22 August 2011

Wellington on a Plate 2011: DINE Wellington roundup

As I said last time, I haven't gotten as much Wellington on a Plate action this year. I had such high hopes, plotting out which set lunches and dinners I wanted to try on the little calendar I keep at my desk. And then, bam! It was suddenly the last week of Wellington on a Plate and I hadn't made any lunch or dinner reservations as planned, and time was running out.

Luckily I had a couple of lunch dates last week as well as a food bloggers' dinner at Fratelli on Friday night (I have to apologise for the grainy photos, some of which were taken on my phone... I was more focused on eating this time around!):

Burger Wellington: Smith the Grocer

A friend and I ended up at Smith the Grocer after our first Burger Wellington choice for a quick & informal Lambton-area lunch, Astoria, was sold out of their burger* (it wasn't even 1pm!). Some hasty phone research and quick eliminations ("do you think we would've needed a booking?", "hmm, their burger sounds pretty standard") led us to Old Bank Arcade where there was plenty of room for us to sit and burgers were coming out of the kitchen left and right.

Smith the Grocer's offering for Burger Wellington was a Moroccan lamb burger ($17.90): a spiced Wairarapa lamb patty with the usual lettuce, tomato & cheese, in a Pandoro bun. Though there were a few things that could've been better (I wished the cheese was on top of the patty rather than underneath, the patty could've been juicier, the bread was a little on the dry side), it satisfied my burger craving and eased the initial panic that set in after we couldn't get a burger at Astoria ("where else around here does burgers?" "...BK?"). The tzatziki that came on the side good and we both ended up smearing some inside the burger. And although the fries weren't crinkle cut (as per the menu) they were nice and crispy and I was perfectly happy finishing them off (er, almost!).

*my friend went back the next day and said Astoria's burger was worth going back again for. Sadly, I missed out on it this time. But you can read about it on Delaney's burger blog here

Smith the Grocer
Old Bank Arcade
233-237 Lambton Quay
Wellington CBD
0800 764 843

Open Mon-Fri 7:30am-5pm; Sat 10am-4pm; Sun 10am-3pm

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Burger Wellington: Bisque on Bolton

A couple days later I was back on the burgers, this time at Bisque on Bolton in the Bolton Hotel, conveniently located across the street from my work (no rushing back down Lambton Quay on a full stomach that day!). Aside from the location, I was really excited to try Bisque's burger: the promise of paua fritter and crayfish mayonnaise was great.

"Pāuā for the People" ($22), a paua fritter with crayfish mayonnaise and salad greens, was good but there were a few things that detracted from its potential awesomeness. The fritter was tasty but was almost drowned out by the bap it arrived in (a bit dry) and the robust salad greens and tomato (a bit slippery). The crayfish mayonnaise was delicious, but most of it seemed to have soaked into the bread. I probably would've been happier deconstructing this one and eating the paua fritter with some of that crayfish mayo slathered on top. In fact, I'd happily pop back over the road if that was ever on offer at lunchtime.

The other thing I'd totally go back for were the kumara fries that came with the burger. Not your all-too-common soggy, greasy kumara fries, these. These were gloriously crispy on the outside and smooth and creamy and kumara-sweet on the inside. Some people don't like kumara fries. I am not one of those people. But I don't think it's just because I have a soft spot for kumara fries that I thought these were fantastic. If only these appeared on Bisque's regular menu... I can keep dreaming, though. 

Bisque on Bolton
Bolton Hotel
Corner of Bolton & Mowbray Streets
Wellington CBD
(04) 462 3770

Open for breakfast: Mon-Fri 6:30-10am / weekends and public holidays 7-11am; lunch: Mon-Fri 12-2pm; dinner: 7 days 6-9:30pm

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DINE Wellington: Fratelli

On Friday evening a lovely group of food bloggers and other food-type people met up for dinner at Fratelli. It was pretty funny seeing this come together: Andrea suggested it on Twitter as she was going to be in town, there was much to-ing and fro-ing on venue choice, lighting, a Twitter hashtag (#woapfbd) was born, and eventually Rosa took charge and booked us in at Fratelli.

I'd never been there before (for reasons perhaps not entirely logical or fair, I always seem to overlook the bars and restaurants on Blair and Allen streets) but was pretty excited about the $70 three-course set menu (with matching wines, of course) they had on offer. Not to mention spending an evening with the likes of these lovely ladies.

For my entree, I chose the Wairarapa beef cheek ravioli in Napolitana sauce with basil & Kapiti parmesan. I don't want to say it tasted predictable, but it tasted exactly as it should: the beef was tender, the pasta perfectly cooked, the tomato sauce just the right thickness and just enough cheese sprinkled on top to add a bit of a nutty bite. Thoroughly enjoyable.

The pan-fried fish* with celeriac puree, sauteed prawns, shaved fennel & cavolo nero was stunning (and a much more manageable portion than poor Andrea's** enormous veal shank!). The fish was perfectly seasoned, perhaps a shade overcooked for my liking but otherwise I couldn't fault the dish; it was gone in no time. I especially loved the contrast of the meaty fish, the robust cavolo nero (by far one of my favourite greens) and the smooth celeriac puree. I'll be cooking something like this at home soon.

For dessert I chose the trio of gelati and completely neglected to photograph it. To be honest, I was far more interested in tasting each of the flavours: pistachio, passionfruit & salted caramel. Each one was beautiful but I'd have to say my favourite was the pistachio, with little bits of nut (salted caramel was a close second, though!). Amazing.

Overall it was a very enjoyable dinner, and the company was just as good as the food (if not better!). The rest of the menu looked good too: I'll definitely be back.

*and here I show my total lack of attention at what fish they were using that day: I was too swept up in the conversation and in how absolutely delicious this was.

**she had come from a full day of the Fisher & Paykel Masterclass... a marathon day of food, to say the least!

15 Blair St
Wellington CBD
(04) 801 6615

Open for dinner Mon-Sat, 5:30pm onward.

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hungryandfrozen said...

I like the new layout! And the new blog post!

That dinner was so good, the fact that we ordered the exact same thing is making me reminisce hungrily.

Never been to Bisque before but hear many good things about them, the fact that they know their way around a kumara fry is a good sign!

Millie @ Gusty Gourmet said...

Funny that you ordered the same things - clearly a sign that great minds think alike! Bisque is good, I've been there once before and the food was delicious :)

AnneE said...

Oh dear, I see my Twitterless state is letting me down again and I MISSED this lovely food-bloggy feast! But actually after pigging out all week I probably couldn't have coped (see http://somethingelsetoeat.blogspot.com) Saw you in the paper, Millie...(heh heh) - greaty stuff!

Millie @ Gusty Gourmet said...

Anne - yes, I was definitely overwhelmed after having eaten too much towards the end of last week. But still, it was good! You seem to have been eating well from the sounds of it ;)