Category: Reviews | Post by: Andrea Wong
It poured down with a brief, monster shower on the way in to Taste of New Zealand yesterday and I was envisaging having to eat our fine dining dishes out in the rain, the plates covered with a puddle of rain (or fresh water jus?!). While the rain did continue to stop and start all evening, the punters at Taste seemed to enjoy themselves all the same.
While I was waiting for Mr H by the front gate, I bought my Crowns (the currency of the event and is required to buy the tasting plates. 1 Crown = $1) and people watched. There were people like me, who dressed for the weather and muddy field - jeans, jacket, sturdy shoes. But there were even more people, I'm thinking of the ladies here, who donned nice dresses and heels. One girl even wore expensive-looking colourful suede wedge sandals. I wonder how they looked after a few minutes in the mud? But hey, I'm no fashion reporter... let's get to the food!
Mr H was "starving hungry" so I pointed him in the direction of the meat-heavy Marvel Grill stand. He quickly purchased a petite steak sandwich: grilled sirloin on ciabatta with Kapiti blue cheese, caramelised onions and watercress (8 Crowns). At the end of the night, this still rated as one of our top dishes.
As we wandered into each restaurant area, we had a look at what everyone was eating. It's obvious that some places were better value than others, so choose wisely if you want value for money. Next up, Mr H and and sampled Monsoon Poon's South Indian venison curry (12 Crowns). This dish and their Vietnamese duck summer rolls (1 roll, cut up for 10 Crowns) didn't seem like good value to me. The curry sure packed a flavour punch but we found that the spices overwhelmed the flavour of the meat.
One of my new favourite cuts of meat is beef cheek, so I made a bee-line for the James stall to sample the Mahy Farms beef cheek with carrot mash and Pedro Ximenez jus (10 Crowns). The beef was tender and flavourful and the carrot mash deliciously sweet!
If, or rather when, you get thirsty, there's no shortage of drinks to choose from: wine galore, beer, cider and non-alcoholic drinks available. What to choose, what to choose? A St Josephs beer from Moa Brewing Company, it was. Mr H enjoyed this immensely.
As we walked around the park, heading to our next restaurant destination we took in the sights and samples from the stall holders. The new-to-me product that I discovered at Taste was Aroha Drinks - elderflower-based drinks with elderflowers sourced from the wild around Canterbury. Other exciting stalls were from the crew at Stolen Rum, Salesh Delicatessen and Andre's Kitchen.
There were cooking demonstrations going on all over the park too. Hunt down the marquees of the Malaysian Kitchen, F&P Chefs' Kitchen, Audi, Regal Salmon and Farmers' Markets for some tips and a bit of a sit-down. Or if you have ever had a burning question for a chef, head over to the Chefs' Table where you can have your chance to have a nice chat and get that question answered.
And if you get your timing right, you can also get to see one of the headlining names of Taste: Rick Stein and Gary Rhodes. My timing was way off and I didn't see either of them - what a shame.
Unfortunately for all of us last night, the weather wasn't kind to us. The frequent showers had us crowded under the restaurant marquees and the few umbrellas over the tables. It's a shame that the area by the bandstand didn't have cover because Nathan Haines was playing but no one - including myself - felt like sitting on wet seats to pause and listen to his great music.
Taste of New Zealand is a great way to sample some of the great restaurants that we have, all in one spot. District Dining has opened in Britomart recently to rave reviews and I was keen to have a wee taste. Mr H got the black vinegar glazed pork belly with bbq prawns (10 Crowns) while I got the ras el hanout slow roasted lamb shoulder with cauliflower puree (12 Crowns). The flavour of the pork belly was divine, although the skin was not crisp enough.
My lamb was a generous portion and was lovely and tender. Unfortunately I
couldn't taste the ras el hanout (one of my new favourite spice mixes)
and the lamb was a bit dry. I do assume that in an event like this, the
food would be close to what the restaurants would normally serve but not
quite. So even though there are a few 'buts' in my descriptions, I'm
still keen to try the likes of District Dining.
Last year, we enjoyed Soto's prawn filo tempura and with a sister restaurant, Cocoro opening late last year, Mr H was looking forward to something similar with his tiger prawn and courgette tempura (12 Crowns). It was quite small, but tasty. I quite like their idea of stripping filo pastry and using in it in place of tempura batter - I might just use this one day!
With my energy seriously draining away into the ground, like the rain drops on Victoria Park, I only had enough energy for some quick dessert. Monsoon Poon won my last 8 Crowns and in exchange I got to enjoy a Malaysian sago pudding with palm sugar syrup (8 Crowns). Despite my earlier reservations about Monsoon Poon's value for money for their other two dishes, I enjoyed this dessert with it's d'lish coconut flavour and caramelly syrup.
All in all, it was a great evening. Sure it rained, sure the covered spaces around the restaurants were crowded and sure we couldn't (or rather wouldn't) sit on wet chairs in the rain to listen to Nathan Haines play. But the food was still good and it's a fun few hours out.
Petite steak sandwich from Marvel Grill and Malaysian sago pudding from Monsoon Poon.
Taste of Auckland
Victoria Park, Auckland
Remaining sessions: Friday - Saturday 12.00 - 4.00pm and 5.30 - 9.30pm
Tickets $30 at the gate or online
Thanks to Taste of New Zealand for providing media passes.