Champagne flowed and so did the delicious canapes as guests gathered in the Courtyard at Spicers Balfour Hotel for the 2016 opening of Chefs in the City on the 5th of May.

It was a special night. Not only because it kicked off the culinary celebrations for the year, but because it introduced a brand new venue, the Spicers Balfour Hotel Simla Room, and welcomed back a very special Spicers team member, Executive Chef Dan Jarrett of The Tamarind.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of attending a Chefs in the City previously, it was a concept born out of an unforgettable evening of great food, wine and company celebrating Spicers Owner Jude Turner’s birthday years ago. Since then, it has flourished into an event that brings the regional flavours of Spicers’ restaurants to the city of Brisbane.

This year, throughout May – November, six of the Spicers Retreats’ award‐winning chefs will descend on Spicers Balfour Hotel in New Farm showcasing their culinary skills each to an intimate gathering of 45 guests.

Introducing the 2016 season of succulent dining, Spicers Tamarind Retreat brought a touch of their Hinterland home to the city. Two long tables were set up in the Simla Room adorned in tropical floral arrangements known as Phuang malai, a Thai offering or good luck charm. The room was ambient and it was easy to see by the intimate seating that tonight’s meal was designed with family and friends in mind.

Our host for the evening was Spicers Sommelier Peter Marchant, who introduced our Executive Chef Dan and Tamarind’s General Manager, Bobbie Murphy before the three described the inspiration for the night – a shared dining experience and Krop Kua (family style) banquet of dishes from beautiful Thailand – a nod to The Tamarind’s core cuisine.

With only 45 guests it provided an excellent opportunity to get to know your neighbours, something many of the guests described as an element of the night that they really enjoyed. The atmosphere remained lively and chatty as the first round of food was set down by the friendly Spicers team.

You could hear the cutlery clinking and a soft murmur of music and conversation as everyone enjoyed their company and of course, their food. Every mouthful was colourful, vibrant and bursting with flavour that danced around on your tastebuds. Paired with carefully selected wines, the entire night was an aromatic celebration of sustenance.

The first round of Thai fare dished up the best Dtom Kha Gai soup I have ever eaten, with explosions of chilli, coriander, garlic, chicken and mushrooms in a velvety smooth, steaming hot soup. It was a crowd favourite for sure. A Nam Prik nuum was added as an accompaniment with Northern style chili relish made from grilled banana chillies, roasted shallots, tomatoes and served with spooning and dipping vegetables. Of course rice was the main element, a theme that carried throughout the night teaching us to respect the rice, and thank the Rice Mother for the nurturance it brings – something the Thai people are very grateful for.

For the second round of our banquet, we were once again invited to enjoy a bold and flavoursome dish, a shared Yam som Oo, Pomelo salad with poached, plump and juicy Mooloolaba prawns, toasted coconut, pork, chilli and herbs.

The main, if you can call it that with every round of dishes offering generous serving sizes and an array of sour, sweet, salty and spicy flavours, was the Gaeng Massaman. A succulent curry dish with melt in your slow braised beef, full of meaty flavours combined with an array of different textures – a crunch of peanuts and fried shallot, crisp and fibrous lotus root and a tang of pickled ginger. Simply delicious!

To finish off the evening, guests were treated to a dessert that many hadn’t experienced before, and one that paid homage once again to the Rice Mother. Khao Niaw Dam, a black sticky rice dish served with sweet poached lychee, toasted sesame seeds for texture and a pumpkin ice-cream. Paired with a semi sweet Ramos Pinto Lagrima White Port from Portugal, it was the perfect end to a faultless culinary journey through Thailand.

For more information on the next Chefs in the City event featuring Executive Chef Ash Martin from the hatted Homage Restaurant, click here.

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