… asks Mr K as he’s unpacking his bag from a trip to NZ. Mind you, this trip goes back a couple of years now. I never expect gifts when someone comes back from overseas but I was surprised to see a couple of dvd’s that he brought home, dvd’s called “Hunger For The Wild.” Apparently this series was airing in New Zealand at the time and got Mr K interested enough to go out and pick them up.
Hunger For The Wild is a three-series foodie adventure following Steve Logan and Al Brown to the far corners of New Zealand as they traipse the countryside to gather and hunt with local identities, getting up to mischief and finish up each episode with a simple and tasty meal using fresh and seasonal produce.
This duo set up the now famed Logan Brown 14 years ago and take great pride in showcasing the wonderful local produce in a beautifully restored 1920’s bank chamber. The venue is nothing short of grand and sitting beneath the ornate cupola surrounded by arches and columns makes for a special, yet relaxed dining experience.
Progressing from our informative Te Papa visit we’re met by the gorgeous Ania, the International Marketing Co-ordinator for Positively Wellington Tourism, and take a relatively short walk up to Cuba Street for the classic menu put on by Logan Brown for WOAP.
The restaurant may prefer to view itself as being unfussy and unpretentious, but you just can’t help but get a sense polished professionalism in the entire package from the semi-formal table settings, warm and attentive service and overall air of the place. The lighting has a dim honeyed glow to it and is perfect for a romantic evening while schmoozing but for a table of camera-weilding bloggers it’s not as light-friendly.
To the wine – the pre-chosen Ata Rangi Sauvignon Blanc that comes with our set menu is a fine choice and having the option to also choose a red from the list exposes a heavily populated local wine selection and a decent bunch of internationals. I’m no wine expert but I can’t help but be impressed by the choices.
We begin with the obligatory sourdough roll and local (of course) extra virgin olive oil for plunging and on its heels comes a delicious “mouth amuser” of black bean soup slicked with sour cream and a few micro herbs.
Choice of entrée comes in two forms and I can’t go past the smoked fish cake with prawn beignet. The fish cake component is very smokey in flavour and incredibly soft and with the snap-fried prawn it makes for a tasty entrée. The dollop of gribiche (mayo made using hard-boiled eggs & mustard) and zingy lemon oil complete the story nicely.
The other choice is a portabello mushroom tart with porcini cream and wild rocket leaves. I didn’t get to try this one but it presented well and had positive feedback from those that ate it.
Between entrée and main came an unexpected item that has been on the regular menu for 14 years. Paua ravioli. Paua (abalone) is something I’ve previously had only a couple of times, the last of which was also in New Zealand more than a decade ago in Mount Maunganui.
That experience wasn’t a crash-hot one as the paua fritters I ordered in The Mount were full of fine sandy grit. Here at Logan Brown it looks like wonton wrappers make the ravioli, I could be wrong, and the minced paua is laced with coriander, basil and lime beurre blanc. It truly is delicious and I can see how there’d be a collective uproar if this was ever removed from the menu. Definitely no grit here!
The main event also has two choices and seeing I started with seafood I thought a bit of belly action was in order. The sweet spice braised pork belly is as tender and fatty as it should be, a little on the lighter side of the portion scales and the crackling is good enough to send jolts through the mouth when crunching into it. I really loved the apple sauerkraut and buttery garlic mash that came with.
The other main option is a macadamia crusted tarakihi with warm artichoke salad and a caper beurre blanc. Sounds just as delicious but the pork won me over as it always does. Me likey swine! I understand tarakihi is a type of sea bream with a firm and sweet flesh. Side dishes come at an additional cost and the truffled fries with reggiano parmesan ($11) was screaming to be ordered even though I struggled to pick up on any truffle flavour. I still enjoyed them and it was a first for me to have parmesan on chips.
The lovely confit yams with pancetta & beechwood honeydew (8.5) reminded us Aussies of over-sized witchetty grubs in their bulbous shape and it looks like I didn’t photograph the broccolini with black bean vinaigrette ($9). I’ll let you use your imagination to visualise that one. Think broccolini, on a small plate, glistening in dressing.
On the dessert front there is a rather uninspiring baked organic vanilla custard topped with dark cherries & almond sablé but the winning choice seemed to be the golden raisin pie with a beautiful salted caramel icecream and rum syrup. Mmm, sweet and salty. I should have gone with the latter as the custard was just … how do I put this? Custard.
The Logan Brown experience is pretty much what I was expecting from a restaurant of this calibre. The food is beautiful and contemporary as is the décor and I like that the same passion for local produce that I saw while watching Hunger For The Wild translates into the menu at this top notch venue. These days head chef Shaun Clouston wears the big apron while Steve Logan is CEO of the biz and Al Brown remains a shareholding ambassador.
hnf dined at Logan Brown as a guest of Positively Wellington Tourism for Wellington On a Plate (WOAP)
Other posts from my Wellington On a Plate experience: