I glanced around my Museum Hotel room and did a visual check. Shirt is ironed. Shoes, not too pretty but fine for tonight. Jeans, relatively wrinkle free. Camera, charged. Hair, tidy and … is that another grey? I was organised and still had time to spare so I wandered downstairs to snap a few photo’s of the art in the lobby.
I whip around and see the smiling face of Rachel Taulelei of Yellow Brick Road, leaving the building in some killer heels on her way to Devour, the gala dinner that kicked off this years Wellington On a Plate. As Rachel dashes across the street I head back to my room and get changed as it was time to meet Billy and make our own way to this same event.
Stepping into the Chaffers Dock Building, home of the City Market, we realised we were some of the first guests to arrive. Rachel greets us and makes an introduction to Martin Bosley, one of the countries top chefs and the man that would be feeding us tonight. “You’re the bloggers from Sydney … you’re a bit early so why not fuck off back to Australia and come back later”. He quips with a cheeky sparkle in his eye.
This immediately put a smile on my face and as I looked over his shoulder into the open kitchen door, I spotted trays of massive snapper lined up ready for roasting. A perfect shot and one that I missed. My inner chef wanted to roll up his sleeves, tie on an apron and help these guys out – but hold on, I’m here to eat!
Having the space virtually to ourselves gave Billy and I time to go for a bit of a wander around this visual spectacle. The first thing to catch my eye is the lighting. Hanging from the lofty ceiling is a cluster of chandeliers and lanterns and at the rear a cascade of fairy lights turn a dark corner into a honey-coloured waterfall of light. Each of the tables is individually styled using products from market providores matched with props and fresh-cut flowers.
Two of the tables even have fresh oranges with guests names written on them and everywhere you look you see candlelight flickering against polished glassware. This truly is magical. I love how one entire wall is a chalkboard displaying the names of each of the guests under the tables providore title.
It didn’t take long for guests to start arriving and gathering and the light hum of people turned into a friendly bustle. The ever-smiling Shelly Foster shucked Te Matuku Bay oysters and offered them au naturel, with mignonette dressing or with a squeeze of lemon. Beautiful. Shucked with speed, precision and expertise.
Platters of canapés glided through the shuffle of people … petite portions of oxtail tortellini with horseradish mousse and pressed chicken terrine with walnut mayo came spooned-up and ready to go and free-standing avocado tartlets with mandarin and coconut powder had me going back for seconds.
Once seated at out Le Canard-themed table we have a little time to settle before our mouths are amused by a delicious Le Canard duck soup topped with a crunchy crostini and silky duck liver mousse. Come on guys, dish up paté like this and expect us not to protest for more? Simple gorgeousness.
Minutes later we have a smoked fish brandade sitting atop a mallowy cushion of celeriac panna cotta and artistically scattered with crunchy rye breadcrumbs. A bright angular smear of sweet corn emulsion cuts a swathe across the plate and is speckled by a few micro herbs. It’s all very easy on the eye but the overall texture is way too soft for me. Those crumbs just didn’t provide enough crunch and I’m thinking they could have come in the form of crostini or anything else with a bit of resistance.
What happened next was pure food theatre. Platters of roast Northland snapper are speedily carried through the tables and it was great just watching the Mexican wave of turning heads as the fish filtered to each table. Sitting proudly upright, the snapper bares deep golden slashes revealing the milky white flesh beneath and its forward-facing pectoral fins made it look as if it’s wading through the Cloudy Bay clams & XO butter sauce.
Helen and I both dive in for the supple cheeks and the eyes, and as we do so a platter of roasted beef fillet with anchoide is dropped at the other end of the table. The beef is perfectly crimson and matches nicely with the anchoide, an emulsion of olive oil, anchovies, garlic and egg. Vegetable sides of homely cauliflower gratin, steamed broccoli in black olive butter and Agria potatoes tossed in Martin Bosleys’ own Vadouvan spice mix. The food is rustic, generous and unfussy.
As we tuck into our share-platters of food we’re treated with the talent of New Zealand tenor Benjamin Makisi and later he is joined by two others to form The Three Pacific Tenors. They belt our a few operatic tunes and my favourite had to be a rendition of Nessun Dorma.
Dessert came in the form of feijoa Turkish delight, borek fingers and little squares of Esque chocolate. The feijoa is something I couldn’t get my tastebuds around with its menthol/eucalyptus flavour but the cheese board to follow was definitely speaking my dialect. I loved every one of them right down to the last stinky piece.
Thanks for great night and my newly developed puku!
hnf attended at Devour as a guest of Positively Wellington Tourism for Wellington On a Plate (WOAP)
Other posts from my Wellington On a Plate experience: