Everyone loves a long weekend, but you’ve gotta love Noosa for organising a 10-day long weekend festival! The Noosa Longweekend Festival is a 10-day festival of theatre, literature, music, dance, film, visual arts, cuisine and forums. Naturally the cuisine events were my priority interest, so when the tickets went on sale a couple of months ago I was quick to secure my tickets for the Crab Crawl lunch. Lucky I got in quickly, as apparently the tickets were sold out within 24 hours!
The popular event happened on Tuesday of this week, and took the form of a 3-course progressive lunch at three of Noosa’s Top Restaurants: River Cottage, Blue Angel and Thomas Corner. Each restaurant prepared and served a dish featuring the theme ingredient, Noosa Spanner Crab, accompanied by a glass of wine. Having previously dined at all three restaurants, I knew we were in for a treat. Each of the restaurants pride themselves on the use of fresh, quality and local produce – a subject very dear to my heart.
The lunch commenced at the River Cottage Restaurant, where owner and Chef Marc Wohner runs a beautiful establishment. Over a glass of Unwooded Chardonnay from The Lane Vineyard from Adelaide Hills, Jason Sgro, who established Spanner Crabs Noosa with his partner Alison Reed in 2002, spoke to us about their product which was awarded the top title at the 2010 Delicious magazine’s Produce Awards. After giving us an overview of his business, Jason explained that a characteristic of spanner crab is its sweet and delicate flavour. As I listen to Jason speak passionately about his product, I found myself wondering what approach the three different restaurants will take.
Not a moment too soon the first course arrived: Noosa Spanner Crab Risotto with Chilli, Fennel and Tomato served with an Avocado Mousse. This was a divine dish, the creamy risotto a lovely way to present the spanner crab. The dish was well matched with the unwooded chardonnay.
One course down, two to go, we were ushered off to the next restaurant, Blue Angel, a mere 3 minute walk. On the menu at Blue Angel was Spanner Crab Souffle with Shaved Baby Fennel, Radish, Lemon and Watercress salad. Whilst the soufflé was delicious, I felt that the spanner crab was a little lost in there and the delicate nuances of the crab were not easily detectable. The accompanying glass of wine was a Kapuka Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, which was really good.
Third and last stop was Thomas Corner, a relatively new Noosa establishment. Owner and head chef David Rayner’s approach to food is to let the flavours of the produce shine and this was clearly evident in the dish served: Noosa Spanner Crab with Pomelo, Avocado, Microcress, Lime Crème Fraiche, Blood Orange Oil. As far as showcasing the theme ingredient, this dish was the clear winner. A kind of deconstructed salad, the flavour of the spanner crab was clearly evident, and the accompaniments complemented it perfectly. It was served with a glass of Les Petites Vignettes Sauvignon Blanc form the Loire Valley in France.
Three very different dishes, prepared using one key ingredient. My verdict (from a food critic’s point of view): dish of the day was from Thomas Corner, a perfect way to showcase the theme ingredient. Wine of the day was the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc served at Blue Angel. I would have preferred to have started the meal with Thomas Corner’s dish and ended with River Cottage’s dish (lighter course to heavier course). Not surprisingly, had the menu have been served that way around, the wines would have worked in a better order too (also lightest to heaviest). The soufflé at Blue Angel, whilst delicious, did not do the spanner crab justice.
In summary: it was indeed a delightful afternoon. The food did not disappoint, the portions were appropriately sized for lunch and the wines well matched to the dishes. The restaurant owners and staff were warm and welcoming, and a lovely touch was that the festival volunteers were also fed. As always attending these types of events in Noosa I met some lovely and interesting people, both locals and visitors. Even one of the festival’s founding members, prominent playwright David Williamson was in attendance! Noosa put on its sparkling best and the weather could not have been better for the pleasant amble between the three restaurants. I can highly recommend this event at next year’s Noosa Longweekend Festival – just make sure you get in quick to get your tickets!