tasting Australia that remind us that here in SA that there are truly incomparable food and beverage experiences that were very lucky to have right on our doorsteps.