Tantalised at TriBeCa

Holding steadfast to their New Year’s resolution to eat their way through Auckland’s degustation menus, Victoria Davy and “The Man” headed down to the acclaimed TriBeCa in Parnell.

It was another freezing Auckland evening (sorry South Islanders, but it felt like Dunedin!) and due to my highly efficient cab driver who knew all the short cuts I arrived well before The Man and was warmly welcomed by Executive Chef Hayden McMillan, and then by owner Mark Walynetz. My coat was immediately taken and, as I sat and chatted with Chef McMillan, a glass of Bollinger was popped in my hand.  5 star service right there.

Course 2: fresh smoked King Salmon

TriBeCa’s ambiance is an absolute winner.  Mark and his wife Pauline have managed to combine elegant dining in a sumptuous space with a homely feel.  We felt so relaxed and comfortable – just like we were eating at a friend’s house.

The 26 year old Hayden McMillan (formally of Meredith’s, French Cafe and Vinnie’s) has been Executive Chef for a mere 9 months. Being so new into his first Executive appointment his focus is on “flavours; matching flavours and using ingredients in the right way to extract the best from them”.   He is a proud kiwi and all the ingredients used except one – cheese made by nuns in France (if you please) are from New Zealand.

The Chef’s Tasting Menu is 8 courses, but we were lucky and received and couple of extra courses, all in a day’s work for a food reviewer! (Yes I have taken up running.)

Course 3: braised Oxtail

The menu begins with Oyster, Diamond Clams and Saffron Broth before it journeys through the likes of Fresh Smoked King Salmon, Masterstock Glazed Free Range Pork Belly, Warm Winter Salad with echouragnac (walnut infused cheese made by those nuns – yummo!) and Crispy Skin Duck Breast to name a few, and concludes with a chocolate crescendo, which The Man ate. I concluded my gobbling with a beautiful dessert that included blue cheese ice-cream.  Oh my goodness, I love blue-cheese and this was de-ee-vine!  All the zingyness of blue cheese with a sweet after taste.  A perfect ending and I want a tub of that in my freezer.

All of the dishes were unfailingly sublime and amongst this gastro gorgeousness it was hard to pick a favourite, but there were two standout courses for me.

Firstly, the second course of Fresh Manuka Smoked King Salmon with squid ink infused brioche, charcoal smoked eggplant, freeze dried mandarins, prawn and lemon yoghurt.  The presentation of this dish was truly ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ material.  The brioche and eggplant were blacker than black and a perfect backdrop for the beautiful pink salmon, the orange mandarins and purple edible flowers. This was an artistic masterpiece on the plate and a masterpiece of perfectly rounded flavours on the palate, with the toasted brioche taking the combo of flavours to a new level.  The pairing of Milton Voignier Gisbourne ‘09 worked wonderfully, refreshing the palate so it could experience the dish anew with each mouthful.

Blue cheese icecreammmmm

My other favourite dish was the Braised Oxtail with honeycomb mushrooms, caramelised swede puree, karengo (NZ native seaweed), soya beans, radish, baby paua and miso consume served table side.  Initially, this was like the essence of winter on a plate with the rich melt-in-your-mouth oxtail, deep miso flavoured consume and pure swede flavour.  But then the taste of summer from the radish and freshness of the soya beans popped in the mouth, and the kick from the shaved horse radish lifted everything.  It was like eating four seasons in one dish.  The wine match of Seresin Gewurztraminer ’08  was excellent – I always find that summer and winter dishes pair well with this gutsy and yet subtle wine.

This was a sublime evening from beginning to end.  For a young Chef, Hayden’s food is mature, excellently balanced and accomplished.  This, along with the genuinely warm hospitality, means we will definitely be returning to TriBeCa.


Chef’s Tasting Menu $90.00 per person not including wine.

TriBeCa: The Foundation Building, 8 George Street Parnell, phone 09 379 6359. www.tribeca.co.nz

– Victoria Davy

Swooning at Clooney

From the moment Clooney opened in late 2006 it has been renowned for its elegant and sumptuous spaces.  It’s like a James Bond set crossed with a warehouse.  With all the glitter and opulence of 007 as well as the polished concrete and industrial elements, it somehow creates an elegant, mysterious ambience.  Combined with the outstanding cuisine, exceptional wine list and floor staff that are second to none, it takes you away to another world.

Step into the Clooney lair...

Clooney is the creation of Tony Stewart, and his partnership with Executive Chef Des Harris has established one of New Zealand’s best restaurants.  If we had ‘Seven Wonders of New Zealand’ it would most certainly be on the list (in my humble opinion).  So one can imagine the excited vibe in the Davy household in the lead up to our visit to Clooney but we pulled ourselves together as “whoop, whooping” in such opulence would be quite inappropriate.  For this stop on our Auckland degustation journey we were joined by two lovely friends, a NZ celebrity chef and his gorgeous fiancée.

Clooney’s degustation is an eight-course tasting menu that starts its journey traversing through the subtle tastes of kingfish, venison Carpaccio and scallops, hits its straps with wondrous pork and lamb dishes, before winding up with a chocolatey-rich finishing punch.  There’s so much I could describe, but here are some of my personal highlights …

Venison carpaccio

The kingfish was served with cucumber foam that was sweet and sour and zinged on the palate.  The kingfish consume was personally served tableside by Chef Des Harris (to all tables not just ours).  A fabulous personal touch.  The foie gras with the venison carpaccio was beautifully buttery and coated the palate with richness and was balanced perfectly with both the moscatel gel and the date gel.  The wine match of Arthur Metz Cuvee Anne-Laure’ 2007 Pinot Gris Alsace France was perfection.

The slow cooked pork dish (The Man’s personal favourite!) looked like autumn on a plate; beautiful rich shades of butternut puree orange and earthy shades from the veal jus with smoky bacon.  The smoked butternut squash was de-ee-vine, the pork belly is twice cooked, rolled into balls and coated with crumbs and squid ink.  It tasted like a complete roast pork dinner in a wee ball and paired with Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico DOCG 2008 Tuscany Italy – delectable!

I have to mention the buttermilk and yoghurt pana cotta, with elderflower foam, lycee sorbet, persimmon puree and fresh persimmon.  The pana cotta had a subtle aftertaste of ginger and, between you and me, I was the only one at the table who could taste it.  All my fellow diners argued with me but after a quick conflab with Chef Harris it was confirmed that there was indeed  ginger in the pana cotta = fist pump!   A sublime palette-cleansing dish that managed to be both refreshing and full of flavour and was beautifully paired with Prunotto Moscato d’Asti 2009 Piedmont Italy.

Cheesy snow flakes

My favourite dish of the evening was the valdeon (Spanish blue cheese) that had been frozen and grated to produce blue cheese snowflakes – heaven!!  Served with walnuts, pomegranate, beetroot flowers and a white powder which as soon as it hits the tongue turns to liquid a very interesting sensation.  Here’s a superfluous tid-bit of info, according to the celebrity chef there is none in NZ at the moment – all the restaurants are waiting for a shipment from Spain.  I love blue cheese and I loved everything about this dish, the texture of the walnuts (did I mention the blue cheese), the beetroot leaves and the pairing of Carmes de Rieussec 2006 Sauternes was sublime!

We ate for nearly five hours.  We ohhhed and ahhhhhed  through every dish.  Everything about the evening was pure perfection, from the expert service of our waiter Paul, to every delectable dish where every wine pairing was magnificent.  You know that Chef Harris is one of the best when the chef at our table was as wowed as we were.  We left with all our senses completely sated and cannot wait to return again.

Clooney’s Degustation $120.00 per person, wine matches $100.00 per person.
33 Sale Street, Freemans Bay.  Phone 09 358 1702

Jump here to Clooney >>>

– Victoria Davy

Check out The Food Store

The Food Store, created quite a stir in the Viaduct when it opened. Here is our tasty food blogger, Victoria Davy’s, take:

I first learnt about The Food Store as I was fast-forwarding through the ads on the Food Channel.  Up pops a tattooed bloke, gesturing wildly (I was fast-forwarding) with the viaduct in the background.  I rewound, sat through the whole ad and said to The Man, “We have to go there” and 5 days later we did.

The Food Store is the brain child of Julie Christie (CEO of Eyeworks) and was open for its 30th night when our dinner group passed through its groovy red doors into a chic, modern, white restaurant, with hip young staff and gorgeous views of the water.  The ‘piece de resistance’ which caused us to pause and gape is the open kitchen that runs along the back of the restaurant where the chefs prepare your order, completely accessible and transparent to us all.  If that isn’t a good enough view there are TV screens covering their every move so you can watch your culinary masterpieces being created. This place and oozes COOL.

Victoria and Mark

The two stars of the show are Wylie-Dean Hodgkinson – (tattooed bloke) who has a long illustrious career including a stint in LA as Chef to the Stars.  Some previous clients include Sylvester Stallone, Ashley Judd (The Man was impressed) and Mickey Rourke (pre-plastic surgery Mickey, that is).  And Mark Southon who trained in several Michelin Star restaurants (read impressive) in Europe and worked in  the  Melbourne scene before coming to New Zealand.  Here, he is better known for his time at The French Cafe.

The menu and the wine list celebrate all things New Zealand.  It’s a very balanced and exciting menu where all dishes can be ordered in starter or main size.  The five of us ordered 10 dishes to share and chose our own wines (I had the Moet).   We gobbled our way through smoked venison, octopus Carpaccio, Akaroa salmon, pan fried haloumi cheese and aged rump steak to name a few.

The surprise winner

We ‘oooed’ and we ’ahhed’, we loved every dish but the unanimous ‘surprise winner award’ (an award we made up of course) went to the Potato & Goat’s Curd Gnocchi with cherry tomato, basil, pistachio and rocket.   This dish was deeply tasty; the gnocchi was light and worked well with the pistachios and rocket.  There were also some delectable crumbed baby artichokes on top but the cherry tomatoes were a winner … sweet, smoky, slightly dried and made my mouth zing.  How can you take something I have in my fridge and create such flavour?!

We also had every dessert on the menu including a huge cheese board (I love cheese).  Again we ‘ooohed’, we ‘ahhhed’, we ‘ooohed’ some more (probably a bit louder this time as the wine was kicking in) and all were dee-eee-lish!

Wylie-Dean and a satiated Victoria

Wylie-Dean gave us a tour of the kitchen including detailed descriptions of every shiny contraption we laid eyes on and, along with Mark, spent time sharing with us their vision for The Food Store.  These guys are passionate and quite evangelical about what they are creating here.  We were almost swept away by the tsunami of their excitement (thankfully we were held down by our full tummies!).

Pop this link www.thefoodstore.tv in your Favourites as the guys have some innovative projects about to be released.

Firstly, Home Meal Replacement: This will allow you to select anything you like from the menu. The food will come pre-prepared and gorgeously packaged but not completely cooked so you can finish off at home and ‘abracdabra’, you have gorgeous restaurant quality food on your table.  What a great idea for an impromptu dinner party.

Secondly, The Interactive Cooking Table: This is where you and your friends can join the chefs in the kitchen and can cook anything you’d like.  You can choose from The Food Store menu or even bring in your own recipes.  You then get to dine on your own creations.

As I watched Wylie-Dean on the Food Channel, he said “We are not in the business of cooking dishes, we are in the business of creating memories.  If you do something right, it’s the memory of that dish that lives on in someone’s mind.  That’s how you know you’ve hit your mark.”    Well, The Food Store team, you have certainly hit your mark.

Food price guide:  Starters $21.00 – $25.00, Mains $32 – $38.00, Dessert $12.00 – $14.00

The Food Store, Market Square Viaduct Harbour, phone 09 3770125

7 courses at Meredith’s – mmmm

Most New Year’s resolutions are about losing weight, getting that dream promotion or giving up some unbeneficial habits.  But my husband and I (gosh I sound like the Queen) and some fab friends decided that in 2011 we are going to eat our way through all of Auckland’s degustation menus.  Maybe a resolution for 2012 will be losing weight??

We started with gusto at Meredith’s on Dominion Road, Mt Eden Valley.  This is not the first time I have been to Meredith’s, and I love it.  The black exterior hides an intimate and subtly classy restaurant, separated into three dining rooms.  The restaurant seats 40 people, which makes one feel like one of the lucky people who got in.

Meredith’s opened in October 2007 and is the creation of the blushingly cute, Michael Meredith, who made his name at The Grove.  (See review of The Grove here >>>)

On Saturday and Sunday evenings they only serve their degustation menu and there’s normally a waiting list.  Tuesday to Thursday they serve a limited a la carte menu as well as two different tasting menus that look divine and we will be back to try.

Course 1: smoked duck & beetroot meringue

We arrived and were warmly greeted and seated by Anna where our waiter for the evening, Brad, took over.  Brad is professional, delightful, very knowledgeable about the menu and the wine and never seems to stop moving.

Meredith’s degustation is 7 courses starting with smoked duck and beetroot meringue perfectly paired with Chateau Belingard Monbazillac 07 from Bordeaux.  It’s not usual to have a dessert wine for an appetiser but it perfectly complements the sweet meringue.  When I see beetroots at the green grocer and ponder “What to do with them?”  I do not see this dish!  The light and fluffy beetroot meringues become the hamburger buns of the dish with the duck filling in between.  This was Michael Meredith’s personal pick of the menu, playing on the “traditional Kiwi experience – just like eating a hamburger” (in his own words, of course!).

Victoria’s favourite: hen’s egg, ham & pea.

My personal favourite dish was described as ‘Hen’s Egg, Ham and Pea’.  I was excited to see what they would do with such simple ingredients and was not disappointed.  Out comes a large white dish with ham-hock stock and tapioca floating around the bottom, topped with a boiled egg.  And not just any boiled egg, this egg is boiled for 50 minutes at a precise temperature of 66˚C … such love for an egg.   On top of said

egg are freeze-dried peas (apparently there is only one bloke in New Zealand who has the technology to do this – who knew!), crispy ham bits and pea shoots.  The flavours were deep and rich and made my palate sing.  The 09 Valli Old Vine Riesling in its dry style was a contrasting pairing designed to cut across the saltiness of the dish, which I personally liked.

Course 7: dark chocolate, banana, cashew & coconut.

We then journeyed our way through five more savoury dishes (including a gorgeous cerviche) before the menu concluded with a loud crescendo described as ‘dark chocolate, banana, cashew and coconut’, such an understated description.  This dish is sublimely matched with the  Milton Clos Samuel Viognier 07 from New Zealand’s first certified organic wine maker, James Milton of The Milton Vineyard.  This creation comes out on a wee rimu board designed by Michael (is there nothing he can’t do?!).  It has a coconut reduction swished over the bottom, topped with peanuts, chocolate and more chocolate gorgeousness.  It is accompanied with a banoffe foam,  banoffe ice-cream and other artistic creations .  The banoffe foam is like a banoffe pie wrapped up in a cloud – de-ee-vine!

If the food, wine, ambiance and professional staff weren’t enough, Michael came out to meet us and have a wee chat  – crikey he really is cute.  The entire evening was delightful from beginning to end. We ate for over three hours and left completely stuffed and content.

Degustation for two $220.00 and wine pairing for two $140.00.

Meredith’s Restaurant, 365 Dominion Road Mt Eden Valley.  Phone 623-3140.

Web www.merediths.co.nz

– Victoria Davy