I finally made it to Wellington on a Plate I had wanted to go for a while and something kept happening like having a baby for example. So booked in June it was long 2 months before we finally set off on our foody tour of Wellington.
We (oh and by we I mean me and Mr Dave the same person who I visited Christchurch with a couple of years ago – and yes we were aware that we went to CHCH just after their earthquake and then one happened in Welly as well!) had burgers planned, a venistation menu, beervana, a visit to prison and lots more additional food to eat and all washed down with a “couple” of beverages here and there along Courtney Place’s finest. The latter won’t make the final edit of this article!
I won’t make this go on for ages and will break it down into several shortish reviews in the following order (so you can skip if you like)
Martin Bosley’s From prison Gate to Plate
A Couple of Others
I didn’t know what to expect with Beervana, it was a fun event I really wanted to go to and thought it would be a great opportunity to sample some craft beers from outside of Auckland that aren’t available to me usually.
I was surprised firstly that when you entered instantly a food smell hits you, a smoked dish of some sort was being cooked as well as BBQ’s, overall I was surprised at the amount of food on offer but at the same time ever so slightly disappointed as it was food or beer and I would of liked to see more beer brewers matching food.
We arrived at opening time and decided to walk to the end and drink our way back to the exit. Perfectly fine except this meant we started at the more out there, flavour challenged beers like the Pavlova beer to say the least.
Briefly the food was alright but nothing really springs out as overly special although the meatballs spiced up with Fire Dragon Chillies where one of the nicer bites and the beer brulee in theory was a good idea but didn’t have any beer taste!
There were as expected A LOT of beers to try so no chance of trying them all but we gave it a good go.
The highlight of the show was the Good George cider, hands down the best thing I drank all day, sweet like a dessert wine but without being overly sweet.
Other notes were the Garage Project’s hot buttered Baileys like drink which completely finished me off; it was 12% and really packed a punch being full of cloves.
A Sauvignon Bomb from Liberty Brewing was my first drink and a nice soft way to start, Vicar’s vice with caramelised spicy orange notes was a different and welcoming alternative to the sometimes monotonous endless rows of craft beers and occasionally they just rolled into each other.
Liberty brewing also had a very interesting beer called How Do You Like Dem Apples which was very dry and like drinking a beer made with apple juice. The final positive noteworthy beer was the Headless Wit which my drunken notes say it was a mindf%$k! I loved it then hated it with every gulp; it was a pear and chocolate flavour.
But with good ones there is the bad one and it seemed to be the more gimmicky the beers where the worse they got, and there were two standout monstrosities. Firstly the 66 Jet Planes which was yes a Jet Plane beer was just plainly horrible no redeeming features and just a gimmick as previously mentioned. Then ladies and gentlemen please if you ever have anyone approach you and offer a Pavlova beer run the other way! It was a green kiwifruit flavoured beer which singly wasn’t too bad but when it’s topped with CO2 egg whites which slowly blobs down your throat when you already have a hangover it’s not good and it’s not clever.
Overall though Beervana was a blast and my only complaint would be I would like to see the likes of Epic, Monteith’s, Hoegaarden removed from the festival it should be about the little guy and an opportunity for them to shine.
Until next year that was Beervana.
Venistation at the Intercontinental
That night was our Venistation menu, basically a degustation using only venison as the main ingredients. (Except dessert) On arrival I was surprised by the presentation, I had the impression it would be more of an event but it was basically just a menu and a fancy design booklet to go with it. However the restaurant in the Intercontinental hotel is beautiful and I like the setting of sitting next to the massive glass window right on the street.
The service itself throughout was very friendly and always attentive; we had a very nice French waiter who took us through the whole menu.
The first course was “House cured haunch with onion marmalade and arugula leaves” it was a pleasant way to start but perhaps the other ingredients took over a little and left the venison behind.
Next up was “Pate with pistachio emulsion, truffle mascarpone, shaved celery and compressed pear” the pate was great and in this dish all the ingredients went really well together. The pate was thankfully this time the star of the dish.
A second entrée of “braised shin strudel with parsnip froth, hazelnut pesto and crispy bacon” was rustic but a filling dish, a little dry but overall a nice eat.
We then had a refresher of “prune and rosemary sorbet with calvados”. It was interesting because I like a sorbet course but this one was probably TOO flavourful, the problem is although refreshing it isn’t palate cleansing because the flavours were so strong.
The main course was “Apple and marrow crusted loin with slow cooked shoulder, garden pea puree, roasted swede and truffle jus” This is what I had expected from the night, big bold flavours, the shoulder was well cooked and rich and all the ingredients married well.
Finally a venison free dessert of “Baked Wairarapa apple with dried fruit compote, almond nougatine and apple sorbet.” It suited the menu but after all that rich venison goodness a smaller more refreshing dessert was craved for.
Overall it was a good degustation menu which was well executed, it possibly could have been slightly more adventurous but we weren’t complaining. Great service, great restaurant setting and to boost we saw the whole All Blacks team entering the hotel. (I don’t know why that’s important!)
Burger Wellington – The Tasting Shed
Burger Wellington is a competition ran through WOAP where restaurants and other eateries enter their creation to be voted for and judged by the public. We wanted to get the crayfish burger from hummingbird but unfortunately were 2 hours early for opening times and we had an appointment in evening so had to think again. Thankfully our second choice at the Tasting Room was just down the road and they were ready to receive us. Their entry was “The Great Turducken Burger” which was ground chicken and turkey patty with duck rillettes, home-smoked Kapiti cheddar and cranberry, sage-onion stuffing in a Pandoro bun, with crinkle-cut fries. That entire mouthful was $22. Essentially a bargain! It included a drink and the burger itself was massive! It sums up why I really dislike the idea of sliders; I would be so disappointed if a little slider with these flavours was delivered. It was jam packed with flavour, well-seasoned and all the flavours combined excellently. The crinkle cut fries were also homemade and very good, firm and fluffy at the same time.
I quickly sent my vote for one of the best burgers I have ever eaten.
Martin Bosley’s From prison Gate to Plate
Taking 6 Rumataka prison chefs under his wing we had an amazing life changing time at this event. I have written separately about this experience and encourage you to have a read You Can Find It Here
On the final day we were a little worse for wear and needed something comforting so after a visit to The City Market we plumbed for Simon Gault and Shed 5’s WOAP menu. The attraction I won’t lie was the combination of Caesar salad and fish and chips on the set menu. In my eyes a great piece of culinary stodge in a great way! Not to mention it was finished with a cheeseboard. It was actually just what the doctor ordered, despite the waiter having a really bad odour problem the food was great, nothing extraordinary just a decent traditional lunch to soak up the previous night’s festivities!
This was the wild card in the bag! We killed some time before our flight just playing pool and hanging around before some friends we knew in wellington suggested we go for dinner and then they’ll drop us off. We didn’t know where to go; I had heard good things about Matterhorn but essentially knew nothing about it. I was shocked when I walked in; from the outside it’s on Cuba Street and is down a dirty Alley way before you are greeted by a dark candlelit fine dining restaurant with incredibly smoky, woody smells. Friends aren’t really foodies and my instant thought was what have I brought them to.
The menu is a collection of small plates or going the other way very large plates that you share like the whole merino lamb leg, cumin butter, charred lemon, aubergine brinjal and coriander yoghurt which is $80 but at the same time is 1.2kg’s! So that with a few sides and your set.
We ordered a lot of food, A LOT OF FOOD!
Between four of us we had the following which I can only present in list form due to the length.
Slow cooked merino lamb breast with anchovy and mint salsa verde
Crispy Pork Belly, house made kimchee, pink radish, apple, peanut and coriander
Monkfish and house chorizo, broccoflower, pickled lemon, sauce Nero and sea vegetables
Roast poussin, truffle boudin blanc, chestnut puree, bacon and sage
Slow roast Angus short rib, celeriac remoulade, wild mushroom butter, shallot and red wine sauce
Duck fat confit Brussel sprouts, braised onion, garlic cream, bacon and maple
And 2 other sides of vegetables.
Trust me it was far too much food, however it was after ordering that things became a little strange for a short while, after disappearing to grab some bread the waitress came back and explained that if we wait for all of the food to come together it would take around 50 minutes to cook and would we be alright if the plates came out when they were ready to which of course we responded with that being absolutely fine and we are all sharing anyway so it didn’t matter when they came out. So whilst enjoying our bread things started ok. The first dish the pork was delivered in good time, however it was lukewarm at best. However its one dish and we were anxiously awaiting the next to make up for it….and waited and waited and waited!
The next dish took a further 40 minutes; it was just crazy we laughed about how we probably just told them to wait until it was already after waiting so long!
Anyway that aside the food eventually got to the table spread out over a further 10 minutes and I have to say we loved each and every single dish from there. The flavours and textures were truly incredible. The monkfish dish was the single best dish I ate in the whole of my weekend in Wellington and a pleasure to wait for. The Lamb with the salsa verde and the steak where cooked to absolute perfection.
That’s as much as I could say really, I couldn’t rave about the food itself any more minus the first dish we received.
If you happen yourself in Wellington go to Matterhorn, if the food is as good as we experienced you would be very lucky indeed to find yourself down the dark shabby alley way into the magical, smoky, dark and smart restaurant.
A couple of others – city market and hotel breakfast
In between all these culinary experience where other moments worth note, whether it be the awful breakfast at our hotel with their little buffet sausages which tasted like deep fried dry herbs and the distinct lack of pastries every morning. Or how about the fun bars and eateries that line Courtney Place although memories of these parts are sketchy at best. Finally a mention to the City Market with such a great buzz and some very talented vendors selling very tasty food from dumplings, truffled onion soup, whole roasted ducks and of course the excellent Yellow Brick Road sustainable fish.
All in all Wellington was great and I look forward to a visit soon again. My final thought goes out to the organisers of Wellington on a Plate, the different events and the atmosphere at the ones we attended were great, the whole of the city seems to embrace WOAP, it was just great, Auckland restaurant month (which for some crazy reason run their event at the same time) have a lot they could pick up from WOAP and I am sure in the next few years both cities will be running equally as good events as each other.