Thursday, November 1, 2012

All class, all white: Dîner en Blanc Sydney

As we pulled up to Rose Bay ferry wharf, it was clear that the effort gone into sourcing an all-white outfit (tan heels aside) for the first ever Dîner en Blanc Sydney was going to be worth it.

Part of the Crave festival just ended, this promised to be a Sydney dining event like no other. The waiting crowd at the ferry wharf, all resplendent in white against the shimmering water on Saturday afternoon, was visibly excited and well prepared.

Crowds dressed in white for Dîner en Blanc Sydney
Dîner en Blanc is a Parisian phenomenon which started 24 years ago. Essentially a mass picnic in a secret, prestigious, city site, Dîner en Blanc is made spectacular by the dress code of pure white elegance.

Never have I seen so many men in white suits and ladies in outfits ranging from casual white tees with white jeans and sun dresses, to chic cocktail dresses and full-blown gowns.

Crowds dressed in white and all prepared
With the dress code down pat, it was a matter of 1,500 people getting to a secret dining location from numerous meeting points – and we were lucky to have a clear-skied evening.

Boarding the ferry at Rose Bay wharf
Wheeling white chairs and fold-up tables, lugging picnic baskets and white foam boxes, the all-white crowd at Rose Bay ferry wharf became quite the spectacle, even making it into a few tourist photo snaps and videos.

Dîner en Blanc in front of the MCA
Hopping onto a public ferry with bemused public travellers, we headed unexpectedly towards the city, passing all the suspected Sydney harbour island locations.

It was only as we pulled around the Sydney Opera House that a sea of white in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) was revealed to us – and what a sight.

Dîner en Blanc Sydney on the MCA lawn
White chairs, white clothed tables and of course, all the white outfits. As we made our way from Circular Quay wharf to the MCA lawn, we were stopped multiple times by tourists and bystanders who queried the white spectacle.

I’m not sure if they were expecting a celebrity wedding over an all-white picnic dinner party, but they were all suitably impressed with the collective efforts of Dîner en Blanc Sydney already.

Entering Dîner en Blanc Sydney

Dîner en Blanc DJ
The glitzy welcoming host and already pumping music were the background to white-clad participants setting up their tables and chairs in allocated spaces.

White table settings
The sheer thought and effort gone into some of the table settings was astonishing – think flower bouquets, helium balloons, artistic centrepieces and of course, all white crockery and napery – and fully appreciated by all, adding plenty to the already electric atmosphere.

Long white tables
With many, many thanks to Liquid Ideas, I joined a long table of 50 lucky people who didn't have to prepare anything other than an outfit, including Joanna Savill, Simon Thomsen, Myffy Rigby, Colin Fassnidge and Hayden Quinn.

Champagne Pol Roger

Our table setting
It was absolute decadence, seated with the Opera House in the backdrop and the Harbour Bridge just over there, white chrysanthemums and daisies in jars, and Champagne Pol Roger on pour all night long.

The white crowd amasses

Waving white napkins in the air
A Mexican wave of sorts – the official waving of white serviettes in the air – signalled the commencement of the night’s festivities, with the MCA awash in spinning, flapping whiteness.

Waving napkins in the air
Many tables brought their own picnic dinners – whole lobsters were sighted – but many went the pre-purchased hamper option by JOHNANDPETER catering, with large white boxes for two really able to feed about four picnickers.

Food hamper by JOHNANDPETER caterinf
Dinner in a box was a gourmet picnic feast, starting with a seed-topped Iggy’s mini baguette which was perfect for tearing and smooshing into the indulgent jar of duck liver parfait with cornichons.

It was also ideal with the Old Telegraph Road Jackson’s Track uber-stinky washed rind, which was too tempting to be left as a cheese course with the pear and fantastic, whole wheat Misura crackers. Raw breakfast radishes with tops left on was the height of sophistication, eaten with Lescure butter and bread.

Food hamper
The main course was a whole roast chicken – between two people. And if that wasn’t enough, there were sides of kipfler potatoes with sauce gribiche and delightful green beans with hazelnut oil vinaigrette.

I almost couldn’t look at the large salted caramel macaron for all the leftover chicken, although the stinky cheese survived the cab ride home.

Tables of white

The white dinner
The night continued with much admiration of nearby outfits, while the Pol Roger flowed amid much stuffing of faces.

Sparklers in celebration
Sparklers were distributed by the organisers to be lit in unison for yet another breathtaking moment.

Imagine 1,500 sparklers in the air, waved about with joy and glee by the most sophisticated and elegant gathering I think I may have ever seen.

Sparklers in the air
The vibe and evening quickly turned to party mode with the switch to 80s classic pop hits springing up a mini dance floor in front of the elevated DJ. It truly felt like a wedding where there are a few familiar faces and loads of new faces – all smiling and happy to have a chat or clink a glass.

As it headed towards 10pm, white picnickers started to make moves, packing up their white furniture and dissipating into the dark night. Duos and groups of white moved in an outward radius from the spot that was hours earlier a party in full swing, and even earlier, just a lawn in front of a museum.

There was a quiet knowing between white-outfitted people that we’d just been a part of something very special and completely, surprisingly unknown to most.

With a glimmer of white in our eyes and white outfits at the ready, we’ll be waiting eagerly for next year’s Dîner en Blanc Sydney.

See more photos on my Facebook page and the official Dîner en Blanc Sydney video from the night below.

Food, booze and shoes attended Dîner en Blanc Sydney as a guest of Liquid Ideas.


Anonymous said...

I would never be able to attend that kind of dinner... I always wear black :) Not even for the half roasted chook!

cquek said...

great photos as always

Sherrie Huang said...

What a beautiful looking event!

Vivian - vxdollface said...

What a wonderful event! I'm always worried when I wear whites, especially if it were an all white outfit! I had a pair of white denim shorts that I loved but because ruined after sitting on slightly damp grass :( the stains never came off. A fair bit of food for two hehe

Vivian - vxdollface said...

*but became ruined

Not Quite Nigella said...

I really wanted to attend this but then they changed the date to when my Halloween party was on-but good to know what it's like!

Sara - Belly Rumbles said...

I stopped wearing white the day Josh was born........ Maybe it is time I revisited wearing it, he is 20 now!

What a wonderful event!


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