17 Aug 2016

Restaurant Month 2: The Culpeper

Situated at the Viaduct on Princes Wharf, The Culpeper beckoned my friend and I for a work-night dinner. With the Viaduct location to boast, we headed there after parking nearby under the Lower Hobson St ramp, all dressed up, expecting to be impressed.

I thought 4 courses at Odettes for $40 was a good deal, but this!
The Culpeper offered 2 courses for $25 during August's Restaurant Month, and upon being seated, the waitress suggested that we share one Restaurant Month Menu with the addition of something else from their regular menu.

For $25, we enjoyed a starter and a main, which was one whole chicken between the two of us; hence the sharing. 
First course Beetroot hummus with lentil tabbouleh and flatbread
Although the flatbread was slightly on the chewy side than crisp, it brought a smoky flavor to this otherwise unimpressive dish. Nothing that made us go "wow".

Second Course ‘Aunties’ Jerk Rotisserie Chicken served with dirty rice and buttermilk ranch dressing.
This main came on a warm plate looking quite delectable and hearty.
I loved the 'dirty' rice (Cajun style rice traditionally cooked with chicken liver and herbs which gives it that 'dirty' look). It was flavorsome and complimented the spiciness of the chicken, which my friend noted a slight toughness to it. I thought the chicken was very tasty and loved the black beans with the rice.
Does anyone have a recipe for dirty rice?
Additional dish The Botanist winter leaves, radish, pickled vege, pumpkin seeds, mustard maple dressing.
Because we shared the 2 courses, we ordered a salad with beef brisket as an extra dish.
The brisket was the highlight of the night. It was smoky, tasty, tender and brought the whole dish together. The blackened edges added a slight crispiness and depth of flavor which contrasted perfectly with the tang of the dressing.
I was glad we added the brisket, otherwise it would've been a very plain salad, although it was $7 extra.
So the salad was $20... Why so expensive for a salad?

Looking at the rest of the menu, it certainly wouldn't be my go-to place because of the price. Granted, a lot of the dishes are for sharing, but based on what we had, it all seems very overpriced... Which echoes what another friend had said about the restaurant- "Good but... overpriced".
Not complaning though, since you could just share the Restaurant Month menu without ordering anything else. I ended up taking a couple pieces of chicken home and having it cold the next day with lettuce greens, which was delicious!

So $25 for two people, and if you pay with a registered & eligible American Express, you get $10 back... $15 for 2? Probably the cheapest date if you're looking to impress!

The drinks menu was extensive... Actually I wouldn't know since I'm not a wine drinker, but the wines and spirits were listed by categories. Are you a "pink & fruity", "round & full", or perhaps "sweet" kinda person?
Great for the wine illiterate.

Let's talk about the interior and decor... There's a fireplace which created a cosy little nook at the back. The raised area with half walls (pictured) made a suitable semi-private dining area.
Wall benches, tiled floors and photo frames created a 'diner' feel. Vintage decor and overhanging lamps reminded us of the movie The Help; '60s.
And palm trees everywhere. The furniture was light wood rattan and contributed to the fresh, tropical feel.
Nice place to dine with friends and have a tasty cocktail (they call it "herbal remedies" in the menu). Despite being situated at the Viaduct, very few tables offered a view. Although the view was only the adjacent wharf.
Bottom line: nothing extraordinary. The best time to go check out this high-end restaurant is this month. Otherwise you'll leave with an uneasy feeling after overspending.
Halfway through Restaurant Month, where to next and who's joining me?



5 Aug 2016

Restaurant Month 1: Odettes

It is currently Restaurant Month in Auckland and a number of restaurants have special menus just for August.
The best part is, the participating restaurants are the 'classier' more upmarket restaurants and menus start at $25 for two courses. An excuse to go to places I wouldn't normally think of going. Mexico, Orotolana, Food Truck Garage, The Crab Shack, Daikoku... You can view the full range here.
I took my food critic friend to Odettes for a four course dinner. For $40 a head, we thought it was well worth it. The full menu can be found here. Truth be told we didn't know what half the words there were but we were adventurous and keen to try everything. Even I ate the lamb, and I don't eat meat named after cute furry animals.

First course Beetroot & Rhubarb Jam; goat curd, candied walnut and lavosh.
Lavosh is the thin crispy flat bread, it's like the Middle Eastern poppadom.
This cracker-and-dip entree was a mix of textures and contrasting flavors. The beetroot and rhubarb jam was sweet and matched the tartness of the goat curd well. The walnuts added a crunch as with the lavosh. The only thing was that the beetroot should have been cut into smaller cubes, to balance the mouthful ratio of beetroot/ goat curd and it also would have been easier to pick up with the lavosh.

Second course Butternut Arancini; silverbeet, chermoula and labneh
Delicious dish. I love risotto crumbed balls;  these were crunchy and full of flavor with butternut and silverbeet inside. The labneh is the whipped feta garlic.
Second course Beef Cheek Bun; sweet & sour cherry, shiitake mushroom and kale
The best dish out of them all.
The bun is a steamed bao, soft, slightly sweet and not dry. The beef cheek was cooked to perfection; tasty not at all tough and complimented well with the sauce. It was the main flavor along with the kale crisps. Absolutely amazing.
(Okay so I thought the "cheek" in the "beef cheek bun" was describing to the plumpness of the bun... But before my last bite, feihae told me that it's the cheek of a cow. I was like wow ok vegan.)

Third course  Hawke’s Bay Lamb Leg; gingered yoghurt and nuts
For someone who doesn't eat lamb, this dish was actually delicious! I was dreading it cause I imagined a huge chunk of meat with a bit of sauce on the side. Usually I am put off by that smell of cooked lamb but nothing like that here. It was tender, and the right balance of sour and salty from the yoghurt.
Third course  Baby cos with toasted farro, sesame preserved lemon dressing and Kalamata olives
Not a favorite dish. The taste of olives and lemon was too strong. However it was quite nice when eaten combined with the lamb. You get less of the yoghurt and olive flavor when combined, which I preferred because I found them to be overpowering.

At this stage we were pretty full that we couldn't finish this course! Ready for dessert though...
Fourth course Nut Caramel; dark chocolate crème fraîche, chocolate crumble
I've never had anything like this, it's not chocolate mousse nor is it ganache. The nut caramel is very crunchy with a sticky consistency. Reminded me of crunchy peanut butter and nutella.
And creme fraiche is less airy and less chocolat-y than mousse.
Least favorite dish. I always look forward to desserts but this one was disappointing. It was far too sweet and the creme fraiche tasted strongly of cocoa powder rather than a real chocolate taste that I was expecting.
Overall, the entire experience was well worth the price! The beef cheek bun was a winner. Although the dessert was disappointing, everything else was fantastically delicious.
It was my first time at Odettes after hearing many good things about it, and I was impressed. The whole vibe and atmosphere won my heart more than the meals did.
It's situated in City Works Depot, on the Ponsonby side of Wellesley Street, well away from the busyness and rush of the city.
With an outdoor courtyard and grassy square, I'd come back in the summer with Ray-Bans, sangria and white cotton dress.
Classy, modern, slightly industrial decor with glass front wall and plantation to make you feel you're in a beachy conservatory.
It's one of those restaurants with soft jazz music (I appreciate it; not Rihanna blasting and drowning conversations) and low ambient lighting. The sofas are cosy and the corner seating makes an intimate setting. I was like, "Wow this is a great place to have a first date."
I think we were the youngest people there that night, everyone else had the work-dinner vibe and classy wine drinkers. I liked it a lot, somewhere to catch up with friends over quality food and not be disturbed by children or hip hop music. Ladies, if you're at all like me and contemplate if it's worth wearing heels; YES it's worth dressing up for! And parking right outside, so no hiking in heels required.

Odettes, I'll be back.

Where to next? Invite me! ;)


Available between 5pm and 6.30pm from Tuesday to Saturday. Guests must be seated and order placed by 6.30pm. Minimum 2 persons. All items included, no substitutions or alterations can be made to the menu. Walk ins only for groups less than 6 people.

3 Aug 2016

Storytime vol 1: surprise photoshoot

My friend TC lives in a complex where the residents share a swimming pool and tennis court (I know right). So in November I suggested to her that we should make use of it while it's summer.
We invited Suze who lives nearby and then I was like, wait! She plays tennis! I need someone at my level so you can play an actual game with her!
So we then invited feihae. We planned lunch at The Good Home in Birkenhead, followed by tennis and the rest of the day at the beach.

The night before I was like, "Feihae, should I shave my legs?"
And she was like, "You can if you want. Up to you."
Then later on she was like, "You have to put on makeup."
And I was like EXCUSE ME??!
"Just wear your makeup."
"We're playing tennis and swimming. I'm not wasting makeup."
"Then just bring it."
"...What are you trying to say?"
Then she just laughed it off and I was like... rude.

But I did put on makeup in the morning.

The next day her Panda picked us up (honestly he is like the most loving, patient and servant-hearted man, I am constantly in awe of everything he does for her).
The four of us girls had a lovely lunch, played a brief unsuccessful game of tennis where we lost one ball to the neighbour and then walked to the beach.

When we got to the beach I sat down then suddenly out of nowhere I saw Reenu and Laurie and Lauren and Anna and all of my friends and they yelled, SURPRISE!!
And I was like, whaaaaat is going on??
Suze, feihae and TC were laughing at me. They had planned this all along! Anna had brought her camera so we could take photos.

"This is why you told me to wear makeup?!" I looked at Feihae.
"Yeah gurl," she laughed at me.
Thank God for friends like her.

For the next couple of hours under sunny clear bright skies, our smiles were captured for us all to remember.
This is love, this is friendship.
Thank you to everyone who came and hid in the bushes. I treasure ALL of my friends, even if you weren't there on the day!

Here are the the highlights of the day... Glad I shaved my legs for this.

At this point I was 100% ready to go swimming at the beach

#OOTD watch by Fjord

the photographer! thank you, beautiful.

French girls
We are always like this.
Congratulations for the happy news!

On the next episode of New Zealand's Next Top model...
Who brought a selfie stick??