Category: Reviews,Events | Post by: Andrea Wong
Visa Wellington On A Plate (VWOAP) has a whole raft of meals and events during the two weeks of foodie heaven. Perhaps the most secret of all events was the pop-up dinner for two nights only earlier this week, called WLG at the Old Rialto Cinema Building (Jervois Quay).
The idea is actually a dry-run for a two week pop up restaurant in Sydney also called WLG opening next month to help promote Wellington as a travel destination (tell your Sydney-sider mates!). I'm more than happy to be a guinea pig for the pop up concept, just quietly.
VWOAP used this event to see how effective social media and word of mouth would be, to create a buzz around the pop up restaurant. Bookings were initially limited to a select segment of their newsletter database, with their allocated places booked out within an hour of the newsletter being sent! The remainder of the seats were promoted through Facebook and Twitter. This resulted in two full nights at WLG... such is the power of social media and word of mouth!
The location of the Sydney restaurant is a bit of a mystery still, although the Sydney bloggers that I was with, in particular John, grilled one of the organisers to try and guess where it will be. If wonder if his guess will be correct?
We were seated at a shared table set for 12 people, our group taking up 10 of those spots. I feel sorry for the couple that shared the table with us, especially if they were after a romantic dinner out.
Being a temporary restaurant, the decor did have that temporary feeling, trestle tables covered with white table cloths and plain bench seats. I liked it. It wouldn't feel right if it was perfectly finished, the temporary-ness reinforced the feeling of a secret little gem.
The concept of this pop up restaurant is for $29 a head, you will share an entree platter between two people and then choose between three mains and dessert and coffee to finish.
Entree arrived laden with Lot 8 spiced olives; salmon gravlax with New Zealand wasabi panna cotta; venison carpaccio with horseradish cream; and fried goat's cheese with manuka honey and feijoa chutney.
Perhaps I was not being attentive enough in reading the menu, because I took a spoonful of the panna cotta and immediately thought "wasabi!". It tasted a lot better paired with its partner, the salmon gravlax.
The stand-out of the entrees for me, however was the fried goat's cheese. It had the tang of a goat's cheese but without the intensity that you often get with using this kind of milk. But what I found interesting, being seated amongst Australians, was that they were all intrigued by the feijoa.
Most of them were unfamiliar with the fruit. It's funny how something so
quintessentially Kiwi, that is grown by so many of us, is almost
unknown to our Aussie cousins. Nevertheless, they seemed to enjoy it
although the texture put one of my blogging mates off a bit.
Our choice of mains was basically fish, beef or vegetarian. That doesn't sound so exciting but it sounds d'lish if I describe it as roasted groper (hapuka) with Marlborough mussels, clams and green pea stew; horopito seasoned beef with slow roasted tomato, beans and extra virgin pomme puree; or Wairarapa wild mushroom risotto with grana padana.
I opted for the beef and enjoyed the meal although I found the mashed potatoes a bit gluey and the beans over seasoned. I think one of the hazards with catering like this where a lot of the meal is pre-prepared, is that the quality of the food can slip a little. However, I understand that the Sydney version will have its own kitchen so this shouldn't be an issue there.
Mojo coffee bruleé with Whittaker's chocolate mousse were our sweet treats for dessert. Creme bruleé is one of most favourite desserts of all time! So I think that you can imagine how happy I was to see that it was going to be the dessert... and spiked with coffee, fantastic! It was creamy with a glorious coffee flavour and a generous amount of bruleé on top. Heaven.
The Whittaker's chocolate mousse was very rich and dense, just as well there wasn't too much of it!
With a few refinements, I think that the Sydney WLG pop up restaurant will work well. While I didn't get much of a sense of Wellington-ness from the test run, if they include little touches like little cards with explanations of the ingredients, decor and music, it would make the whole experience gel. It is then that patrons would understand that this is little slice of Wellington in Sydney.
Thanks to Postively Wellington Tourism for hosting me for the opening weekend of Visa Wellington On A Plate.