The group booking. I don’t know this as fact but I’m pretty sure that restaurants dread this as much as the diner stuck settling the bill at the end of a dinner for 20.
The co-ordination of attendees, accommodating special meal requirements and allergies down to picking a venue that is going to set the perfect tone for the evening can be quite the chore.
And yet the exercise that is getting together a group of your loved ones, colleagues or other celebrationary group when organised well makes for a terrific night with an incredible meal hopefully at the heart of the gathering.
China Lane is one of those restaurants that handle the group booking like a well oiled machine. Set menus and pre-selected wine list are in place to save the sanity of both establishment and organiser.
The best part of a group dinner at China Lane is that it forces you down the banquet menu route which is perfect – not simply because it allows you to gorge on obscene amounts of food, but because I don’t have to choose and commit to a single meal item risking food envy or diner’s remorse. It also doesn’t cut into valuable time deciding on menu when the priority of the evening is catching up and celebrating with the gang.
For anyone who’s enjoyed a long lunch at sister restaurant China Doll in Woolloomooloo, you’ll be familiar with the style and quality of Asian cuisine. Selecting China Lane for dinner means that we have the excitement of somewhere new, with the security of a restaurant that we are confident won’t disappoint.
Following our welcome champagne, it’s time to kick start the marathon of eating. The pickles have some serious kick and though tasty were probably a little sharp for me to eat on their own.
Serving these at the same time as the beautiful salmon sashimi was probably a strange choice, though the sashimi on it’s own, in it’s blackened chilli dressing, is quite heavenly.
These starters are quickly followed up with the popular Pulled Pork on Steamed Bao with Sriracha Mayo & Crispy shallot. I had reservations about the use of mayo on this one but it was so delicately handled that there was the perfect hint of heat whilst still letting the beautiful pork be the hero.
The starters take an elegant turn with the arrival of the Lobster Dumplings with Ginger and Truffle. I’ve never met a dumpling I didn’t like and this one screams ‘special occasion’ and makes me love them even more.
One of my favourite dishes of the evening were the Crispy Lamb Ribs with Tamarind, Chilli & Plum. If there’s one thing that you probably don’t need to do with a fatty lamb rib is deep fry it, however, this cooking method seems to crisp up the rib perfectly whilst keeping it juicy and sweet in the middle. I love it, confirming why Weight Watchers will not be calling me up as spokesperson any time soon.
The Duck Pancakes were so good that they were devoured before anyone could get a picture of them. They were the usual crowd pleasing variety. The most talked about meal of the evening was the John Dory with Turmeric, Tomato & Long Pepper. The crispy dory sat perfectly on the sweet tomato sauce and sweet flesh of the fish. The dory also had a crispy, fishy crackling which added extra texture to the dish.
In any normal dining situation this is probably where everyone would politely bow out feeling satisified whilst not overdone by their consumption. However given this is a special occasion, and given the generousity of the China Lane Banquet Menu, this is actually where the meal shifts into overdrive.
A pretty pile of pulled pork is obviously insufficient in our piggy consumption as this is followed up in main course with the Soy Braised Crispy Pork Belly with Chilli Caramel. Holy heart attack – it looks amazing. I can really only sample a single morsel and it’s delicious. Bit of a lucky dip between pieces that are well rendered and ones that are still a bit fatty, but overall a hit of a dish.
The Pork Belly is served alongside an incredible, spicy stew of Wagyu a slow braised of beef shin that looks and tastes melt in your mouth deliciousness. It is served with the Char Siu and Prawn Fried Rice as well as Bok Choy.
I have to say that the service at China Lane this evening has been absolutely perfect. Extremely helpful and accommodating and aiding a perfect night and occasion. Since opening last year, I think the menu has settled into a groove that, when looking for a venue for a large number of people, doesn’t take unnecessary chances and delivers interesting dishes that appeals to a broader group.
1 Angel Place, Sydney | +61 2 9231 3939