Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cheese And Wine

An email arrives mysteriously from Café Polo in Miramar, containing an attachment announcing

“Polo’s 1st ever Great Wine & Cheese Degustation!!!
Five courses of cheese-dominated heaven exquisitely matched to wines from around the globe.”

Well, who could resist that, I ask you? Certainly not me!

So we phoned, we booked, we turned up. We were greeted with a glass of domestic bubbles, the inestimable Quartz Reef methode traditionelle from Central Otago. Before we began, the owner, Josh, gave a quick welcome speech professing his love of cheese, hoped we all liked cheese as well (we were in the wrong place otherwise!), and his belief that you don’t have to just drink red wine with cheese, as the menu then showed. Our glasses were refilled and we went into the first course, a cigar of crushed Jersey Benne potatoes, peas and mint, served with a pea velouté and parmesan sprinkled over. It was, in fact, cheesey peas!

Next up was crumbed and deep-fried Chèvre with spiced almonds, honey and fresh thyme. You can’t really go wrong with that – the addition of the thyme was a nice touch. This was served with a dry alvarinho/trajadura blend, from Portugal’s northernmost wine-growing region, Minho :

Third course was a kiwi classic, mac & cheese (macaroni cheese to Northern hemispherites), made with Pont l’Évêque cheese – a wash-rind cheese from Normandy, not dissimilar in style to Normandy’s other famous cheese, Camembert. This was served with a tasty chunk of maple-cured bacon, quince jelly and a curried crumb topping, which added a different dimension and texture to the flavours. This was served with a richer, stronger wine – a gewurtztraminer from Alsace.

Whew! Pretty cheesey so far, and time for a break. We had a lemon thyme sorbet between courses, before embarking on what was the “main” course, sliced beef fillet or tagliata, with rocket and a raspberry vinaigrette, and the evening’s only red wine accompaniment, a Hawke’s Bay cabernets/merlot blend from New Zealand’s oldest winery, Te Mata. The cheese accompaniment was Quickes cheddar, a strong and sharp cheddar from Devon.

Feeling pretty stuffed by this stage, we embarked on the final course – a dessert accompanied by cheese. Poached pear crumble with Shropshire blue, served with home-made lavosh, and a 2011 Sauternes to chase it down. This course eventually defeated us.

I think my favourite course was, in fact, the first. It's possible that by the end I was suffering from cheese fatigue, and would probably have appreciated the latter courses more if I'd had them singly. That's not to say I didn't enjoy them...but I should probably have skipped lunch!

 All in all, a very good night out, and we staggered out the door and up the hill home. A quick chat with Josh revealed that there may be another event on March next year, and of course there’s always Wellington On A Plate to look forward to as well.

We really must get to Café Polo more often. As it happens, there’s still an Entertainment offer to be used, so we’ll be back at least once more, sometime soon. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014


BATS Theatre is a Wellington Institution, established in the 70’s as a venue for new and young writers.  Alumni include Taika Waititi and Flight Of The Conchords. In 2011 the owner decided to sell the building, leaving the theatre with no alternative but to leave its home on Kent Terrace and find temporary lodgings elsewhere.

For a small theatre company like BATS, this caused quite a problem. Fortunately, Peter Jackson came to their rescue, buying and refurbishing the building and renting it back to them at the previous rent. They have just moved back in to the refurbished building, and Watch is the first production there. Having seen some of their works (including Benedict Cumberbatch Must Die) whilst they’ve been away from home, and contributed to their “Fly BATS Home” fund, we thought we’d better go and see what our investment had produced!

The theme of Watch is, predictably, government spying and surveillance. An inexperienced operative is set up in a flat and sent to spy on a couple downstairs, under the wing of an older agent. The stage is set with TV screens all round, which show what’s happening in the flat below. We see everything that’s going on, and as the play progresses the spies form a relationship with the spied-upon. Just before the interval, there is a climactic scene in which the relationship between the spied-upon and the spies is suddenly thrown into a state of chaos.

After the interval, we move to a different location: on the upper storey of the theatre is an additional performance space, the Dome Gallery. In here, the interrogation of the suspect and the debriefs of all the agents involved takes place. We learn a lot more about the individual characters and their motivations, as well as the purpose of the surveillance.

It was very well done, and (presumably) purposely designed to make use of both rooms to show off the new theatre to the paying public. I’m looking forward to seeing more shows there.