Ole, ole, ole . . .
Eating out with Kate Fraser
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.