I've been absent from the blog for a while, mostly because I've been away on holiday in beautiful Tonga. The only downside to the trip was that whilst swimming with whales I managed to destroy my camera... in any other circumstances I would have been pretty sad, but the whales (2 males and 1 female humpback) were so breathtaking that the loss of a camera seemed fairly minor. Until I find a replacement I'll be trying to use E's camera for reviews, which I'm not so confident about... we'll see.
Before we left, we were lucky enough to have lunch with friends at Logan Brown. Lured in by the promise of a $35 set lunch as part of the Wellington on a Plate festival, we had narrowed it down to the White House, Martin Bosley's, and Logan Brown, and eventually settled on the latter: its central location fit our time constraints better. And, the day of our lunch we learned that Logan Brown had been named Supreme Winner & Best Smart Dining Metropolitan in Cuisine Magazine's Restaurant of the Year Awards - their review here.
The Wellington on a Plate lunch menu, as far as I can tell, is the same as Logan Brown's regular bistro menu ($39.50, available for tables vacated before 7:30), with a glass of Palliser Estate Riesling. Of course, the bistro menu is likely to change, but here's what we had:
For the entree, there was a choice of a Spanish onion tart with chevre, beets and chorizo or a smoked fish cake with gribiche and prawn beignet (pictured).
The fish cake was soft, almost creamy, and the gribiche sauce pleasant, but the real standout in this one was the prawn beignet: a succulent prawn encased in a thin layer of deep-fried dough.
For the main course, there was a choice of wild venison osso buco with parsnip puree, cavolo nero and gremolata and the pancetta wrapped monkfish with soft organic polenta and tomato fondue.
E had the venison, and I managed to sneak a bite of the tender braised meat (and E most generously donated most of the cavolo nero to me as it's one of my favourite greens). Definitely rustic comfort food, this one - and I wouldn't be surprised if a less elegantly presented version came out of my kitchen on a blustery spring day sometime soon.
I had the monkfish, which had a firm, meaty texture offset by the creamy polenta and green beans. If you're a fan of flakier fish species then the monkfish may not be for you, but I quite enjoyed it. The tomato topping had a couple of capers lurking in there - as you might be able to tell from the photo.
The mains were both pretty tasty but R pointed out that they tasted a bit undersalted. I agreed - perhaps a bit more levels of flavour could have been brought out by a tad more salt, but then again, my tastebuds are probably skewed because I tend to use a lot of salt in my cooking (maybe I need to pare this down a bit!). We thought it would have been nice to have a bit of salt and pepper available on the table, though this raised a discussion of whether this would be changing the essence of the chef's creation - this post from Becks and Posh sums it up quite well.
By contrast, the truffled fries with reggiano parmesan ($11 lg/$8 sm) we ordered additionally to the set menu were quite generously salted and topped with a heap of freshly shaved parmesan.
Ordering the fries was a good call on R's part because we were all hungry that day, and of course fine dining establishments tend to practice "quality over quantity." (Strangely, though, after 3 courses, bread, wine and coffee I was more full than I normally am upon leaving a restaurant)
Back to the set menu: for dessert the options were the baked organic vanilla custard with cherry compote and almond sable and churros con chocolate.
I had the custard, and it was probably my favourite part of the meal: smooth and creamy, reminiscent of the interior of a creme brulee but thicker and more decadent, yet not stiflingly rich.
The cherry topping provided a juicy, tart contrast to all the creaminess and in my mind it couldn't have been better.
I have a fond place in my heart for churros - as a kid in Chicago I used to get the crunchy, sugar-coated fried dough sticks at theme parks, baseball games, and anywhere I could lay my hands on them. There, they were almost always filled with chocolate or some variation of a vibrant-red artificial strawberry filling and left in the glass-fronted warmer until they got kind of dried out, which I liked because it made them extra crunchy. Logan Brown's version is perhaps more true to the Spanish variety, served with a rich shot of hot chocolate for dunking. These were light and airy, the interior toeing the fine line that separates "soft" and "mushy" (maybe a little too close to mushy for me?).
It's easy to see why Logan Brown wowed the Cuisine Magazine judges: the dishes seemed well thought-out, the plating artfully done, and service impeccable. The interior of the restaurant, in an old Bank of New Zealand building, is at once classic and contemporary (and I would LOVE to have dinner one day in the upstairs private dining area). But I can't really say it's the best restaurant I've ever been to - maybe it was the salt thing, or maybe it was something about the atmosphere - ambient jazz just feels a bit too cliche for a contemporary metropolitan setting, perhaps? In any case, I'm glad I went, and enjoyed the lunch thoroughly.
192 Cuba St (Corner of Cuba & Vivian)
Open 7 nights for dinner, Mon-Fri from 12pm for lunch