Eating with the AU: Meat Masterclass at The Oaks - Neutral Bay (Sydney)

Initially, I wasn’t big on the idea of being schooled while I ate. Aside from a menu description, I’m usually pretty happy to explore flavours and enjoy a dish in my own time. However, the entertaining and educational evening held at The Oaks in Neutral Bay totally changed my mind.

After being seated in the wonderfully decorated Garden Pavillion and a glass of Bremerton Wine’s Betty & Lu Sauvignon Blanc, we were welcomed to the event with the promise that we would be sampling beef cuts from ‘nose to tail’ with a few surprises thrown in. While that might make some of your squirm, I wasn’t too worried. We were in the very capable hands of Chef Danny Russo for the next four courses after all!

The first, oxtail fingers with smoked mustard aioli and Bresaola with pickle as canapés were lovely little tasters of the evening. While we munched on these mini-meaty nibbles and got acquainted with fellow diners at our table, we were served a glass of Bremerton Limited Release Malbec, a rare find so we were told. Malbec’s are usually a blend of Argentina and Australian grapes so to sample one that is entirely Australian was quite a treat!

Our starter, Lingua Tonnato, appropriately featured the front end of the cow, tongue under a layer of beef tartare. It looked beautifully colourful on the plate and went down surprisingly well. Having never officially tried tongue before, I was impressed with how tender (and tasty it was!).

Luckily, it wasn’t until after everyone had finished their dishes and were finishing off their accompanying glass of Bremerton ‘Batonnage’, that the full cuts were brought around to our tables so we could get a close up. Who knew cow’s tongues were so large?

Haverick Meats, the masterful Sydney butchers who had provided the meat for the evening, began to explain about the shortage of beef in Australia. Apparently, prices are increasing due to the amount of meat exported from Australia leaving less and less for Australians to enjoy themselves. The butchers wanted to highlight the issue by showing us how versatile beef is and that secondary cuts should not always be a secondary choice. From beef cheeks to oyster blade cuts, the meat quality is just as high and the flavour are just as delightful.

The main course really stole the show. Danny Russo and his team had brought together braised beef short rib and smoked wagyu rump and served the meat with a smoked carrot puree, baby onions, bone marrow, sweetbread jus and gentleman’s relish (that last one did cause the men at my table to immaturely giggle…) The flavours were beautiful, the meat pulled apart like fairy floss and it looked spectacular on the plate. From the happy faces around the room and the slight lull in chatter, it was certainly a winner.

The dish was also paired with Bremerton’s Limited Release ‘Old Adam’ Shiraz which was an intense and well-structured red. Members of our table labelled it as their favourite of the evening (and even ordered a bottle or two!). It complemented the hearty red meat beautifully.

As dessert, a fruit mince pie, rolled around, many of us thought that the meaty fare was past and were looking forward to something sweeter. We really should’ve known better. Halfway through the dish, it was announced that, in fact, the mince was a combination of dry aged fat, suet, blood, veal jus and candied fruits. While it doesn’t sound particularly appetising (or healthy), it was served with a scoop of Gelato Messina and, if I hadn’t been told about the hidden meat inside, I probably wouldn’t have known! I was also very distracted by the Bremerton ‘Mistelle’ dessert wine that had been paired with the dessert as it was spectacular.

The master class has made me re-think about the types of meat I regularly eat and how easy it would be to substitute in some secondary cuts (though perhaps not in my pudding!). It was fantastic to sample pieces of meat that I would not normally be brave enough to order and, overall it was a very enlightening and entertaining affair.

The Oaks

Address: 118 Military Road, Neutral Bay NSW 2089
Contact: (02) 9953 5515