My food blogging journey started nearly 2 years ago in May 2012 as a way to articulate, share and capture favourite eating moments. I love food and with a little coaxing from my lovely partner Jeremy, I realised it was a great way to celebrate this adoration.
Every now and then food blogging comes with some great opportunities and invitations, where chefs, event companies or restaurants extend a very generous offer for me to come and try their food out. I received such an opportunity recently with an invitation from Tom’s Kitchen in Shafto Lane. It’s a place I’ve eaten at many times; small with an ever changing menu of European influence and rustic, flavoursome dishes.
Recently they’ve decided to give back to their beloved city and have started up a ‘Hump Day Banquet’ night for Wednesdays. The premise is quite simple: $35 per head and they will feed you with dish after dish until you are completely full. A belly busting experience to say the least!
Naturally I was pretty tempted by the offer to check the Hump Day night out and immediately accepted, booking in a time for the following week. Jeremy and I arrive just before 6.30pm, greeted immediately by the House Manager, Manuel. He’s an excellent host for the evening, working well with the ever-charming and bubbly waiter who I believe his name was Daniel. If you ever go to Tom’s Kitchen and meet Daniel (I hope that was his name!) he is the embodiment of fantastic service. Hilariously funny, witty and just the right level of engagement.
We’re told by Manuel who is just as chatty and entertaining, that we’ll be joined by another couple – fellow blogger Perth Munchkin and her boy. It’s always a nice chance to catchup with a friendly face and even better when it’s someone who knows the process of taking food before eating without needing to explain why.
We start off the evening with a drink each. I consider a glass of wine or cocktail but in the end settle on a coke since my stomach is growling and I know I’ll easily lose myself if I don’t eat first. My boy decides on a glass of the housemade ginger beer which he says is sweet but jam packed with ginger flavour, the bubbles dancing on his tongue tantalisingly.
While we wait for our dining companions we take the opportunity to look around at the restaurant. While it’s not new for me, Jeremy hasn’t ever made it down here and he’s really pleased by the simple but aesthetically pleasing decor. Long wooden tables, dim naked bulbs hanging low and offering intimate yellow light. Fresh air spills in from all sides and there’s a great buzz from neighbouring venues inside Shafto Lane.
Once everyone has arrived and drinks are sorted, our first course for the night comes out. Simple but definitely most welcome – Bread and Butter. Crispy crust contrasts against the soft and warm texture inside. It’s fluffy, flavoursome and a great vessel for that creamy butter that’s sprinkled with himalayan salt.
I know I say it often enough, but seriously I love bread and this one is everything it should be and more. While I do focus on the butter, the virgin olive oil on side is silky and flavoursome. It works extremely well with the surprising accompaniment of sugar and chilli powder instead of your standard salt.
I love the sugar and chilli together – you get that instant rush of sweetness and then what follows is a waft of heat and taste. I find it an extremely addictive combination! Since I knew there was a great deal of food to come I manage to stop myself from finishing off all the slices we’re given (3 per person) but if I hadn’t I guarantee I would not have managed to eat as much as I did!
Once we’ve been munching on the bread for a little while, we’re presented with the next of our dishes for the night – Fanta Wings with Fanta & Apricot Sauce and Pistachios. The description of the dish sounds a little weird, but I have to admit I’m pretty excited about it once it’s placed on the table.
The chicken is breaded, soaked in fanta before being fried which gives it a lovely sweet but not overpowering taste. The breaded crumb is crunchy and thin, and not oily like you often find with fried chicken.
The meat inside is steaming hot; tender and oh so juicy. I love the toasted pistachios on top which give an extra crumb and a different flavour. The real winner though is the sauce which is creamy, sweet and punchy. I would have loved a nice pool of the sauce on the side to dip the chicken in because it was so good there wasn’t enough to satisfy my greedy tastebuds!
This is Jeremy’s favourite dish of the night and definitely the highlight of mine too. I’d return happily just for these off an ala carte menu.
While eating our chicken, Manuel comes out with a mocktail for me which is a lovely surprise. It’s orange and cranberry – sour and refreshing. A great accompaniment that I offer to Jeremy to try (and he steals a lot of!).
As we’re nearing the end of our chicken wings (just a couple left!), the next course is presented. It’s pulled pork sliders with pickled pineapple and blue cheese dressing. It’s accompanied by a platter of kipfler potato chips with a smokey housemade tomato sauce.
The kipfler potato chips are delicious. Waxy, flavoursome and well seasoned. It’s great to see they’ve kept the skin on, and have left this expensive piece of produce to speak for itself. The sauce that accompanies them is tart, slightly smokey and really lovely and thick.
The sliders are the perfect embodiment for the night’s cuisine, focussed on ‘dude food’. Perth Munchkin and I reflect that we’d both seen photos from the week before’s Hump Day Banquet which had been Asian inspired. I love the idea that the menu changes each week depending on produce and inspiration, it makes for a great adventure and allows you to return for this incredibly generously priced night over and over again.
But back on the taste of those sliders. The pork is sweet and succulent, working well with the tart pickled pineapple. The bread for the buns is a little lacklustre compared to the bread we were earlier served – it doesn’t taste bad but it doesn’t have that wow of what we’d eaten before. I really like the blue cheese dressing but there’s not enough for me in there. My first slider has almost none but my second has a good hit and when you get that pork, cheese and pineapple combination it is almost heavenly!
The fourth course is Chicken Mole with Corn Salsa, Confit Tomato and Homemade Tortilla. Mole is a traditional Mexican sauce which has different variations – some including certain chillies or peppers, others even including chocolate for added richness and to counter the heat of the chillies.
Tom’s Kitchen’s version is very moorish but sadly I truly am getting really full at this stage and the heavy, thick tortillas aren’t helping the situation! I do love the taste though, especially when you mix in the sweet corn salsa and the tart confit tomatoes.
We all enjoy the dish, but you can see we’re all feeling the strain of over eating and knowing we have one more savoury course to come, we sadly can’t finish what we’re given. They are so generous here and we’re all feeling guilty over wasting such delicious food.
The final savoury course is an exciting one that we all dig deep to prepare to eat. It’s Braised and Cured Rabbit, with Aniseed and Cherry Glaze and Toasted Hazelnuts. There’s a serving of salad on the side and roasted kipfler and sweet potatoes.
The rabbit is sweet from the glaze, and looks rustic and peasant style. The outside of the meat is a little dry so I am worried but closer to the bone I find a lovely juicy spot that is just what you want in a rabbit dish. It’s well seasoned and works with the crunchy hazelnuts (which is one of my favourite in the nut family, definitely underrated).
The sweet potato is actually my favourite on the dish – it’s such a great vegetable to roast. Soft, yielding and a good balance of salty and sweet.
I think overall this dish could have used a nice sauce to accompany it, and highlight the rabbit even more. While I did like it, it was just a tad too dry for my own personal tastes. Though I do think I need to point out by this point I had eaten just way too much, so I couldn’t really give this dish enough attention I just needed a time out from eating! Tom’s Kitchen’s Hump Day Banquet really is an endless feast of incredibly generous proportions.
After our savoury courses are cleared from the table we all sit back and groan at the strain of our bellies. Manuel kindly offers us a bit of a break before we move on to the dessert end of the night, which we readily accept. As a host of the restaurant, he has a great ability in looking after his customers and looking after their needs. I always say that great service makes all the difference and after we finished at Tom’s, I left wanting to return not just for the food but for the great staff that work there.
The palate cleanser, or pre-dessert, for the night is a beautiful dish – it’s actually one of my favourites for the evening. Coconut jelly, lime sorbet and even edible flowers.
The coconut jelly is phenomenal, definitely the star of the dish – and I’m not a person who absolutely loves coconut as a flavour. It’s silky smooth and jam packed with flavour. I love the luring wobble that jelly has, it’s almost hypnotic.
The lime sorbet is cool and sour; a refreshing flavour to follow the savoury dishes of the night.
We’re offered tea and coffee at this point which Jeremy and I both jump at the offer. I choose a pot of peppermint tea and my boy opts for english breakfast with some cold milk on the side. Both come out steaming hot in their own pots and I have to say, the tea really helped my stomach feel less strained. Something very much needed as we moved into our final dish of the evening.
The final dish at Tom’s Kitchen’s Hump Day Banquet was a Lemon Curd Tart with Black Pepper Pastry.
I love a good lemon meringue tart, and this one certainly looked promising when it came out. The pastry is a little hard to cut into with a spoon but I love the taste – crisp, buttery and a mild but noticeable pepperiness. The lemon curd is both sweet and tart, quite viscous in texture. The torched meringue is sky high, with a nice char to the outside. It’s a bit thicker than I’m used to and the sugariness has my tastebuds engaged but a little overwhelmed. The fresh berries on the side definitely help cut through this.
I’m glad I got a tea, because it’s the perfect counter to the sweetness of this dessert. While I enjoyed it, it was (as everything on the night) a little too generous in size for me to handle. I eat as much as I can before I realise I may indeed combust so regretfully I bow out. Boy am I full!