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.
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 …
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.
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
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– Victoria Davy