As our regular readers would know by now, we like to cook when we stay in places for longer than a week, which is one reason we prefer to rent apartments when we travel. There’s something comforting about making your own meals after days of eating restaurant food – especially when the ingredients include top quality Australian produce home delivered to our door, as Hudson Meats meal packages did when they arrived at our digs at Adina Apartments in Surry Hills, Sydney.
Since we moved overseas, our old hometown’s food scene has gone from strength to strength. When we left Sydney in 1998, the restaurants were just starting to have real influence over what raw ingredients that accomplished home cooks would purchase.
Restaurants were just beginning to put purveyors names on menus and I particularly remember this from eating at Neil Perry’s Rockpool restaurant on George Street, Sydney. Check out this Rockpool menu from 1996.
Back then, as a home cook who did a lot of entertaining (I had a day job in publishing but was moonlighting at a friend’s restaurant so I could learn to cook), if Neil Perry was using Illabo lambs, well I wanted to as well!
In those days, however, it wasn’t as easy for home cooks to get the same top quality ingredients as chefs, because you weren’t buying in bulk with a contract with a purveyor or because the supplier didn’t even sell to the general public – even if they had some leftovers we could have used. I still recall having to explain what Illabo lamb was to dinner guests and feeling rather self-satisfied for it. What a food snob I could be back then.
Returning to Sydney after many years, I was delighted to see that things had changed so dramatically. While the shocking overabundance of amateur cooking competitions on Australian television was one unfortunate result of the increasing interest in cooking, it also meant that specialist suppliers could now sell to a salivating public keen to use the same ingredients listed on the menu at the latest hot restaurant. And this is a good thing.
Right across the road from our accommodation at Adina Apartments on Crown Street in Surry Hills was Hudson Meats. We had heard good things about the butchers from several chefs and decided to find out what the modern day equivalent of that Illabo lamb that I so cherished back in the 1990s is today.
I could have planned a dozen dinner parties just looking at the beautifully prepared produce under the glass counters in the Hudson Meats shop. Big, plump looking lamb racks, perfect for my spicy Turkish lamb racks with bulgur and grilled vegetables. Massive lamb shanks for a super slow-cooked Massaman Curry. Acres of pork belly just ready for a 24 hour marinade for Char Siu (Chinese barbecued pork). Bright Toulouse sausage, the only sausage for a Cassoulet. Spicy Merguez sausages perfect for a Cous-Cous Royale. As for the beef, there were amazing beef cheeks, Osso Bucco and ox tail – all perfect for the slow cooking that I love.
We were in town working on magazine stories and had a shoot at Marque restaurant next to Adina that day so I didn’t have time to do any of those dishes; dinner needed to be a far simpler affair. I wanted to try the best beef Hudson’s had on offer and chefs had been raving about the Tasmanian Cape Grim beef that’s grass fed, and hormone and chemical free.
Thankfully, for busy people who don’t have time to stand around salivating at the bresaola, Hudson’s do delivery packs of ingredients and they have a brilliant arrangement with Adina where guests can order a meal package that’s delivered to their room.
We thought this would be perfect for us and were thrilled when we returned home later that day to find some lovely Cape Grim grass fed scotch fillet steaks, kipfler potatoes, green beans, eschallots, and café de Paris butter in our kitchen fridge – along with cooking instructions. We also took a breakfast pack to try with free-range eggs, fantastic bacon, tomatoes, and some sourdough bread.
While you can see the results in the photos above, it’s hard to describe just how amazing that Cape Grim beef tastes. It’s richly flavoured, with good marbling, and stays incredibly moist. Although I wouldn’t cook it over medium-rare, that would be a crime.
Back when I was learning to cook, there weren’t too many shops like Hudson Meats in Sydney. There was the David Jones Food Hall, where I used to shop, and Lara’s best friend Lynley’s dad, Mac, ran the best butcher-shop on Oxford Street, Paddington, at the time. Back then it was one of the first to do beautiful displays and offer gourmet sausages and marinated kebabs and the like. But even Macca would have told you that the meat came from the back of a delivery truck if you asked him where his beef came from.
I’m kind of jealous of the produce Sydney gets these days. If I had a dinner party now and placed some beef on the table, the guests would ask me whether it’s from Barrington Tops or Cape Grim. Times have changed for the better. Well, apart from the cooking shows…
403 Crown Street, Surry HIlls
359 Crown Street, Surry Hills
If staying at Adina Apartments, you can order your meal packages from Hudson Meats in advance here. They even have photos, ingredients listed, and prices! This is an innovation we would love to see offered by more apartment rentals. And, yes, that’s a strong hint.