Longrain, Sydney – a gluten-free Mecca

I’ve been in Sydney this week and was really pleased to try a new restaurant, Longrain. This is a Thai Fusion restaurant in Surry Hills and was recommended by one of my workmates in our Sydney office.  It’s situated on Commonwealth Street, which is a small brick street and doesn’t look like it would house a restaurant. Longrain has a very unprepossessing exterior and it was lucky the taxi driver knew where he was going or I would have gone right past it.

As you walk in the door, you’re greeted by a wooden wall which is a little off-putting, but also by a very efficient maitre d’ who was able to tell me that the person I was meeting was downstairs and that our table was ready when we were. The space is large and the high ceilings make it seem even more so. One half of the restaurant has long tables  at which they seat multiple  groups  of diners. The other half has more conventional tables and booths. Downstairs, the cocktail bar is much darker and the music is louder, and the exposed brickwork gives a sense of history. This contrasts really well with the modern fittings.

Our waiter was extremely helpful, and after explaining to us what “BioDynamic Rice” was (apparently planted at the right phase of the moon, not forced to grow out of season, and harvested when the stars were in the right alignment), identified all the vegetarian dishes for our vegetarian diner and gave me the glad tidings that ALL THE DINNER MENU ITEMS WERE GLUTEN-FREE. Yes, all of them! He clarified that they used tamari for all their soy sauce and that any coatings they had didn’t use wheat flour. So full marks for the knowledge of the wait staff, and also for his sense of humour. After our mirth over the biodynamic rice, it must be said that we were nearly in hysterics when we decided to order it and found that they were out! Many smart remarks from us about the stars not being in alignment today.

It was such a luxury to be able to choose anything from the menu. For starters, I had a sea trout and mint salad which was spooned into witlof leaves. Very nice, but a little sharp from the vinegar. One of my dining companions had the caramelised pork and prawns on pineapple, which he said was divine, but which I couldn’t eat because of the prawns. For mains, I had a seared duck breast salad with banana blossom (it was the banana blossom which enticed me), which was nice, but again a little on the vinegary side. My companions had a pumpkin and tofu curry (which had the most enormous piece of tofu she’d ever seen) and caramelised pork hocks. The curry was reported to be spicy, delicious and satisfying. Luckily, my dinner companion shared, so I can attest to the wonders of the caramelised pork hock – this was a drop dead gorgeous meal, with crispy, flavoursome pork, perfectly cooked.

The desserts did not appear to be gluten-free, but by then I was so full that a scoop of peanut ice cream (yum!) suited me very well.

The servings are large, as they’re intended for more than one person. I got the impression that this was intended to be communal dining, with everyone sharing their chosen dish – and I like this kind of eating. All in all, this was a lovely dining experience – great food, nice atmosphere and excellent company. I have persuaded my boss that we need to go there when we’re in Sydney in September, so look forward to trying more from the menu then, and occupying one of the large tables with our potentially somewhat rowdy bunch of Kiwis. I say I will try more, but as I keep thinking back to the caramelised pork hock, it seems unlikely. Hopefully the group I’m with then will try a few different things and I can sample from their plates.

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