REVIEW: ‘The Double Down Diner’ by Porteno x Messina

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2015

One of the cooler announcements for Sydney Festival this year was that Porteno and Gelato Messina would be teaming up to create a pop-up diner truck in the Festival Village. A four year old restaurant that’s still hard to get a table at joining forces with an gelato company whose name is almost more well known than the word gelato? This could be the best pop-up of all time!

The Double Down Diner looks fantastic, a wooden black and white rectangle in the middle of the colourful Festival Village. Porteno’s Good Eats is on the left and Messina’s Tasty Treats is on the right. They’ve both got fun and extensive carnival menus, and amazingly, they’re both selling a take on chicken and waffles.

Porteno are also selling corn dogs, reubens, Philly cheese steaks and fries with dorito salt. At 3pm there’s no line at all, and the food is prepared with lightning speed as all the elements of each dish are sitting already cooked, being kept lukewarm in a bain marie or under a heat lamp. Lukewarm is an understatement – on a 35 degree day, my fries taste cold. The waffle with fried chicken, coleslaw and maple syrup is tasty but almost ruined by a stiff piece of bacon which had been sitting there for so long it was able to give us a review of the highlights at Sydney Festival the night before. Obviously when the Village is busier, more food is being cooked and is therefore fresher, however it’s a bummer that people who come in the quieter hours are rewarded with limp food.

Gelato Messina’s Tasty Treats fair a little better – ice cream is supposed to be cold right? Their take on chicken and waffles features a waffle topped with a piece of deep fried ice cream, made to look like fried chicken, covered in a maple caramel sauce. It’s fun, a little bland by Messina’s standards, but the sauce kicks in some richness. Also fun is Messina’s Royale With Cheese, a burger consisting of a crunchy chocolate gelato patty, white chocolate cheese, passionfruit mustard and strawberry ketchup, served in a warm brioche bun. It’s nowhere near as good as the gelato burger that used to be served at the Gelato Messina Lab a few years ago, but it’s sweet, cute and, like every part of The Double Down Diner, very fun. I’d be very impressed if anyone could eat a whole burger to themselves though, that thing is dense.

It feels pointless criticising a pop-up diner that could never live up to the hype of the restaurants behind it, but both Porteno and Messina are known for their level of exceptional quality in everything that they do. Yes, The Double Down Diner is fun, and certainly not a bad experience, but it’s a shame this isn’t the mindblowing collaboration it should be. Maybe next year?

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