Curious Feasting

I went to The Sugar Club for my dinner last night. Not your usual venue for a three course meal, served on white linen with separate cutlery for each course and matching wines. I went because I was curious, which was the general idea of the event which has been running all week.

The concept of A Curious Feast For The Senses was this. Take one very odd combination of two very different wine experiences (New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, in this case from Brancott Estate, and sparkling wine) and drum up a zany marketing campaign to convince people that even the most unlikely combos can work. They drafted in four separate restaurants whose head chefs took to the stage each night to demonstrate a three-course meal in a Siemens-sponsored kitchen, while the rest of the team toiled away in what is usually the Green Room of the club to plate up dinner for the 70-odd guests.

Each evening was hosted by Cully & Sully, those zany purveyors of comforting soups and ready meals, whose connections to the High Queens of Irish Food down in Shanagarry’s Ballymaloe House & Cookery School make them just the pair to bring a certain establishment kudos to the whole affair. That and the fact that they’re nicely mad and up for a laugh, making them perfect ambassadors for the campaign.

Dinner last night was courtesy of Pichet, whose talented head chef Stephen Gibson conceived of and demonstrated a tasty meal. It consisted of a starter of seared sashimi-grade tuna served with Parma ham, pear and a gorgeous sherry jelly; a main of slow-cooked beef short ribs served with shaved ox tongue and pickled violet artichoke; and salted caramel ice-cream served with banana puree, chocolate mousse and caramel popcorn.

Wines were, consecutively, Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc, which does what you expect a Kiwi SB to do (give you lots of zingy tropical fruits and in-your-face gooseberries); a Pinot Noir from the same estate which is not half bad for something you’d throw in the shopping basket for €12, should that be how you buy your wines; and said sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, which was – how shall I put this – curious. If you think it sounds like a good idea, it might just be for you. It’s certainly original, which is fitting for a wine from the original estate where the first Sauvignon Blanc grapes were grown in New Zealand. The received wisdom of the time was that this was a mad idea that would absolutely not work. Of course, the naysayers were proven wrong and Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc went on to become one of the most recognisable geographical styles of wines in the world.

One of the reasons I went along last night was to see if the unlikely setting of The Sugar Club would work as a venue for cookery demos and dinner. I was particularly curious, having been involved in several food-focussed events there last year (For Food’s Sake food discussion nights and food movie nights). And yes, it seems that if you throw enough money at it (of which a lot had clearly been thrown), The Sugar Club can be transformed into a perfect pop-up restaurant venue.

Of course, I was also curious how the sparkling Sauvignon Blanc would go down. Again, it seems that throw enough money at it, and even the most unlikely ideas can be kept afloat long enough to grow some legs and arms and start swimming all by themselves. The girls beside me certainly thought the wine was lovely, and said they’d happily drink it again.

To my personal taste, it’s still wrong. But then those pioneers who planted New Zealand’s first Sauvignon Blanc vines were told that they were wrong too. I’ll let you make up your own mind, and leave history to judge.

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