Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Return trip: SYD to WLG

I’ve never been to New Zealand, but now I feel like I’ve had a taste of it. The WLG pop-up restaurant is temporarily residing in the Kings Cross space where Bayswater Brasserie used to be; an initiative of Positively Wellington Tourism.

Produce on display at the WLG pop-up restaurant,
Bayswater Road, Kings Cross -
for two weeks only
We dined on fare from Jacob Brown of The Larder in Wellington on this very first night of the pop-up concept, which will be followed by another three Wellington chefs over the next two weeks.

More Kiwi produce
The night was aptly cloudy, then rainy and thuderstorm-y for the Wellingtonian evening, with the Bayswater Road venue already warm and convivial at our 6.45pm arrival. I think the tables are set for groups; otherwise smaller duos, trios and quartets even, share a place at communal tables at the back of the restaurant.

Table setting
The restaurant fills quickly after we arrive and soon enough, our conversation competes with our table counterparts as well as booming thunder. This evening we're offered a shared tasting plate to start, followed by a choice of three mains, and then a single dessert, with wine and post meal cheese being the add-ons.

Our communal table
We opt for whites this evening: Giesen The Brothers Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 and the quirky sounding (my choice; a little on the sugary side) The Doctor's Riesling Marlborough 2009. The Tastes of Wellington shared tasting plate finds its way hastily to us not long after the wine, unsurprisingly as everyone's having the very same plate.

Tastes of Wellington shared tasting plate
The large square platter lands with five tastes to share per duo. Starting from the left clockwise, I start on the Lot Eight spiced olives which are up there with the best flavoured olives I've tasted; the spicing not too heavy and not too light but just right. The venison rillettes are a revelation, with pate-like fuzzy, smoothness and fantastic flavour; delightful teamed with the lightly stewed, spiced pear and micro watercress.

Lot Eight spiced olives (left), venison rillettes (back) and cured Regal King Salmon
with wasabi pannacotta (front right)
The two crumbed and fried goat's cheese balls have a full goat-y kick in their molten innards, contrasting ever so pleasantly with the Manuka honey and kiwi chutney. The fried West Coast New Zealand whitebait was definitely one of the tiniest varieties I've come across; mine unfortunately a little cool and not crispy, although their freshness was apparent alongside grilled asparagus and chopped egg & caper mayo.

Citrus cured Regal King Salmon gravlax with New Zealand
wasabi pannacotta (venison rillettes in the back)
And finally, in the middle a provocative little pile of citrus cured Regal King Salmon gravlax with - wait for it - New Zealand wasabi pannacotta. As if the luminous orange salmon wasn't enough of an attraction, the molded pannacotta flavoured with New Zealand wasabi sealed the deal. The former was lightly sweet, but the latter was bitey in a restrained fashion and elegent enough not to go up the nose.

Snapper fillet with Cloudy Bay diamond clams, baby peas,
fennel, crayfish butter and chervil
To mains after an ample wait where the restaurant was absolutely heaving (coffee over there, desserts there, seating here, wines there), the fish option was a clean, spring looking dish. The grilled snapper fillet came perched on several clams in their shells and a gorgeous array of baby peas, fennel, balls of potato and fresh chervil. Certainly enticing, the fish was delicately textured and had bold, savoury company in the soupy butter sauce.

Venison wellington - venison short loin in puff pastry with portobello
mushrooms, smoked bacon, sage and peppercorn sauce
I chose the venison wellington for the lure of rare cooked deer rather than the pun, but was a touch disappointed with the medium as well as the thick, overlapping doughy parts of the pastry (I must have been unlucky because I spotted bright pink versions latter in the night).

Seasoning was a little light, so more of the sauce would have been appreciated, but the portobello mushrooms wrapped in the pastry atop the venison were the day-savers with their deep, earthy flavour. The wilted spinach beneath the wellington was plain but adding to my daily protein intake, I suppose.

Whittaker's Chocolate and Mojo Coffee praline bombe Alaska
with raspberry consomme
All was forgiven at dessert - a spectacular and all-round pleasing bombe Alaska in a cordial-red raspberry consomme. This prickly but soft specimen was the highlight of my night, and impressive in its combination of Kiwi products and ability to satisfy most diners.

Inner workings of the bombe Alaska
Softly torched white Italian meringue reveals its soft chocolatey centre, which in turn reveals a creamy liquid coffee middle with crushed coffee beans. The bombe Alaska sits on a round biscuit base which soaks up the saccharine consomme and becomes an appetising aspect in its own right. I'm stuffed but I can't stop spooning the fluffy meringue and rich chocolate filling, both for which the ripe but also tart raspberries play a simple but effective contrast.

I have with my dessert Shott lemon, honey and ginger tea which is less like tea and more like warmed cordial. Whether I had too much of the Shott flavouring or it's just way too sweet for my tastes, I'm not sure, but used in greater moderation I think the distinct flavours of each ingredient would make for a splendid beverage.

Wellington in the WLG kitchen
With other bloggers also about the restaurant, some of us snuck into the very busy kitchen for a few sneaky snaps. The preparation area for the desserts was just outside the kitchen; the elaborate steps being undertaken by two chefs.

Prepping the bombe Alaska desserts
One of the vegetarian mains was making its way out from the pass looking pretty darn tasty, while the main kitchen looked completely calm and collected, with time even to chat with camera wielding intruders.

Portobello mushrooms and swiss chard baked in filo with braised fennel, olives, goat's curd and green lentils
The WLG pop-up restaurant runs until 26 September for dinner, with set menus from Rex Morgan from Boulcott Street Bistro, Shaun Clouston from Logan Brown and Tom Hutchison from Capitol in addition to Jacob Brown from The Larder for the maiden two days.

Jacob Brown in the WLG kitchen
It’s completely booked out for the two weeks although there are walk-in spots available every night. On the weekends, WLG will become a wine bar from 3pm, featuring wines from Wairarapa and Marlborough. My tip: get there bro.

WLG pop-up restaurant, 32 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross

'WLG' Pop Up Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Simon Food Favourites said...

great bumping into you tonight. how funny we ended up sitting right next to each other hehe those white bait were the smallest i've seen as well. how about that thunder, gee it was loud! good to see you got your post done :-)

Ms Darlinghurst said...

Yum!!! What a tease Tina! Lucky I'm checking it out tonight or I'd be so jealous! I look forward to comparing notes ;)


Tina said...

Hi Simon - lol, I thought the lightning was camera flash. Great night out!

Hi MsD - Hope you had a great time on Wed night!


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