Posted 01 July 2010 - 07:44 PM
The cuisine is possibly best (and I admit inadequately) described as 'modern'. There is a strong emphasis on seafood, and the high quality of the raw material is obvious. Although we were sorely tempted by many of the items on the à la carte menu, we chose the degustation ($170 each with matching wines; $100 without). We'd made the same choice on previous visits, and certainly didn't regret it last night.
Before ordering we were offered a choice of waters and presented with a mini-cocktail of mint, Amaretto, rum and apple juice. The mini-cocktail is a nice idea (and one I've stolen previously for dinner parties at home); it gives the guests something to sip while settling in and looking over the menu, avoiding any pressure for a too-hurried pick from the winelist. The winelist was certainly there on the table, but the way the service flowed meant we never actually had to refer to it. Judging by the wines we were served with our various courses, the list would reward some study on a future visit.
The first dish was an amuse of a single oyster (Te Makutu Bay, from Waiheke Island) served with shredded celeriac, salmon caviar and an eel remoulade. Jane had some trouble keeping hers on her fork, but mine was better-behaved and delicious (this from someone who didn't think he liked oysters until just under a year ago). With this, and to drink with the next course as well, we were served Nautilus NV from Marlborough - yeasty and fresh, it worked very well.
After that, neither of us got the same thing again until dessert - but of course we sampled each other's. Well, you have to, don't you? My next plate was a cube of John Dory Tartar with pine nuts, raisins, pickled potatoes and burnt onion; Jane's was a similar cube of tuna with roasted beetroot, buffalo yoghurt and sumac. They were both very good, but we agreed we preferred the John Dory. The pine nuts and raisins were finely chopped and, given the relative quantities, had a surprisingly strong flavour influence when mixed with the fish. I was intrigued by the pickled potatoes - three lttle white round things, about a quarter teaspoon in size, with a nice bite and delicate vinegary taste.
Next we were poured two different wines; a Te Mata 'Zara' Viognier for Jane and a Greystone Pinot Gris for me. Possible conflict; I really like viognier, and this was a huge oily specimen. But I enjoy pinot gris too, so peace was maintained, certainly after the food arrived. Mine was black pudding ravioli with young carrots, black olive powder, a red wine-cassis sauce, orange peel and sage. This was my number two dish of the evening - the ravioli were meltingly fabulous, and each sip of the wine brought a strong echo of the orange peel they were served with. I also discovered how well orange and black olives go together, something I need to explore at home. Jane had a tarakihi and smoked eel terrine with cauliflower purée, dashi jelly and oyster and lettuce emulsion. I don't actually recall her comments, but there were happy noises being made and the piece I had was great - but I liked mine better!
Next we had a pair of chardonnays; Amor Bendall from Gisborne for me and Neudorf from Nelson on the other side of the table. Mine didn't seem very forthcoming in the glass; Jane's had interesting notes of popcorn. My food match was grilled snapper with spanner crab and coconut risotto, hot coconut panna cotta, shellfish-XO sauce and lemon air. Although all the components were perfectly cooked and beautifully presented (as were all the evening's dishes), for me they didn't really have much to do with each other and I'd mark this one as my most disappointing dish. But keep in mind the competition set a very high standard. Jane had roasted kingfish with Brussels sprouts, chestnut pudding, Jerusalem artichoke ice cream and maple-bacon powder, it was very good (at least the bit I got!). The ice cream was the first evidence of a Pacojet in the kitchen, and these people clearly know what to do with one.
Now we came to what might be called the 'mains', although all the dishes were thoughtfully sized with a view to keeping us going through seven or so courses without suffering from exhaustion. With a glass of Ata Rangi Célèbre (merlot, syrah, cabernets sauvignon and franc), Jane got Canterbury duck breast, Caesar salad, anchovy, fennel purée, scallop, pommes dauphine and a ginger jelly. This may sound like a major plateful, but the salad, for example, was deconstructed into a small cylinder with the greens on the bottom, a 'crouton' disk and the anchovy draped over the top. My wine was a Kemp Road pinot noir, with which I got cocoa-dusted venison shortloin and mushroom-thyme cake with mushroom reduction, beetroot, blackberry powder, carrot, smoked tomato jam, truffled Puy lentils and roasted quail. One word: fabulous. The meat (three pieces) was very red inside, with a very tasty crust; the quail (just a thigh) was centred on the plate, sitting on the mushroom-thyme cake; the rest of it perfectly accompanied the meat. And the wine match couldn't be faulted either. This was my number one dish (although the black pudding ravioli from earlier wasn't far behind).
We were surprised now to have flute glasses placed in front of us – it seemed a little late in the meal (if it ever really is) for Champagne. However, this turned out to be a different (but effective) way of serving a Taylors 10-year-old port to accompany the next two courses. At this point we came back together in terms of the food; no ‘his and hers’ dishes from here on in. First up was a cheese course, but none of your lumps of different cheeses on a plate with a few crackers here! This was a piece each of triple-cream brie served with apple, candied bread and beetroot and bitter chocolate ice cream (there’s that Pacojet again). The whole thing worked brilliantly, but the ice cream was probably the star – the earthy tones of the beetroot blended remarkably with the chocolate.
The next dessert was another star. Chocolate terrine (SO solid and sticky), a brushstroke of chocolate emulsion, porcini mushroom power (yes!), a sprinkling of cocoa nibs and a pumpkin gastrique. Years ago I had what is still my ultimate chocolate dessert experience. This came the closest yet to matching it.
Next: jasmine tea crème brulée with lychee foam, rose petals and coconut rice ice cream, served with a glass of Chateau Villafranche Sauternes. This was also brilliant. The brulée, with a perfect crunchy crust and a distinct taste of the tea, was served under a swirl of lychee with the rose petals sprinkled on top. I’m ashamed to say I don’t remember the ice cream – it must have been getting late. But these small dishes were served with a candle in recognition of Jane’s birthday in a few days – they’d asked me when I rang to book about any special occasion we might be celebrating.
And finally, as an extra which didn’t appear on the printed menu we were given after the meal, two more quenelles of ice cream. One was lemongrass and ginger; the other has completely escaped our memory. So I can’t accurately say it was memorable, but we both remember that all the flavours of ice cream we had during the evening were fabulous.
Martin himself was unfortunately in Auckland on the night we were there, but his staff were very much on top of things. The flow of service was faultless and the waiting staff could answer any questions we had about the food (or could readily find out from the kitchen). Our treatment, from the initial call for a reservation through to the final farewell, couldn’t be faulted. The restaurant was nowhere near full when we were there, but we’d have no hesitation in recommending Martin Bosley’s to anybody, special occasion or otherwise.
My eG Foodblog
eGullet Ethics Code signatory
Posted 02 July 2010 - 02:10 AM
By the way, is Viognier becoming more established in NZ, do you think? I saw some a few years ago and was very interested in it, but wondered if it was going to be more than a passing trend.
Posted 02 July 2010 - 08:46 PM
I think viognier has gone beyond the 'passing trend' stage. There are many of them around, the best mostly from Hawkes Bay. I'm not certain we've quite settled on a style yet, but that makes it more fun for us drinkers, right? (My most ecstatic wine experience in the past year or so was a sweet botrytised version from Trinity Hill - total nectar.)
We like it as a rather more interesting drink than many chardonnays seem to be at the moment, and would serve it with the same kind of food.
My eG Foodblog
eGullet Ethics Code signatory
Posted 07 July 2010 - 03:48 AM