We got really lucky with the “Spicy and chilli restaurant” in George St, on the edge of Chinatown. It serves Hunanese food; lots of offal, seafood, and as promised, hot and flavoursome! We were the only non-Asian diners, always a good sign. The two dishes we had were wonderful! The first was smoky cured pork with finely chopped snake beans and lots of other good things. The second was steamed duck with delicious tender curly strips of young lemongrass, cooked with dried chillies, sliced fresh chilli and topped with a mound of chilli seeds. Not as hot as you’d imagine and absolutely mouth-watering!
Then we wandered up to Darlinghurst, where we found a nice little tapas bar. I enquired of the waiter whether we could sit at an outside table for a glass of wine and dessert.
“Awesome!” he cried. “Let’s do it!”
The dessert special, he informed us was cheesecake. My wife said she’d like the panna cotta.
“Sorry, we don’t have that,” said the waiter.
”Yes you do”, insisted my wife. “It’s on the blackboard menu.”
”Oh. OK,” said the waiter, a well-groomed young American. I chose the citrus creme, just out of curiosity.
To go with it we asked for two glasses of rosé. He returned to say that they were out of rosé, and presented us with two wine glasses of what turned out to be sherry! We just laughed among ourselves. Any port (or sherry) in a storm, we thought.
Our desserts arrived. The alleged pannacotta was a dense, intensely flavoured concoction of chocolate and hazelnut (maybe Nutella) with no hint of cream. It was seriously difficult to extract a spoonful of the gluey mass to taste it. My dessert was, I think, a sort of deconstructed cheesecake, served in a martini glass, with sweet pastry crumbs at the bottom and a frothy substance, for all the world like uncooked meringue on top. Again, no hint of cream, or cheese or even milk. It was quite tasty, though.
Rather than make a fuss, we decided to just enjoy the night air, drink our sherry and chalk it up as an amusing episode.
I said to my wife “I wonder what all those people having dinner inside think they’re eating.”
About then, a chap came around the corner and walked towards our table with a sturdy-looking dog on a halter lead, (part staffordshire terrier, part pit-bull, it turned out). She (the dog) was lying on her side, and her owner was dragging her along the pavement. She didn’t look at all distressed. In fact she was panting happily. She reminded me of the cartoon dog, Muttley, with the wheezy laugh. I asked the owner why he was dragging his dog, and he said “She does this every night. She wants to go back to the pub. They feed her there.” The dog looked at us as if to say “Well, wouldn’t you?” Then she got up and trotted away, more or less dragging her owner!
The time came to pay, so I ventured inside. The manageress, a sweet young Italian girl started totting up the bill and I couldn’t resist asking “What do you think we had?” She looked mystified, so I explained. She turned to the cook, and said “The pannacotta was too chewy.”
She offered to waive the cost of the desserts, and I offered the compromise of paying for the “cheesecake”, but she insisted on not charging for them. As I left, the waiter called out cheerfully “See you next time!”