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Morks and Helm Wines: two iconic Canberra names, one evening

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There isn’t much similarity one can draw between the homes of Morks and Helm Wines.

One is a small converted schoolhouse down a winding Murrumbateman Road, walls papered with memorabilia showing decades of accolades, award-winning wines ready to pour.

The other, an atmospheric modern Thai restaurant on the bustling Kingston Foreshore, where charismatic staff weave around tables of regulars and excited newcomers alike.

But put these two giants of the Canberra food scene together and there’s bound to be magic.

On Tuesday 27 October, Morks and Helm Wines will join forces for an epic celebration of all things delicious in the hopes of bringing some joy to foodies during this tough year.

Just 50 diners will get to experience this exclusive collaboration, with seven dishes paired with nine Helm wines across five courses—four of the dishes created especially for the night.

Morks Restaurant. Credit: Ashley St George / Pew Pew Studio.

For Morks’ Ikmal Salim—better known on the floor as ‘Slick’—this dinner represents a chance to celebrate Canberra’s success in keeping COVID at bay and to reconnect (in a COVID-safe manner) with the foodie community.

“Hosting a wine night after the ten months we’ve just endured with the bushfires and COVID, is really just an expression of how Canberra ought to be,” he says. “We are vibrant, we are resilient, we’ve fared pretty darn well, and we are itching for a good time. And what better way to express that than to showcase the best of what Canberra has to offer?”

While Slick describes the shutdown period as a “tense time”, the Morks team quickly adapted, pivoting to offer takeaway for the very first time by the end of March.

“Being a small, family-owned business, we knew we had to adapt to survive. It was definitely different and fun, but gee, trying to get some of our dishes into takeaway containers wasn’t easy—for example, we ended up packaging our thrice cooked crispy eggplant dish into three separate parcels and sending them off with little assembly instructions for customers,” laughs Slick.

But while 2020 has been a struggle for foodies, spare a thought for Canberra’s winemakers, who took on the triple threat of smoke taint, hale damage and COVID-19 restrictions.

“After the 2020 year from hell for Canberra wineries—with drought, dust storms, hail, bushfire smoke, no harvest, COVID-19 lockdown, and an economic downturn—an opportunity to show our special wines with Morks’ great food is a welcomed relief, and marks the beginning of a bright 2021,” says Ken Helm of Helm Wines, one of the Canberra region’s best-known winemakers, who will be presenting each wine on the night.

For people who know Ken and his wines well, this will be a very special evening indeed, as Ken reveals there will be some very special appearances, including Museum Rieslings and Cabernet Sauvignons “to mark the event”.

For the Morks team, the collaboration was a no-brainer.

“Ken Helm has been a champion of the Canberra District for over 40 years. He’s a mammoth figure in the food and wine scene and he’s been really good to us since day one of our move to Kingston,” says Slick. “Ken and his winery embody everything good about the greater Canberra region. And I guess being rated a top winery for the 10th year in a row by Halliday doesn’t hurt, either.”

For those wanting a little taste test (sorry) of the evening, Slick says it will be a blend of excellent food, award-winning wine and perhaps a story or three.

“Ken will walk us through his wines, his process, and maybe a little story about how the Germans decided to perfect a half-dry Riesling for American soldiers after World War II. We’ll see if we can coax that one out of him.”

As for those seeking a chance to celebrate (safely) after this binfire of a year, Slick says this is it.

“Something I’ve been saying to our staff since we reopened our doors to guests is to treat every guest who comes in as if they’re here to celebrate something. “Our first dinner out in three months.” Let’s celebrate that. “We couldn’t go on an overseas trip, so we came here instead.” We can bring southeast Asia to you. “We finally found a babysitter for tonight.” I’ll grab a couple of glasses of sparkling for you.”

“Because why not celebrate the little things like going out to dinner? It’s especially in the hardest times that we need those little things to feel like bigger things.”


What: Morks + Helm Wines Dinner
When: Tuesday 27 October at 7 pm
Where: Morks Restaurant, 18/19 Eastlake Parade, Kingston
Cost: $200 per person
Tickets and more information: thefork.com.au


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