Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Restaurant Review: Wellington pop-up restaurant

Back in 2001 my sister and I spent five weeks in New Zealand. I was twenty one and it was the first big travelling adventure I'd been on. I remember mum crying as her two children set off with their backpacks. Trekking on Fox Glacier which is one of my all time favourite experiences and having a universally good time. It was a great adventure for my sister and I to go through together, as we are much closer now than we ever were before.

Despite it being ten years ago, I clearly remember all of the wonderful cafes that we stumbled into. There was always a warm welcome and the food was fresh, tasty and seemed really innovative compared to what I was used to back in the UK at the time. We ate out every day and I can only remember a couple of duds. It was also fantastically cheap in the days when the British Pound was worth something.

I was hugely jealous when my friend He Needs Food was recently invited to Wellington by NZ tourism for a weekend of eating. As a consolation for those of us that didn't get to go to, a pop-up NZ restaurant has opened for one month only in Sydney's Kings Cross. Hopes of my first Kiwi food in ten years were dashed when I couldn't book a table as they were full, only to have the wonderful surprise of Maria giving me a table for two that she had won in a competition. Thank you Maria!

When we arrived the restaurant was packed and we were shown to two seats on a large shared table running along the front of the restaurant. As I reached for my camera there was a shout of "food blogger!" from further along the table. A bit of banter followed which was a good prelude to talking to some of the other people seated near us. Those around us were part way through or finishing their meals and reported that the food as a bit hit and miss. Not something I wanted to hear! On balance I think they were a little harsh, but there were elements of truth to their comments.

The starter was a share plate of crispy white bait, spiced olives, venison rillettes, smoked salmon with wasabi panna cotta and deep fried goats cheese with chutney. The olives were fantastic and full of flavour. I was also a fan of the luscious smoked salmon, minus the wasabi panna cotta which I didn't think added a lot.

There was a choice of three main courses. Marlina selected the snapper with scallops on melted leeks with water cress. It was a thick piece of snapper that was well cooked, with delicious slices of scallop and a very garlicky sauce. "Good or bad garlicky?" I asked, "Neither, just very garlicky" came the reply. There were a few bones left in the fish.

I ordered the confit of lamb shoulder on kumara purée with minted peas. (Dark lamb in a dark restaurant was a photographers nightmare.) The kumara and sauce were beautiful. Unfortunately the lamb had patches of dry meat, which was a complaint the others at our table reported. Not something you'd expect from a confit. I also bit on a small piece of bone.

As with the starter there was no choice of dessert which was goat's curd cheesecake, poached ruhbarb and Amaretti crumbs. I liked the richness of the cheesecake and the poached ruhbarb. I know it will make me sound like a wear dentures, but the Amaretti crumbs got stuck in my teeth!

Perhaps it wasn't the perfection that I remembered, and the service was a bit variable, but I still had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. It must be a very tough ask opening a large restaurant for a single month and being packed out every night. Using Maria's competition tickets I didn't have to pay, but it would have been good value at only $29 for three course even if I had.

Thank you again to the gorgeous Maria!


  1. Great to hear you had an overall good time. Shame we all couldn't go together

  2. My pleasure! I am so glad to hear you enjoyed the experience :-) I love the photos, by the way! ;-)
    Maria x

  3. Looks delicious - I had different offerings but thought it was brilliantly executed and such phenomenal value! wish these things popped up more often!