30 November 2010

Duke Carvell's

It's a little weird resurrecting months-old skeletons of blog posts. But after looking through the photos for this one I couldn't not share it with you. (Plus, it's sort of timely - Wellington on a Plate was in the news yesterday!)

So back in August, during Wellington on a Plate, I had made it my mission to get to as many Dine 2010 set lunches as possible, after not nabbing tickets to several of my top events (note to self, book earlier next time!). Duke Carvell's was one of the ones I wanted to try, mainly because I had heard good things about their Burger Wellington entry.

We went on a weekend on the cusp of lunch-time; everyone around us was eating eggs and brunch-y things I was majorly envious of.* But we were there for another reason: the $25 Dine 2010 set lunch and Duke's Ali Baa Baa Burger.

But all hesitations about eating a burger for my first meal of the day flew out the window when I was presented with this: pulled lamb shoulder, fried Kefalograviera cheese (yeah, I had to look it up too), beetroot hummus, pickled cucumber and a generous pile of rocket on warm Turkish bread.

It was glorious - the Mediterraneanesque flavours melding together with each mouthful, the lamb tender and flavourful, the beetroot lending an earthy softness and the pickled cucumber adding a crunchy bite. It pretty quickly put a stop to my breakfast-envy and replaced it with a (dare I say it?) certain smug satisfaction that I'd ordered the best thing of all.

Meanwhile, E had ordered the metze platter - which was, in essence, a deconstructed version of my burger, plus marinated eggplant.

It was interesting to see and taste each component on its own. The pulled lamb shoulder was a highlight, easily holding its own outside of the burger.

The marinated eggplant was bathed in a tzatziki-ish yoghurt sauce, and I got to eat most of them since E thinks he doesn't like eggplant (one day he'll see the light). They were cold and slimy (by nature I suppose), and I thought they could have used a bit more salt, but together with the cool creamy sauce I found myself gobbling them down pretty quickly.

As part of E's $25 set lunch we got this exquisitely presented affogato. I loved the little metal jug the espresso came in, the visible flecks of vanilla bean and the pool of Amaretto liqueur surrounding the ice cream.

We ceremoniously poured the hot coffee onto the ice cream, watching it melt into a sweet, strong, coffee-y liquid that I could drink gallons of if I knew it wasn't made mostly of ice cream, caffeine and alcohol. (Or maybe I would, anyway.)

Okay, the dessert:food photo ratio is getting a little out of control now. But it was really that beautiful, kind of reminiscent of one of those layered shots that are never a good idea the next morning, or those bottles of sand art you find at kitschy souvenir shops or kids make at summer camp.*

But my favourite part of all must have been these tiny almond biscotti amaretti (thanks for the clarification Mrs Cake!!). They were light and airy, the perfect size for dunking, and crunchy enough that they didn't soak up too much liquid either.

Duke Carvell's has been a favoured spot of mine for a little while now, both for weekend brunches and evening meals (generally served tapas-style, and 2 for 1 on Mondays!). And from looking at their website it seems they've added both these Wellington on a Plate features - the burger and the metze platter - to their usual lunch menu. Which is great news, because after writing up this post I'm ready for another one of those burgers.

Duke Carvell's Swan Lane Emporium
6 Swan Lane (off Cuba St, behind Floriditas)

(04) 385 2240


Open Mon-Fri: 12pm-late, Sat & Sun: 9am-late

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* and for good reason. They have some good brunch food.
** sand art?! Really?! It must be getting late. Must get some sleep....

28 November 2010

Hippopotamus Restaurant

I can't believe how hideously long this blog has laid stagnant. For anyone out there who really wants to know (otherwise just skip ahead), since moving into a new place a couple months ago I've been living (mostly) without internet and TV. At first it was strange, and I didn't know what to do with my time, but then it felt a bit like being on holiday, the days stretched into weeks, and all of a sudden it's the end of November. So here I am, reviving this old thing.

Anyway this post dates back to pre-hiatus times, so I'll do my best to recall. It's from (gasp, yes it has been that long) the Wellington on a Plate $35 set lunch at Hippopotamus restaurant in the Museum Hotel.

I was super excited about the booking I'd made for this lunch, and had hightailed it across town on my lunch break to make it there.

Before our meals we were brought these gorgeous little bread rolls and butter, a lovely surprise. The roll was perfectly round, at once chewy and soft, and I had to restrain myself from taking another one when we were offered more.

For his entree E ordered the salmon carpaccio with shaved Wairarapa fennel and red onion salad, drizzled with tomato and citrus salsa. I was especially excited to see little baby pea shoots adorning the dish, a delicate hint of the (at that time) coming spring.

I had the Kapiti Kikorangi tortellini with creamed leek and walnut froth. Kikorangi is probably my favourite blue cheese, and it paired dreamily with the nutty flavours of the sauce. And again, those delightful little pea shoots.

While I had my sights set on dessert, E opted for a main as his second course, the sirloin steak with port wine jus, fries and mesclun salad. No fancy ingredients for this one, just simply, beautifully executed.

I couldn't resist stealing a bite of the steak. Cooked to a beautiful medium rare, it was juicy and tender, complemented perfectly by the jus.

I was even less bashful about stealing some of E's fries, perhaps the best fries I've ever tasted - incredibly smooth, almost creamy on the inside, with a crispy exterior.

But the highlight for me was definitely this exquisitely presented traditional apple tarte tatin, with vanilla ice cream and toffee sauce. Like the steak and fries, this was hard to beat - there's nothing quite like the basics done well. The pastry was flaky and tender, the apple caramelised to a deep russet colour, the ice cream melting into the hot toffee sauce.

Before we knew it, my lunch hour was over and it was time to haul myself back across town. While it's a bit of a splurge, I know I'll be back (perhaps for their high tea!).

Hippopotamus Restaurant
Level 3, Museum Hotel
90 Cable St

(04) 802 8935

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