Wednesday, September 20, 2006

More eating in Wellington

Land of the long white cloud maybe, but to me New Zealand could be renamed the land of the long corn fritter (with a crisp white wine on the side). Fritters, fritters, fritters – what is it with the Kiwi’s and their desire to encapsulate random vegetables in a batter and cook it up like some kind of savoury pikelet? In 5 days I had beetroot, chickpea, fetta and mint fritters (all in the same little patty, surprisingly nicer than it sounds) and sampled 3 different corn fritters of varying quality – from doughy to crispy.









Corn fritters with a great salad at The Flying Fish Café, Martinborough.





To balance this out there were plentiful local sauvignon blancs to be tasted. For balance, some good reds as well.















A Wairarapa sauv blanc as the sun goes down, The White Swan, Greytown.



As I have mused before, eating in Wellington can be variable. This time was no exception. I took a punt on an eatery, named after 2 opposing compass points, that was so bad I wouldn’t know where to start critiquing it. As I ate my way around Wellington and the Wairarapa there were also frequent servings of dishes that bore little resemblance to it’s menu description – aioli which was chutney and yoghurt, shitake spring rolls without a hint of mushroom of any sort, a macchiato made with steamed milk…But in fairness it is time to heap some praise on a local establishment that has been serving very happy Wellingtonians for the past 15 years.

The Boulcott Street Bistro resides in a local landmark, a 19th century peaked roof cottage on a steep road leading into the CBD. The first hurdle was the fact that this popular establishment takes no booking. It was a cold night and the outline of happy diners could be glanced though the condensation fogged front windows. Inside the place was buzzing and cosy. Despite getting there within 45 minutes of opening the restaurant was almost full and we were placed up the narrow stairs in the private dinning room in the attic. Each time the wind blew the windows rattled and the little wooden building shook. The night before there had been an earthquake and the movement unsettled me a little. But with pre-dinner drinks efficiently dispensed and an excellent bottle of Spy Valley merlot opened, we relaxed into the experience.

The menu is described as ‘modern bistro’. Francophile food is not the best choice for the dairy intolerant, but I was pleasantly surprised by the fare on offer. The special of the day was whitebait, which made my heart sing. “Real” whitebait, little worms of the waterways, are boneless morsels which bear no resemblance to the little fish sold by that name in Australia. As a child I spent a chilly day standing in a river with a distant cousin catching the tiny critters, which makes me even more endeared towards them. Usually they are dished up in the ubiquitous national fritter, but the Boulcott Street Bistro wrapped them in a thin omelette with a hint of garlic making this the most delicious entrée I have eaten anywhere in recent memory.

For mains, the chef replaced the mash for steamed, small gourmet potatoes to make a cream-free dish of mahi mahi on a bed of mushrooms and spinach – making it still tasty but very healthy. Others opted for a classic steak with béarnaise sauce and chicken with green beans. Conversation slowed down as we ate - for once our fussy family had hit the jackpot. Some even had dessert. Their famous crème Brule was devoured and a pineapple sorbet made in house got 5 stars. At (NZ)$275, for 4 people eating 2 courses each, with wine and pre-dinner drinks, the Boulcott Street Bistro hit all the right marks, with high commendation to the waitress navigating those narrow stairs laden with plates with a smile on her face.

For more reviews of the good, the bad and the indifferent in Wellywood check out my previous post.

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