Eclec­tic of­fer­ings

Din­ner at Eg­mont Street Eatery was very good in parts – the rest was mostly broc­col­ini. David Bur­ton re­ports.

The Dominion Post - Your Weekend (Dominion Post) - - Dine -

For years, The Spi­ag­gia Cook­book has lain on my kitchen book­shelf, its recipes for lob­ster, truf­fles and os­e­tra caviar more as­pired to than used. So hav­ing learned that this leg­endary Chicago res­tau­rant once em­ployed the Eg­mont Street Eatery’s new chef Rob Essen­burg, I was in­spired to see what he could bring to Welling­ton.

As you might hope, there are Amer­i­can threads run­ning through Essen­burg’s highly eclec­tic menu: loaded fries and Ca­jun-cre­ole dirty rice, for ex­am­ple, plus Parker House rolls.

While our roll lacked the clas­sic folded oval shape (think a pair of sealed lips), it cer­tainly had the cor­rect but­tery, fluffy tex­ture, its faint sug­ges­tion of sweet­ness per­fect with a cu­ri­ous lit­tle side of “chicken fat but­ter”, whipped into a fluffy mousse.

High-qual­ity bak­ing is al­most a given for the Eg­mont Street Eatery, since its premises are also HQ to the Cater­ing Stu­dio, which sup­plies baked goods to cafes around town.

Thus, the three fin­gers of brioche or­dered as an ap­pe­tiser also per­fectly cap­tured the eggy, cakey essence of this bread. But for me the main at­trac­tion was their top­ping – pick­led cu­cum­ber, crumbs of pancetta and “kina cream.” Kina re­mains kaimoana’s last fron­tier for many Pākehā, which may ex­plain why its bizarre fruity-salty flavour had been well di­luted.

Un­usu­ally for such a tiny res­tau­rant, the up­per level bar is big­ger than the sunken neo-mod­ernist din­ing area, which seats just 20. It’s com­fort­able enough (es­pe­cially the fat, spongy ban­quette) but the ta­bles are set so close to­gether that you are privy to more of your neigh­bours’ sweet mur­mur­ings than ei­ther party would pre­fer. Staff need to crank up the mu­sic, es­pe­cially when the topic turns to di­vorce.

The menu too is small, al­though veg­e­tar­i­ans can’t com­plain about the lack of choice. Our vego en­trée of­fered plenty of tex­tu­ral con­trast, al­though its menu de­scrip­tion (roasted car­rot, freekeh wheat, greens, smoked nuts, sour cream) gave mea­gre in­di­ca­tion that smok­i­ness would rule.

While spring lamb ought to be avail­able by now, our roasted rump veered more to­wards the aged, hearty flavour of hogget, al­beit fault­lessly ten­der. And though the menu listed Jerusalem ar­ti­chokes, that sea­son had now fin­ished and in­stead we got broc­col­ini plus an ir­rel­e­vant sprin­kling of juli­enned raw kale, its pun­ish­ing tex­ture akin to shred­ded cel­lo­phane. Oliver Cromwell would have loved it. True, there was also thick, creamy but­ter­milk, but the only real ex­cite­ment in this dish was a palate jolt from the grandly named es­pelette, a mild Basque cul­ti­var of chilli.

Or­ange-glazed duck is an ab­so­lute clas­sic, though not of­ten is it as crisp and fully in­fused with cit­ric flavour as here. Its $45 price tag led us to con­firm with the server that this in­deed is a shar­ing dish, padded out with a bed of creamy lentils and – guess what? – broc­col­ini.

Tra­di­tion de­manded we drink pinot noir with this duck, though Eg­mont Street’s stumpy wine list of­fered only two by the glass. Schu­bert Se­lec­tion Pinot Noir 2016, a par­si­mo­nious wee pour, was served in a tum­bler with splotches from the dish­washer.

Be­ing 15 years old, I as­sumed their Chateau du Breuil Cal­va­dos must be in short sup­ply, which would ex­plain the vir­tual thim­ble­ful served with our Hazel­nut Tart with Ap­ple and Tea. The hazel­nuts, peeled but set whole in fudge, re­sem­bled a minia­turised cross-sec­tion of am­brosial cob­ble stones.

I’ve been served some fairly icy ver­sions in my time, but this Seville Or­ange Semifreddo clearly con­tained enough whipped cream and Ital­ian meringue to en­sure soft­ness through­out. Off­set­ting the bit­ter­sweet Seville or­ange was a translu­cent gar­nish of glacé fen­nel, which ended this at-times patchy meal on a sin­gu­larly sweet note.

EX­PECT TO SEE MORE

• Cus­tom van­ity bowls in Co­rian and stone • Softer, or­ganic looks for tap­ware and basins • Min­eral-based basins and tops • Be­spoke join­ery and “float­ing” cab­i­netry • Nat­u­ral and en­gi­neered tim­ber ve­neers with

a matte fin­ish • Large-for­mat tiles and mo­saics • Un­con­ven­tional mix-and-match mo­saics

and chevrons • More colour, no­tably inky blue, botan­i­cal

green, blush pink • Plants and ver­ti­cal gar­dens • Con­trast­ing grout­ing • Spe­cial light­ing ef­fects • Tap­ware with a metal­lic fin­ish • Shower toi­lets

EX­PECT TO SEE FEWER

• Purely util­i­tar­ian spa­ces • Hard, square-edged basins and tubs • Heavy-look­ing fix­tures

The bar up­stairs is larger than the down­stairs din­ing area at Eg­mont Street Eatery. PHOTO: KEVIN STENT/STUFF

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