It's Friday night at 107 Pitt Street, Sydney, and the queue is winding noisily out the door. You ease your way through the waiting throng to register your name for a table. It feels a bit like an auction … make a bid and, with a bit of luck, you may claim a table in "two hours''.
Amend that. The receptionist, thrusting a finger at the touchscreen reservations, looks up for a split second with the updated, joyful news: "It may be more like one hour, 45 minutes.''
Naturally, I'm jubilant. "Phone number?'' she asks. I give it and, like so many others, shrink back to the pavement of this once quiet bit of city thoroughfare.
Waiting for my friend, I overhear a group of twentysomething women. Not in the slightest perturbed about their time in the waiting-list wilderness, one animatedly asks if they've "seeeeeeeeen" the menu online? "It's so good.''
For us, that passing mention of the word ''menu'' is the closest we get to the real thing at Jamie's Italian that night. The osso bucco Milanese is great (and it is) but almost nothing is worth foot stomping on a chilly winter's night for. I withdraw our name.
It's a restaurant that not only trades on a celebrity connection (it opened in December and Jamie managed to get over here in April) but largely delivers on food, too.
But lots of other Sydney restaurants also do great food, places where people would laugh out loud if you suggested waiting two to three hours to get a seat.
Which is why the MasterChef pop-up restaurant in the forecourt of St Mary's Cathedral is likely to be a rip-roaring success. You wonder if Archbishop Pell knows about a load of foodies worshipping at the altar of gastronomic indulgence in his front yard.
The description of the temporary two-storey restaurant and bar makes it sound a bit like a Melbourne Cup marquee. I see worshippers dashing past on the final bend to make Mass.
But it has all the ingredients of a culinary triumph: a kitchen with ex-contestants best known by their names, not what they once cooked on the telly, and well-known chefs. They include Kylie Kwong and Justin North.
Sponsored by American Express, it's a "unique" dining experience (of course it is … every invite I get these days is "unique" and/or "intimate") that will bring MasterChef alive, or so the blurb says.
Almost nothing is worth foot stomping on a chilly winter's night for.
It's hard not to read that as "breathe life" into a tiring concept and squeeze the last dollar out of its marketing opportunities.