Many moons ago before pintagram and interest (what’s terrible about that phrase is that it wasn’t even deliberate), certainly before mobile phones (yes, there was a time when prospective beaus had to work for a date, and instead of just texting WNT 2 HANG, they had to use a land line and get through several brothers and both sets of parents). Long before all that, somewhere between the ice age and today’s age, I went to high school with a set of delightful twins that I will call A and M. (One of them is currently overseas, so I can’t check if he’s happy to have his name divulged).
Like me, throughout those halcyon high school days, A and M spent a fair bit of time involved in sport and music, all of us dabbling in academic pursuits when we deemed it prudent to keep the teachers at bay. Cheering each other on at a freezing early morning cross-country event sets you up for a life time of friendship, so when I returned to Oz and announced our intention to open a restaurant, A put me in contact with their elder brother, whom I had met once. When I was 14 and thought high-waisted jeans were the way forward.
Enter Mike Bennie. Tracksuit pant lover, dog owner, profanity connoisseur and wine maverick, who – along with Ned Brooks – introduced us to their many and varied contacts so that we might have the interesting and varied wine list we desired.
Now, I’m not trying to publicly blow smoke up Mike’s arse, but what he did was pretty excellent.
Gregory and I opened this restaurant with a certain amount of naivety – Gregory was American and I’d spent 8 years living there. We knew no one and no one knew us. In hindsight, this created a certain artistic freedom for us, for while we consulted many people along the way, our creative vision wasn’t hampered by fears of what industry folk would think. We didn’t know any industry folk, so we couldn’t begin to do the thinking for them.
But Mike knew them and he probably had a fair idea of what they might think too, yet he didn’t let on and jumped on to help us despite not knowing whether Gregory could even scramble an egg.
In the fickle world of Sydney hospitality that takes guts. But if you wear tracksuit pants out to fancy restaurants clearly you’re not lacking in guts.
And so began a beautiful friendship that now sees us thrilled to be a part of Mike and his mates’ wine festival this Sunday, a festival called – Rootstock. It’s a pretty fantastic concept – artisan wineries from all corners of the world, farmers, chefs, writers, thinkers (I’m in the last group no doubt). There’ll be music, masterclasses and like-minded folk to have a yarn with over a delicious glass of wine and some Hartsyard fried chicken. (We figured if we sold out at Big Day Out during the hottest day on record, Fried Chicken must be a decent festival option).
I love me a market, a festival, a school fete. Remember those? Back in the 80’s they were pretty stereotyped – my dad worked the BBQ while mum ran the lucky dip prize, though I suspect Rootstock will be slightly more progressive than the Newling school fete circa 1986.
Tickets can be bought online through the Rootstock website, or you can get them on the day at the festival doors. Spots are limited though, so I’d buy in advance if I were you. (She says like she’s organised and always on top of things).
I reckon it’s going to be a cracking way to spend a Sunday, and if you’re at all interested in sustainability and a forward thinking food movement, I’d say this will be the place to be.
It’s funny where friendships can lead you, who those friends can introduce you to and the journeys you can go on with them.
Why don’t you come on down (there’s no dress code, tracksuit pants are fine) you never know who you might meet…