Friday, December 20, 2013


A great evening at the Bennelong Restaurant as six of our Open and Master stars (including Steve Craig home from Europe for Chrissie) managed to demolish the delicious seafood chowder in under 45". The show ponies (Gunnarsson, Ryan, Joss, Hill and Green - in addition to Craig) all worked their spoons and bibs in a clean and thorough sweep of the bone china - 'The King' the fastest of them in 40.29 followed by 'The Gallows' in 40.56. A burp adrift you might say.

This was to be a big night on the nibble with over 200 guests queuing  for a table, and excited to be before the Chowder once again. Head Chef Rachael Povah was ably assisted by Maitre'd Bluett and Sous Chef Cox on the night and the order of service went well - despite an early glitch when menu's went for a car ride. The offer of Moet or Krug while you waited was appreciated by those early and eager diners, calming the growing crowd as memoirs of meagre fare here twelve months ago lubricated conversation.

With the doors finally open, the evenings main course was now at hand. Diners, many dressed in colourful garb (Ian Cameron's orange shoes a highlight), took up the recipe for careful study - some in group conference (tables of four and six common - no tables of eight however) and some in the quiet shade of the Mosman Mens Shed. The portrait sheet was clearly titled and fully listed the thirty ingredients. It looked a hearty dish with garnish and deep juicy sides - and the clean plates of early anticipation ultimately delivered as noted above.

Let's work through Po's recipe and see how the diners fared.

The first impression of the meal was how suited it was to both left and right handed guests. The major ingredients formed a bowl like sweep both left and right of the cash desk, with a twenty point garnish (the flat leaf parsley) to the north and an eighty point exotic 'fresh clam' claim at the bottom of the dish. Only those with deep spoons managed the latter - and three others going 'the clam' but ignoring the quarter cup of cream at #6, and giving us our 590 point punters (Burton of the tap wash amongst them).

Many worked a left hand first slurp - where 2,14,22,15,3,5 eased the stomach into the chewy stuff to come. After quickly digesting five and seventeen, a decision point arose. To drop to #16 (the chopped bacon) before continuing back up and over to 30 and the bush loop, or to go flatter and pull in #18 (the 18 grams of butter - thoughtfully misplaced by a local youth)  before the drop. The latter option was 100 metres longer but flat, and proved the more popular choice. Several diners were noted adding both, and suffered mild discomfort from the post 'bacon' climb.

Once working the bush spoonfuls, things flowed well, with the nice track change to #8 noted approvingly. Diners then flogged across the bay named after the dish, passing upwards past a wedding party suddenly rumpled and crumpled as competing diners panted, sweated and bellowed past. Then followed the climb (many missing the turn off to #13) to the gun emplacement and garnish decision before calling for the bill at the BNO finish flag. Those beginning with a right handed scoop had the additional conundrum of deciding on the garnish early or leaving it till their end game - where the 1(bay leaf) klm out and back needed time up the sleeve or speed to make the two twenty's worth it. Looking at the score sheet it appears many runners were tempted by the white wine and fish stock points only to see the forty so energetically obtained, evaporate when the bill was printed. Rod Parkin was onesuch, and I suspect James Lithgow another (his 500 obtained in 48.20 - thus losing forty).

As noted, we had six clean plates (3 MM's, 3 OM's) after nine diners ran the full offer - including our well credentialed clean bowl man Glenn Horrocks, who lost time after a slight discombobulation at the moved #18, and carded a 47.17. There were probably others that saw the distant eighty (the snapper pieces, the peeled tomatoes, the onion) and, suitably tempted and with a touch of the madman about them, kept on from #18 but paid a late fee at the checkout. The weighty southern gather was just too far for most however, with well over kilometre of dead running down and back - a tough call for those letting out another notch in the belt.

All assembled took on the down and up movement of spoon to mouth that Rachael demanded, with most working the full loops described and accepting the steep hills as just part of the dining experience. A more modest dinner might have foregone the bushy burp (and the southern eighty kilos of prawns) and worked up from 25,7 straight to 16/17 and then back along Bradleys Head Road - or in the reverse - for a scenic evening and around a 300 point final bill. It is interesting to note that three quarters of the field were above the plimsol line like this. All tables and routes included sensational views, with #21 the standout. But how good was running the bush track from 30,10,9,27, across the bay to the wharf (#24), and the great 'garnish' track along to #11 (the peeled and chopped potatoe).

Most diners enjoyed their meals, with only the hardest to please wishing for a tickle of seafood north of Middle Head Road to add more spice to the Chowder. In contrast to Gordy's Gasper last season, the full tum served by Rachael and The Bennelong staff was a welcome change. Hard to find an ingredient that fits the lonely pot, although #6 deep in the saucepan was probably not worth the contours (Burton dropped this one) and would be my vote. Some missed the track change to #8 and raced on (Linda 'The Siesta' I think one of these), and others ignored #3 up on top ('The Pants' one-such as he raced the clock in his clockwise soup slurp). All other checkpoints were well swallowed.

So now, let's interview a few diners as they leave the restaurant and tally a few stats.

A great roll up, with 185 entries (including 15 groups), giving us over two hundred satisfied customers. There were only three tallies below three figures, with most enjoying good point scores - and as we said, well over 75% getting above 300. The three at the modest end all need a salute however, including our shortest time at table award to Marley Lowe (SJW) whose tidy 80 point evening meal was caressed down in a mere 21 minutes. Hiroyuh 'The Hero' Takashima and Samira Bachir are our other two-digit diners - both working reasonable totals, but going past the tables cleared bell as they enjoyed 56 + minutes at their consommé.

Interesting to see there were no late penalties for the first nine runners (probably a record), with 'The Peruvian Playboy' copping the most for his 87 minute walk. Curiously Ian missed a twenty somewhere,  not sure which one (unless he missed the moved #18)?? Our 'Cruel World' award goes to Carol Jacobson with her classic 45.01 annoying but still allowing her a win in LW (Mary Jane adrift by ninety after finding the cream a bit filling). There were a couple of other '01's', but they were within the 45 minute soup course time limit, and sort of don't count. No doubt Joel (44.01) and Emmanuelle (42.01) would have still rather stretched just that little bit harder though. There were also a couple of close calls, with Dan Dohle the pick at 45.00 exactly! Duncan 'Of Dundee' and Claire Winnick also used their napkins in 44.58 and 44.59 posts that bought a tickle of moisture to the brow.

Our most popular point posts during service were 500, with thirteen diners (including six Masters Men - the restaurant's popular bar manager Richard 'Reschs' Pattison the best of them in 39.55), and 460 with fourteen beepsters - and a winning whirl of the soup spoon from OW star Rachel 'The Gourmet' Grindlay at 41" exactly. Unlike the 500 point ponies and their strong MM showing, the 460's were much more democratic, including diners from various age backgrounds - Opens to Legends (a modest reference to your restaurant reviewing correspondent). Others at the long table here include Mike Free (processing the cooled soup in the blender), Linda Sesta (heating gently for five minutes), Stu Dean (adding the bay leaves), Gordy, Bob and Andrew (jointly stirring the pot), and the three Ian's (McKernan, Clitheroe and Cameron) - all working over a medium heat until soft and golden. I've left off Cath Chalmers and the Stodart/McShie Group - but didn't mean to. What a bunch!

Age class winners were all from well to do eastern suburbs families, and performed much as expected - having been bought up eating out regularly. In looking deeper into their wallets, I note Aidan Dawson winning JM with a simply excellent 48.16 all points outing (net 560 and 14th home), Claire W surging to the front in OW with 550 in 45.59, Mary Fein leaving all MW's in her wake with 540 (and three seconds to spare), and Lloyd putting 100 over his brother Mal when it is more commonly the other way round. Great work from these SSS stars, but I should also add to the list the sensational wins from Mel Cox (SVM with 540 ozs of fresh vongole), Michele taking out JW with an even 500, and Ronaldo curling in a 430 point winner in IM.

I also note it is great to see Melissa Thomas from Red Roos Orienteers in Canberra enjoying a night out in Sydney, as did many others without club affiliation. Let's hope these presumably new SSS fans enjoyed their chowder and will front for another course in the greatest after work 'meal' yet devised. I note Freddy 'The Burger' Burghardt the best with 530 in OM, with Pete 'The Falafel' Fallows and Richard Banks (both MM 500's) following instructions, and Phillip Smyth twenty back after finding a bone. Toce Torok (OM with 450), Shrav Malkani (MM 420) and Shaun Locke (MM 410) are other non clubbies working through their main course well, and sure to take up subscriptions soon.

Lots of other good contests and scoring of course (take a decko at Immortal Men, with the top five all close - very close!) - and a great night out with Po's Kitchen. A top spot and one of the Sydney Summer Series most scenic maps, so big thanks to all at Bennelong and their magnificent Seafood Chowder. Very yum indeed!

Chowder Bay was the perfect place for that pre Christmas entree - as we await our main course at The Woolwich Pier Hotel next Monday. Yes indeed, instead of finishing off the season at the Buena Vista, we are pretending next Monday is a Wednesday, and going off to pud and presents with one last 2013 flash dance at Woolwich. John 'The Trouser' Anderson and the Garingal all-stars are bringing you this return to a much loved harbour side area as you squeeze in 'just one more' before the break. Starting from Clarks Point Reserve gives us a change from Dunk's last outing - and brings the famous Kelly's Bush into play again. Expect ferry wharves, exotic real-estate (including the wonderful neighbourly juxtaposition of Treasurer Hockey and Eddie Obeid!!), harbour side and river views, as we dance across the peninsular and back again.

And perhaps a little quiet one at the Pier afterwards. Sounds excellent. Sounds like a plan. Why not join us to wrap the first half of SSS season twenty three. Yay!

1 comment:

the unknown runner said...

I thought it was a well set course, the bush tracks and views were good although there was not a lot of route choice- but on this map it is a hard ask.
I think James Lithgow was late because he was one of the few to go bush with a "short cut" between 18 & 30!

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