|by Peter Griffin|
No, not that one, this one!
Something that neither of us had ever done was experience a tasting menu; so I picked a likely suspect from the NZ Cuisine awards and we rocked up there for dinner after visiting the Wellington Museum of City and Sea.
The tasting menu has ten dishes, and there's an optional wine pairing for $85 more. Of course I chose to accompany mine with beer and Daisy had a couple of cocktails. There was an okay selection of styles from local brewers, though nowhere near as extensive as the wine list.
To start I chose Mussel Inn Captain Cooker, a manuka beer whose sweet and savoury flavours i thought would pair well with the amuse bouche, a chicken liver parfait macaroon. The texture of the dish was perfect and the herbal manuka notes in the beer paired well to the chicken liver.
The sweeter oatcake and caramel flavours worked well with the next course, which brought a smile to the face. Arriving in a terracota flour pot with a "soil" of rye crumbs and very fresh lemony goats cheese was a freshly transplanted radish from their rooftop garden. A great simple starter.
Dish number three was octopus sushi with a crayfish roll and konbu. Three Boys Wheat chosen here which turned out to be a wit, rather than weisse I was perhaps expecting. Slightly too much clove in the finish to be a really good match. Whilst I like the branding of three boys, I found their beers to fall in the fair to middling category, which meant I didn't go out of my way to try any of their others.
The dish itself was very pretty with edible flowers, again taken from the rooftop garden, though not enough crayfish to really get a taste of it. The flavours all melded well and the dish would be good as a full sized starter.
Another fish course after that and another local specialty, whitebait. This suited the beer choice more, but i still think a weisse would have been better, especially with the hollandaise and asparagus.
After another amusing dish, a palate cleansing apricot sorbet shaped like soap we were brought a duck dish which I paired with Tutara's porter.
This was a tasty dish and the pairing worked well. Tuatara also impressed with their Ardennes Belgian strong ale the previous day and I feel like i should have tried their larger format pale ales that I spotted in regional wines. I only had limited carrying capacity however!
The porter gives chocolate, red berries and caramel on the nose. Fairly dry with smoky malt and same flavours as aroma and this brought out more meatiness from the duck and intensified the sauces. Still not a fan of hoisin though!
A lamb dish followed this which was particularly tasty, the berry flavours in the beer being intensified, certainly a good pairing. I particularly liked the pea puree and dehydrated pea. this would probably be my choice for main course if just eating the regular 3-course menu.
Moving onto dessert I chose to finish on a cocktail as none of the beers sounded like they would pair quite as well. The first dessert was perhaps the most disappointing dish however. We were served a perfectly competent creme caramel thatwas justa bit dull after all the fantastic preceding courses.
Another favourite was the 9th dish, chocolate canelloni with different textures of raspberry. I'm a big fan of raspberries but couldn't help but yearn for a good frambozen or kriek to pair with it.
We finished with a selection of petit fours and an espresso. The passion fruit marshmallows were particularly tasty.
It was a good experience of a tasting menu and use of local speciality ingredients. I particularly likedthe fact they had a rooftop garden, but would have liked a slightly longer beer list! Nevertheless the fact that they had anything outside of the usual mass produced lager selection was a positive in itself.
We'd certainly try a tasting menu again in the future if we were feeling flush with cash!