Ole, ole, ole . . .

Eat­ing out with Kate Fraser

The Press - Zest - - Reviews -

Sag­gio di vino in Vic­to­ria St has re­in­stated its Cork & Fork menu, as a cel­e­bra­tion of sea­sonal foods and treats, and as a way of con­tribut­ing to the Christchurch Earth­quake Ap­peal. The Oc­to­ber Cork & Fork menu fea­tured a froth of white­bait in a le­mon but­tery sauce, fresh as­para­gus and a del­i­cate dish of gnoc­chi with veni­son, but it was whipped smartly off the board on Oc­to­ber 31. Talk about pulling the table­cloth. Never mind. On Novem­ber 1, a new menu went up, so back we go for the best of this late-spring, early-sum­mer month.

An im­me­di­ate sur­prise. Spain is the flavour du jour. What? No ries­ling from Waipara, no pinot noir from Otago’s thyme-scented pad­docks, no salmon from a snowmelt river?

‘‘We de­cided on some­thing al­to­gether dif­fer­ent this month,’’ says owner Liza Scholz.

‘‘We have some very good Span­ish wines here and we de­cided to match them with South Is­land pro­duced food.’’

Cork & Fork is a set menu with wines to match, at a fixed price for two or three cour­ses. The main menu also of­fers the best of the sea­son, but with C & F, the or­der­ing de­ci­sion is made. Since I had been be­set with house re­pair and paint­colour de­ci­sions, eat­ing well with­out mak­ing menu de­ci­sions was a plea­sure.

A drink be­fore din­ner is not in­cluded, but we pushed the boat out (a lot) and had a glass of a cool Solange Tribut Chablis and a Peroni beer. So good.

The res­tau­rant en­joys a unique view of an earth­quake-wrecked Knox Church, which by now must have been snapped as of­ten as Kim Kar­dashian, but at dusk and later, its square stern lines are soft­ened, as clever lighting picks out the scup­tured shape.

In the re­cesses of the back room it is more min­i­mal, but the folk are here to eat and not ooh and aah at the scenery or the foot traf­fic. Who knew so many peo­ple walked home from work?

The en­tree is an es­cabeche of mack­erel . Sag­gio must be one of the few restau­rants in the South Is­land to source and serve this very Span­ish fish.

Oily with dense flesh, it is sel­dom seen in a fish­mon­ger’s shop, be­cause oily fish does not have the same life on ice as cod or sole. But Scholz puts her or­der in at Theo’s and, weather per­mit­ting, it will be avail­able all Novem­ber.

Es­cabeche is a type of pick­ling tech­nique. The cooked fish is mar­i­nated in pick­led car­rots, onions, maybe green beans and herbs and, ac­cord­ing to The

Cork & Fork at Sag­gio di vino

179 Vic­to­ria St. From 5.30pm daily. Two cour­ses with wines $59 per per­son, three cour­ses with wines $73 each, in­cludes $5pp do­na­tion to Christchurch Earth­quake Ap­peal Trust. Predin­ner drinks: chablis $16 a glass, Peroni $8.

Lovely food with­out any de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

The reg­u­lar menu is tempt­ing as well.

Look­ing for­ward to De­cem­ber. NZ Cook’s Dic­tio­nary, is served cold as an ap­pe­tiser. Sag­gio’s wine match for a month is a Cas­tro Valdes Al­barino 2010.

A slight ge­o­graph­i­cal move oc­curred for the mains, with very young lamb from Blue River in West Otago used for proven­cale-style braise.

Som­me­lier Kate Hide and her team have come up with an­other good match here. A rose – Marques de Cac­eres Rosado 2010 – of­fers sip­ping plea­sure with the cut of sweet milky lamb, puree of beans and baby veg­eta­bles. So far so good. I ap­plaud the lamb, al­though the guest has qualms over its early demise, but we trust the chef who has mon­i­tored its progress from pad­dock to plate. And the wine? Ole, ole, and one of us had to be strict about no sec­onds.

There is pud­ding, but is bread-and-but­ter pud Span­ish? It seems the sherry, a Lus­tau Pe­dro Ximenez, de­liv­ered with the dish, is in­tended to be tipped over the dessert. What an ex­trav­agence. I sip it.

The guest, how­ever, is bet­ter be­haved and tips her glass over the lot. It’s worth ev­ery boozy spoon­ful, she says, then while I sipped her good be­hav­iour was re­warded with an off-menu cheese tasting from the laden cheese trol­ley.

The Span­ish menu is avail­able un­til the end of the month.

The Chi­nese Veg­e­tar­ian Cafe: Un­pre­pos­sess­ing face, but the wel­come is en­thu­si­as­tic.

Re­ward: The well-stocked cheese trol­ley at Sag­gio di vino.

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