Theme Park food as we know it is finally dead, and I like it that way. For literally anyone that’s ever stepped foot into a park, the words “theme park food” generally conjure up a mental picture of something greasy, un-nutritional and dished out en masse without much fanfare. Combine that with the feeling of your hip-pocket becoming substantially lighter in the process and you’re left with a figurative taste in your mouth that’s none too pleasing.
Challenging the status quo.
You only have to look beyond the park gates to realise an emerging trend in the world of fast food that is taking place in the great land of Oz. These days, Big Macs take a second place behind new, innovative, touch-screen built “fancy” burgers carefully dished out on hipster-esque wooden boards. Other global taste sensations that have been recently taking hold, like Japanese & Mexican cuisine, have also started to take hold in the minds of the casual Australian foodie, supplanting cheap and cheerful with dishes that focus more on quality and options and less about bashing your tastebuds (and your waistline). With this in mind, it was only a matter of time before the trend was felt inside the realm of our local theme parks.
So what happened?
Great minds and great passion happened. If genuinely surprising, status-quo redefining theme park food was going to come from anywhere, it was going to be Movie World. For a many number of years now, the park’s top brass have supported the in-house team of chefs and cooks in creating new ideas for a fresh view on what it takes to satisfy a modern palette. Carnivale, one of Movie World’s main annual events, was a prime example of this. When head chefs were tasked with finding a way to smoke beef for one of the signature dishes, instead of cutting corners delivering a “decent enough” dish, management insisted two large smokers were imported from the states (from what i’m told, at great cost too) to deliver that knockout flavour that keeps guests coming back year after year.
What makes Dirty Harry Grill so special, then?
First off, the Dirty Harry Grill is a brand spanking new dot on the map. It’s a purpose-built shrine to all foods Dirty Harry themed – we’re talking DIY Beef Burritos, Pulled Pork Nachos, Fish Tacoes etc. etc. . And the quality of what goes into making these meals is right there for you to see too – a large chunk of the kitchen faces a corner of the park’s pathway with large glass panels that give off a pseudo-Benihama vibe to it all, giving you the ability to come within inches of the main grill where all the various meats are flame-kissed to perfection.
We were lucky enough to try a sampling from the majority of the menu, and my personal picks were the Beef Burritos & Dirty Lattice Fries. There’s something about taking simple ingredients and really turning the quality dial up to eleven that appeals to me. What’s not to love about tender beef strips that are pink and juicy in the middle inside a nice, thick tortilla adorned with a myriad of mix ‘n’ match toppings? And as for the dirty lattice fries, well, let’s put it this way, it’s 1:15am on the first day of 2016 and i’m still thinking about them, although to be fair I don’t know if that’s a reflection on my social work life or just how surprising the whole meal was. Looking back, I came away both surprised and excited, surprised that the food I was eating was found inside a theme park and excited that I found a new place to eat for my next visit.
Too Long, Didn’t Read?
Movie World’s done a great, great thing with the new Dirty Harry Bar & Grill. The food is on a level with other restaurants, not other theme parks. It’s also reasonably priced, especially for what you get. If I could change just one thing, it would be to put some sort of indicator on how many mouths you can feed with each dish. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the DIY Beef Burritos came with 3 tortillas, and when you combine that with a side like the fries, you’ll struggle to finish it all.