I’ve always wanted to try Neil Perry’s Spice Temple, hearing that its take on regional Chinese cuisine is fabulous, and have you seen the door, which is a digital picture of a door, on top of a door, that leads down stairs into a dark and contemporary space, pretty much packed on the Sunday night that we went.
The food is expensive and one of our party remembered the portions being small the previous time she went, but we had two appetizers and three mains between us, and were stuffed: some delicious dumplings (pork and garlic chive steamed buns, $26 for 6), a very generous plate of Hunan-style sticky pork ribs ($31) (yum!), a delicate fish dish, steamed flathead Jiang-Xi style with pickled mustard green and chili.
The stir-fried quail with peanuts on top of a delicate egg custard ($44) turned out to taste more like quail mince: I wouldn’t have guessed what the protein was. A Yunnan style braised mushroom dish ($29) with various exotic mushrooms was our nod to vegetables.
It was honestly delicious, though I can’t help (but shouldn’t) wonder what the dishes would taste like in a more humble Yunnan or Hunan restaurant (at a much lower price). And I’ve always been fascinated by this Australian phenomenon of Caucasian chefs who specialise in Asian cooking. When I was growing up in Vancouver, Canada in the 70s and 80s, if you peeked into the kitchen, there were always Cantonese chefs who were cooking what passed for fine-dining food at the time, often found in hotel restaurants, but they were also in the back of Greek and Italian restaurants too! It’s a bit of a switcheroo here!