When someone mentions ‘wine collaboration dinner’ visions of never-ending degustation courses, every single mouthful matched with wine and then the sudden realisation that it’s way past bedtime and you’re $400 poorer.
Restaurants around Perth have been putting on wine collaboration dinners for ever but lost their lustre when anyone with a wine list was offering one, eating habits changed – enter the share plate – and pockets became a lot less deep.
A new movement of wine dinners is hitting Perth in a more convivial way that’s in tune with the needs of today’s gastronome with a handful of small, smart and knowledgeable operators at its core.
With today’s food landscape changing, operators have moved with the times creating bespoke wine (and spirit) dinners for those looking for a truly unique dining experience.
Strange Company manager Tom Daniel created StrangeTable about 10 months ago – beautiful set menus of food and drinks to match. He said they were hugely popular, selling out almost instantly.
“People want an experience as much as the actual food and drink,” he said.
“They have access to and know about products that only used to be available in restaurants – you can buy washed rind cheese at Aldi – but it’s not about the food and drink anymore, they want more.
The StrangeTable format taps into that because of its unique shared table experience that connects a group of strangers in a group setting with discussion and content about quality food and drink with zero wank factor.
Price was also key to a successful wine/spirit matched dinner.
“If I went out and ordered four beautiful entrees with four wines…I’d be looking at well over $100,” Mr Daniel said.
“Most of our dinners are around $80. We take a hit on it because basically it’s cool and builds a buzz for us. It’s amazing value.”
Mezzanine state manager Tyrone Stott said prices had come down significantly, allowing those with less to spend the opportunity to get involved.
“As there hasn’t been a flood of collaboration dinners of late, prices have come down on them quite significantly against the quality and value of the occasion, so it’s made a cool comeback,” he said.
Old-world inspired themes and biodynamic/natural wine dinners were working well, according to Mr Stott.
“The main thing for the consumer is that they can enjoy world class wines matched with serious dishes by great chefs,” he said.
No Mafia/Los Bravos co-owner Emma Ferguson said she believed the wine industry had become more intimate with wine drinkers keen to meet wine makers and that they worked both ways for venue and winery.
“A great wine dinner can create loyalty in customers for a lifetime,” she said.
“People who’ve come to try wine and never been to the restaurant and have been coming since for years, and then people who’ve never heard of the winery but love our venues and are now a huge fan of the particular winery.”
Mr Daniel said the industry needed to take more notice of food and drink rituals and pay more attention to customer needs when dining out.
“I’m doing my bit to influence the market here at Strange Company. If I order manzanilla sherry and oysters at the same time and I don’t get them together, that’s an epic fail by the venue, and it happens all too much,” he said.
“When you pay as much as you do in Australia, it needs to be spot on.”