To be honest, I had no idea Elizabeth Bay House existed.
Even though I’ve lived in Sydney for over fourteen years, now, it’s located in a part of Sydney I’ve never really done much exploring in.
Located down towards the water, and behind the intensity of Kings Cross, Elizabeth Bay House is a great building, modestly decorated, but with spectacular views.
Tonight, Colin, Tom, Andrew, and his friend, and I attended a Colonial Spice Dinner at Elizabeth Bay House.
Andrew had spotted the dinner in a newsletter he receives from the Historic Houses Trust.
In essence, it was a very nice dinner (based around the kind of food that would have been eaten by “the upper crust” in the early days of European settlement in Australia), with an accompanying, informal lecture about herbs, spices, and “The Spice Trade”.
Locating the dinner within that historical context, we got to learn a lot about herbs and spices, including what to look for and what not to look for when shopping. In our small group, the biggest surprise was the revelation that Allspice was actually a spice and not just a variation of the ubiquitous Mixed Spices.
The first course was a delicately spiced chicken and rice broth using saffron. Australian saffron, by the way, was later explained to be probably the most expensive in the world.
And then we had some poached whole trout, which was divine, accompanied by steamed baby potatoes with butter and parsley.
The Angove Riseling which accompanied this was very memorable.
And while we were enjoying this meal, the other half of the group of about forty people was upstairs learning about herbs and spices.
We all came back together downstairs for the second course which started with a rabbit curry with rice.
“It’s the first time I’ve eaten rabbit in years”, I said to Colin, as he remembered rabbits with less fond memories associated with difficult economic times in the past.
“Maybe it makes sense”, I thought to myself, that we should be eating rabbit again in the midst of the GFC.
Also as part of the second course, we had cutlets with a rich brown gravy, accompanied by fruit chutney, dutch carrots, spinach, and cauliflower. I thought the cutlets were excellent. Very nice.
We also all agreed the desert was terrific. Vanilla creams accompanied by an orange and muscatel salad crystalized ginger and rose meringues.
And in the midst of it all, we were in a beautiful building once owned by the Macleay Family, and now owned by the Historic Houses Trust. These days the building is modestly decorated in the style of the era in which the family lived there, though with bits and pieces from different eras which may have been indicative of the time.
In the context of its time, it must have been a rather spectacular building. Now, it’s still quite spectacular, except that it’s hidden down the back of Kings Cross/Potts Point.
What a great night…