Nice to meet you, Hugo

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS - Kim Knight

Hugo’s Bistro

Hugo is, re­port­edly, one of the most pop­u­lar names in Europe. In that con­text, Hugo sounds ur­bane and so­phis­ti­cated.

Un­for­tu­nately, in my world, Hugo will al­ways be a chubby kid in a car. As in, “Hugo said ‘you go’ and I said ‘ no you go’ and soon he was back and ...” Why is it just now oc­cur­ring to me that Ken­tucky Fried Chicken’s most fa­mous jin­gle starred very fat car­toon chil­dren?

Any­way, I’m walk­ing to­wards Hugo’s and that jin­gle is go­ing round and around in my head and all I want is fries. We will (even­tu­ally) get chips. But first, some melty discs of tangy goat’s cheese tak­ing shel­ter un­der sweet and ten­der char­grilled cap­sicum blan­kets. It’s con­firmed. We’re def­i­nitely din­ing with Euro­pean Hugo.

Hugo’s Bistro is re­lated to Odettes Eatery. No, I don’t know why one takes an apos­tro­phe and the other doesn’t. I’d blame stupid par­ents, but it’s ob­vi­ous Clare and Joost van den Berg are any­thing but.

They are restau­ra­teurs who know how to read a crowd. Hugo’s is an all-day eatery pitched per­fectly to its lo­ca­tion. I doubt the in­hab­i­tants of the nearby law firms and busi­ness tow­ers were raised on KFC — but I bet they recog­nise brisket, creamed spinach and Di­jon as a more mon­eyed ver­sion of board­ing school corned beef and mus­tard sauce.

That said, Hugo’s is not go­ing to break your credit card. The brisket (salty, tangy and wholly sat­is­fy­ing) was a very de­cent $22 when we vis­ited and $24 when I checked the menu more re­cently.

The mar­ket fish had also risen slightly in price (from $31 to $33) but you should or­der it at all costs. Steph’s king­fish was, as they say on the telly, cooked to per­fec­tion. The ro­bust ac­com­pa­ni­ments — chard, an­chovies and olives — were but­tery and oily. It was to­tally and un­ex­pect­edly deca­dent and I had se­ri­ous food envy.

By con­trast, a $19 meat-free spe­cial felt like some sort of culi­nary cas­ti­ga­tion. Hugo’s din­ner menu (Tues­days to Sat­ur­days) is a mov­ing feast but, on this night, there were just two veg­e­tar­ian op­tions. The afore­men­tioned cheese and cap­sicum ($14 for three pieces) was very good. The other — ba­si­cally two bits of cheese on toast with a hand­ful of bit­ter radic­chio and sauteed mush­rooms — was not.

To my left, the sir­loin ($34) was a sur­prise. At some point the rib­bon of meat had been threaded on to a skewer and well-charred be­fore be­ing packed away in a lit­tle silken sleep­ing bag of pasta. (This is, of­fi­cially, the only time in my life I have en­dorsed the use of a sleep­ing bag.)

We def­i­nitely wanted fries with all of that, but none had ar­rived. Our wait­per­son was charm­ing in her ad­mis­sion that she had, sim­ply, for­got­ten to put through our or­der for all the sides. In the open kitchen we watched, two chefs rapidly toss rocket, sear sprouts and deep-fry spuds.

“Hot,” said Ni­cola, and while I’m al­most cer­tain she was re­fer­ring to the chips ($10), it did feel like a night at Hugo’s could eas­ily get way­ward. The booths were squashy and pil­lowed; the lights — lit­tle brass bars over each ta­ble — re­minded me of a law li­brary. Se­crets might be spilled here and con­fi­dants made. At the very least, you might share a dessert.

“Best ever cheese­cake,” said Steph (she def­i­nitely meant the cheese­cake). A choco­late fon­dant cake oozed in the cen­tre, but the out­side was bit­ter with burnt bits. Redemp­tion in a stun­ning open ap­ple pie. The fruit sat on short­bread­ish base. It was crum­bled with toasted oats and stud­ded with hunks of sharp ched­dar. Hugo had moved to Eng­land and we were very pleased to make his ac­quain­tance.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.