yuletide at restaurant atelier

restaurant atelierIt's a funny thing, living in Australia. Hot, balmy Christmases, smattered with cracks of lightning from sudden summer storms. There are prawns on the table. Or fish. Cold cuts of ham and glasses of sparkling something. And then the days get shorter, the leaves start to fall from the few deciduous trees around the place and, before you even know it, winter has come around. And oh! How I start to think of steaming hot puddings with hard sauce, a spicy hot toddy and a stuffed bird with all the trimmings.

So I am quietly amused when I find that the clever souls at the Australian Pork Industry (together with the equally clever souls from Whiteworks) have been reading my mind. "But how?" you ask, imagining metallic contraptions powered solely by bacon. "Well", (I answer, carefully backing away and trying to avoid eye contact) "by inviting me and a gaggle of other lovely foodbloggers to come celebrate Yuletide at Restaurant Atelier in Glebe." Right then.


yuletide at restaurant atelier
wine glasses and table ornaments

It is a surprisingly balmy day when we rock up. On foot, mind you, as the weather is just that good. And when we arrive, I am quietly warmed by the sight of the restaurant. It is a little house on Glebe Point Road, shadowed by the terraces opposite and the construction site along its side. Up the steps I go and onto the balcony where a glass of wine is pressed into my hands. The wine is from Piggs Peake, who, in turn, are from the northern side of the Hunter Valley. They are a hatted restaurant and direct public sales only winery, so won't be at your local boozery. And while we chat, platters of pork rilette on witlof are being passed around, and one, two (ok, three) later, we are slowly ushered indoors.


yuletide at restaurant atelier
bread and butter

The atmosphere is jovial. There are, I believe, strains of Mariah Carey's Christmas album playing in the background. And there is pork on the menu. Lots of it. Did I just see a squirm? A quick reach into your top drawer for a hygiene-friendly face mask perhaps? No? Well good then. Because I know that you know that the "swine flu" business is really more of a "human flu" business and you can't catch the virus from eating pig yes? Good then.

And, through that discussion, I am munching on slices of soft, chewy sourdough. And oh, the butter is good and almost cheesy but I find myself going for dunk after glorious dunk of the balsamic and olive oil mix. So fruity! And sweet, and sour and ahhhh!


yuletide at restaurant atelier
entree: assiette of pork

Entrees are served with a matching Piggs Peake wine for each taste of pork on the plate. Ever the stickler for maximum flavour, I eat around the plate in order. On the top right of the picture is grilled pickled pork loin with celeriac remoulade. The celeriac is crisp, the pork oh so slightly briney and the dressing lightly creamy. It is oh-so-much-fresher in flavour than you'd expect pork to be, and when paired with the slightly bitter greens on top, is pleasant to eat. (And, for clarification's sake, I say pleasant in its most complimentary sense, and not in its "yeah, that was nice" sense.)

The second taste is paired with a sweet riesling, and necessarily so. A round of honey glazed pork hock with roasted apples is encircled with a sticky sweet reduction and falls apart at the prod of a fork. It is rich. It is earthy. It is bitter and sweet and aromatic all at once. And the balls of roasted apple provide that extra little hit.

And finally, for I have been eying this taste the entire time, a pulled pork neck salad with Crystal Bay prawns. Spicy, flavour punching pork as you've never previously imagined. Because pork is, y'know, often seen as that guy who's nice but doesn't really grab you and make you melt like beef does, or draw you in for a fiesty, flavour-filled fling like lamb. But this pork! OH! For want of better description, it's like that same, safe pig has whipped off his glasses, mussed up his hair and shown those other somethin-somethin's who's boss. *Ahem!* I appear to have mixed my metaphors.

yuletide at restaurant atelier
carving the moisture infused pork rack

If there is one thing that will get a camera flashing, it is a large piece of meat being carved. Better still if said large piece of meat is being carved for the purposes of being served. To us no less. This particular rack has been moisture infused, meaning a solution of salt and water has been injected into the meat at regular intervals until it is, in the words of one fan "absolutely impossible to kill when cooking it". Even when cooking 50 portions of it? Right then!

yuletide at restaurant atelier
mains: pork two ways

We are soon to find out about that claim, for an impressive-looking plate has arrived at the table. On the right, a boned shoulder of pork roasted with a winter herb cure on creamed parsnip and buttered kale and on the left, that same pot-roasted Murray Valley moisture-infused pork rack with broad beans, pomme cocotte and pine mushrooms. Game on.

The broad beans are lovely and toothsome, and the lovely pomme cotte (potato balls for those preferring to pass on the fancy) are oh-so-hard to jab with a fork, but so rewardingly heartwarming when finally caught. And that rack? Well, I got an end piece. Which is good when you are talking about tart or cake, but not so great when talking meat. It was not by any means mouth-achingly dry, but when compared to my neighbour's lovely, pink, ever-so-tender piece of pork... let's say I was a touch jealous.

Across the saucy divide was a creamy parsnip puree which rolled itself nicely around the shoulder of pork. Now this was the unctuous, brown-meaty piece I was after! The kale lent a fresh saltiness to each mouthful before being tempered by the puree, and I was sorry when it was done.

yuletide at restaurant atelier
dessert: poached winter fruits with christmas pudding ice cream

But we were not done! For what is a Yuletide celebration without pudding? Even if said pudding is in the form of a custardy, light-as-air icecream. My favourite part of this dish? The stewed prunes. Horribly unfashionable and granny-like, I know. But when you get a mouthful of heady spice and sweet poaching juices and then add it to the burst of juicy dried plum in your mouth - well let's just say that "granny-like" is the last adjective you'll have in your mind.

And with that, we are off. Warm hugs and goodie bags complete with an AWW cookbook (oh! the AWW!), a foaming hand sanitizer (to keep the bugs away) and a whole 1.2kg rack of pork for our own personal consumption. And it was like leaving a dinner party at a friend's place. Good food, good wine, good company, and the promise of happier (albeit somewhat colder) days ahead.

yuletide at restaurant atelier

Restaurant Atelier
22 Glebe Point Road
Glebe NSW 2037
ph 02 9566 2112

Other foodbloggers in attendance were: Billy (A Table for Two), Helen (Grab Your Fork), Howard (eat show & tell), Karen (Citrus & Candy), Lili (Pikelet and Pie), Lorraine (Not Quite Nigella), Richard (Here Comes the Fo0d), Simon (Simon Food Favourites) and Suze (Chocolatesuze).

With thanks to Mel from Fooderati for the invite!

4 bites more:

Helen (AugustusGloop) said...

I'm not metallic but I think I could easily be powered solely by bacon. lol.

Simon Food Favourites said...

have you cooked your pork rack yet? mine was 1.5 kg when I weighed it.

Yas said...

swine, bird, cow whatever the flu comes by I'd still intend to go for it! PORRRRRK!

shez said...

Helen: I'd like to see that... any chance of an experimental "how one intrepid foodblogger spent a week being powered solely by bacon" post?

Simon: I sure have! :)

Yas: I can believe that too!

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