Penrith Panthers

There was a reason Carl took me away for the weekend.  And it wasn’t for a romantic getaway.  You see, Carl is into Australian history and in a few months there happens to be the bicentenary of the crossing of the Blue Mountains.  And Carl wanted to be at the event that was raising funds to enable others to re-enact the famous crossing.

And so we drove for nearly two hours to get to Penrith which is in Sydney but is called a ‘city’ and is at the foothills of the Blue Mountains.  The event was held at Penrith Panthers, a rugby league club with headquarters so large it’s imposing and almost the size of an entire suburb.

The table settings

The table settings

In case you need a re-cap on your Australian history, in 1813 the struggling penal colony of New South Wales was at high risk of perishing from starvation.

The settlement was rapidly growing as more convicts and free settlers arrived.  As it grew, so did the need for grazing land to feed the colony.  Sydney was landlocked on all sides and a way across the mountains needed to be found, and many tried, however, they always found their way blocked by steep mountains walls.

The Band

The Band playing in the function room

Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson set off in 1813 to find a way across.  It was a difficult journey.  They followed a ridge that led them high up into the mountains and on either side there were deep, rocky gullies, making it very dangerous.

BBQ prawns on a bed of sweet corn salsa and micro herbs

Entree:  BBQ prawns on a bed of sweet corn salsa and micro herbs

On May 31, Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson crossed the valley and climbed a high hill.  From here they saw wonderful grazing lands to the west of the Blue Mountains.

Caramelised Onion Tatin, wild roquette, marinated pear with aged balsamic, blue cheese dressing

Caramelised Onion Tatin, wild roquette, marinated pear with aged balsamic, blue cheese dressing

(This entree was served on a very cold plate and besides the pie crust there was very little to eat besides a tablespoon of onion relish.  The pie crust seemed to me to be highly manufactured).

The explorers found a way across the Blue Mountains opening up the settlement.  The fragile settlement could now spread across the mountains and the settlers could begin to use the land to the west of the Blue Mountains.  The colony was no longer at risk of starvation and Sydney was established.

Duo of Angus Strip Loin and prawns, pancetta potato croquette, seeded mustard and tarragon cream sauce

Duo of Angus Strip Loin and prawns, pancetta potato croquette, seeded mustard and tarragon cream sauce

(The steak was tender but grey).

And so this coming May there is to be a re-enactment of that famous crossing and so in an effort to raise money for the cause, a fundraising dinner was held last Saturday night at Penrith Panthers.

Teriyaki Style Chicken with Mushroom Risotto

Teriyaki Style Chicken with Mushroom Risotto

(This was the absolute worst dish of the night and there was alternate service and I ended up with this chicken.  The chicken was tender and it was hot when it arrived however it was served on a bed of risotto where even the memory makes me feel bilious.  If you can imagine that risotto is normally Italian and cooked with white wine and butter and parmesan, then just imagine pouring half a bottle of soy sauce into it and picture the taste.  I am aware of ‘fusion’ cuisine but blending Italian with Asian in this way is just completely wrong.)

It was a pleasant evening where we were seated at a table with strangers who turned out to be people we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know however I did feel the room was too small for the number of guests making it difficult for people to mingle and socialise.  Items were available for silent auction but there was little space to display them adequately.  Drinks were available from the bar however there were only two people working behind the bar so often the queues were lengthy.

Dark Chocolate Pyramid with Cream

Dark Chocolate Pyramid with Cream

(The person next to me did not enjoy this dish.  He works in events and could tell the dish had been outsourced and plated hours before being served to the guests.)

Fresh Fruit Pavlova with Passionfruit Coulis

Fresh Fruit Pavlova with Passionfruit Coulis

(Beautifully presented however it seemed to be a ‘tricked up’ supermarket bought pavlova shell filled with over-whipped cream and a tinned apricot.)

And to top it off, there was a raffle where you could win a diamond ring and although I purchased many, many tickets, I didn’t win it!  However, apart from the food we had a very enjoyable evening and it was great to meet so many other individuals interested in Australian history and what had to occur to get this nation started.

The night raised over $20,000 for the re-enactment so it was definitely a huge success.

Have you been to the Ron Mullock room at Penrith Panthers?  And how did you find the food?





  1. Interesting snippets of history and obviously a successful night for fundraising – shame about the food. The photos look great though.

  2. What a bummer about the food. Did you have to go out and get a bite to eat after the fundraiser? Glad they raised a good amount of money.

  3. Liked the table centerpiece. Too bad the food did not taste as good as it looked. Totally agree with you about some “fusion” cuisine. But the event was for a good cause and a goodly sum was successfully raised.
    Glad you had a very enjoyable evening and the opportunity to meet many other individuals interested in Australian history, thus making it worthwhile.

  4. Wow, I never knew anything about the history of Australia…very interesting. Sorry to see the food at the even was a disappointment!

  5. It’s always disappointing when the food is bad, the venue not exactly inviting. Hey, but at least it was a get away and monies were raised for charity.

  6. The food photographed beautifully, even if it was a disappointment. I love the look of the shrimp and the onion tatin as well. But what a fun event. I, too, love history, and am sure I would have loved this event.

  7. I enjoyed reading about the historical background behind the event. It at least made the evening worthwhile and the less than stellar food bearable. It all LOOKED really good in any case. Shame about the taste. 🙁

  8. What a great evening.
    I learnt a lot here today.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  9. It’s a shame was not up to taste despite how pretty it looks! Love the history though 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

  10. It’s interesting that they presented the food so beautifully and yet the quality was lacking. They would do better to sort the quality first. I loved the little history lesson. I can just imagine the overwhelming joy of seeing those lush meadows after such a gruelling journey.

  11. Hi, and your photos look so cook. Mass catering like that can be good or bad, can’t it. It must be really hard to do it well. I go to a couple of big autism fundraisers each year and am often frustrated that there isn’t enough time to chatter as for me and my pals this is a great chance to catch up. The food matters a lot less, but still, it behoves the establishment to do a good job.

  12. Sometimes fusion food is just confusion food Charlie! I hate food like this that gives commercial catering a bad name, a lot the time it comes down to laziness and no imagination. I hope the company and good cause made up for the sad, bad food service 🙁

  13. I’m sure I learned about this at school but I’d totally forgotten. I can see why Carl would be interested in it I love stories like that from history!
    Shame about the dinner.

  14. Sorry to hear the food was such a disappointment, that really can have an impact on the enjoyment of the evening. Glad is was still enjoyable, even though you didn’t win the diamond ring. :/ Maybe the ring would make the marginal food worth it?! Sounds like you made the best of it.

  15. What pioneers those men were, and how amazing to discover that beautiful hinterland. The food sounds a bit of a disaster.

  16. Well the food certainly looked beautiful. But, I have yet to attend a fund raiser that had great food. I’m sure they’re out there….somewhere. 😉

  17. Thank you for restoring the memory I my primary school Australian history. The information was still in there but buried deeply :0!

    What a shame about the food… but then it is Penrith Leagues club, I don’t think I would have been expecting much better :p

    Great story, and even better for some time away from the kids… even if it wasn’t a romantic getaway.

  18. Grey steak…hhhmmm??! The chocolate pyramid looks/sounds lovely! The shrimp dish looked tasty ,too! I just love your stories! Kids are great, but we all need some time to ourselves once in a while! 😉

  19. Goodness, you sound just like me when my husband and I go somewhere. I shred the food apart. It’s unfortunate though that they can actually get away with sub par food. I too have a risotto story, the worst risotto I have ever eaten..I think it was a fusion dish too, swimming in balsamic vinegar..eeew.
    I hope it was fun for Carl though and it’s great he wanted to help out history.

    Nazneen xx

  20. Yikes…too bad about the food. The hubby wants his beef practically mooing…he wouldn’t have been pleased either :/

  21. The mushroom risotto sounds amazing.

  22. I’ve never been to Penrith Panthers. I don’t think I’m in a hurry to either after reading about the food here!

  23. I have never heard of Asian/ Italian fusion. That’s so odd! There’s a place here that mixes Thai and Mexican and no, it’s not tasty. Ben’s more into machines than history, so I get dragged on factory tours.

  24. I have not been to Penrith Panthers either [always just driven past 🙂 !], but methinks most of us from Down Under have been to other clubs – I rest my case! Bet they would have made pumpkin soup, fish and chips and strawberries and cream pretty tastily! Horses for courses!!!!

  25. Isn’t it so frustrating when the food is bad….
    Some places really need to pull up their game with cooking…

  26. Of course it’s 200 years ago. Shame about the food, but that’s fund raisers for you. Do you see an opening for yourself. Nice to meet new and interesting types now and again isn’t it?

  27. Having had similar dinners at charity events, Charlie, I just wish the organizers would choose a menu that’s a little more flavorful and a little less fanciful. Clearly they are paying for flash. Too bad. It’s good, though, to see that the event garnered so much money for the re-enactment.
    When I was Down Under, we drove to the Blue Mountains one morning and spent the day, taking an overhead gondola for a short ride. Even though we saw relatively little of the forest-covered mountains, it was both a beautiful and impressive sight.

  28. What an interesting project. I did some reading about the first crossing after visiting the Blue Mountains on my first visit to Australia. Looking at those cliffs and wondering how anyone could EVER cross, I just had to know more. Sounds like a fun project and I’m glad you participated.

  29. It sounds like a success in all ways but the food! I’m glad the night went well overall but am sorry about your meals – what a shame.

  30. It’s a pity that the food wasn’t good it looked so beautifully plated! glad you had a good evening though!

  31. You certainly travel in style – pity the food didn’t work out.

  32. Ah banquet food. They try to make it look so fancy, but it just really lacks proper execution. Sounds like the event was a success for the cause though. Enjoyed the bit of history as I had no idea!

  33. Interesting post. I’m ashamed to admit I know so little about Australia’s history, and your post is motivating me to read up on it. Sounds like a fun time, although I do wish at events like this they’d concentrate on serving food that was well prepared and flavorful as opposed to something that “plates” well.

  34. there’s nothing worse than bad food at an event like this! UGH.

  35. That is why they say all that glitters is not gold, lol! The pictures look delicious. Too bad they lie. Sounds like a fun evening though.

  36. I enjoyed reading the history! Usually I’m not a person who enjoy history, but I realize that I could comprehend and understand better when it’s shown between food pictures. Though I’m sorry the food wasn’t good here. We shouldn’t expect “great” food at this kind of event, but that’s helps to attract more people if the food is popular and have good reputation but well this is one time event… The teriyaki chicken and risotto feedback was funny…and you are right. 🙂

  37. It was nice that Carl took you away even though his intentions were not quite the romantic kind. And you got a relatively nice dinner (not withstanding the failed courses). Well, at least there was wine. And someone else was cooking. Hope he redeems himself tomorrow for Valentine’s Day. XO

  38. Charlie, I loved hearing the history behind the occasion, but could feel your disappointment with some of the food they served. Truthfully, when I first saw your photo of the Caramelized Onion Tatin my reaction was: “Oh, that must have been delish!” Sorry to hear it wasn’t so. Was actually thinking of recreating that at home (without a manufactured crust!), so all is not lost. 🙂

  39. Oh dear, it doesn’t sound like a very good meal at all. Grey steak & soy sauce risotto! Erk.

  40. I’m sorry that the meal was awful, but am glad that the fundraiser was a success. The description of the risotto is making me feel a little queasy too. Great writing!

  41. Love the history and sorry that the food was, well, so sorry! Wish you could have won the diamond!

  42. The table looks so pretty and the food presentation as well, too bad that it did not taste as it looked…at least a good amount of money was raised.
    Hope you are having a fun week!

  43. Awww what a shame the food wasn’t up to scratch, but at least you still had fun and the event was able to raise over $20,000 wow! 🙂

  44. I do believe it’s pronounced ‘Penriff Pamfers’… Food says it all.

  45. I’m so sorry the meal was so sad, Charlie. I wonder if you’re a little more critical than most, simply because you are such an experienced cook, with a good eye and strong hostessing/cooking skills! But I think Carl and I would get along famously, don’t you think? I am just like he is in wanting to commemorate historical events and to really understanding the underlying history of where we live. I loved reading about the history of this Australian event, and although I knew about some of the issues of threatened starvation at the penal colonies, I know absolutely no details. I find this fascinating. I think the development of Sydney coming out of the discovery of these explorers reminds me of how Los Angeles, 100 years ago, would never have been able to flourish had water not been engineered into the valley through the aqueduct project. I loved a history lesson mixed in with your wonderful photos…maybe it wasn’t tasty, but it was pretty! 🙂

  46. “where even the memory makes me feel bilious” – Ahaha, I did laugh at this :D. That’s a word I haven’t heard in a while. I must admit though… I once had risotto with soy sauce added (maybe I even added it myself on a whim) and I actually *loved* it… I found it a fantastic flavour combination, but different folks, different tastes I guess!

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