We’ve been to Zibibbo for the last two years dégustation menus – last year’s was Splash Around The World, featuring seafood from 6 different continents including Antarctica, and the year before that was Quack Around The World, which did similarly for duck. This year’s offering was slightly different, being a journey through time, with dishes based on (but thankfully not always fully authentic) the different cuisines which were popular in New Zealand over the last five decades.
To start with, the Seventies. The Seventies were, generally, pretty dire food-wise wherever you were in the world. One of the features of a Seventies dinner party was, apparently, a cheese ball. This was basically a concoction of cream cheese, with added cheese, and covered with nuts. Thankfully, I think our chefs sourced their cream cheese from somewhere slightly better than the Philadelphia cheese which was the main ingredient in the Seventies. The accompanying chicken parfait was also a more modern take on the chicken liver pâté of that era. Wine wasn’t a big thing in New Zealand in this decade either, so it was served with that quintessential cocktail, the Harvey Wallbanger.
The Eighties were the decade of decadence, champagne and glamour. This was reflected in our next course, which was the defining starter of that decade, the prawn cocktail. Served with a glass of champagne, of course. The Marie Rose sauce was, to my mind, a bit lacking in bite – a dash of Worcestershire sauce would’ve livened it up a bit. But the prawns were undeniably modern, in that they had a texture other than cotton wool, and an actual flavour.
The Nineties were the era of the celebrity chef, and this was represented by Pierre Koffman’s classic recipe, pig’s trotter. This was the mainstay at La Tante Claire, his London restaurant of yore. The trotter is deboned and stuffed, in this case, with black pudding and other ingredients. The outside of the pig’s trotter is sticky and gelatinous, which some people find not to their taste, although I really enjoyed it. Fear not the pig’s trotter! Next time Jacob Brown at The Larder is serving one, I shall give it a try (he’s very much a nose-to-tail chef). This was washed down with an oaky Chardonnay from Cooper’s Creek in Hawkes Bay. The chef was trying to find one of the big, buttery, oaky style chardonnays which were all the rage in the Nineties, but no-one makes them like that any more, so this was actually a nice wine – quite dry, but with a bit of oakiness to it.
Now we’re moving into more modern times, and the final main course of the evening was a fusion dish – fillet of beef with Asian vegetables (bok choi), a laksa hollandaise and short rib spring roll. I felt that the laksa flavour didn’t really come through in the sauce, but the rest of this dish was excellent. This was quite a departure for Zibibbo, as they usually concentrate on Mediterranean flavours and styles, and so they had a bit of fun with Asian flavours in the kitchen. This was served with a classic Central Otago pinot noir from Rua Point.
At this point the chef Adam Newell came out to give us a short run-down on the inspiration for each dish, and also to introduce his returning prodigal head chef, Glen Taylor who has re-joined the restaurant after some time away. Glen then introduced the final course, which was the molecular gastronomy dessert. Basically, Glen had gone wild with all the toys in the kitchen, and come up with a deconstructed lemon tart with blackberry pearls, blackberry foam, and yoghurt and thyme gelato. This was served with another cocktail, an iced tea poured from a teapot with dry ice giving the impression of being steaming hot…but it was cold! Will wonders never cease? The cocktail was made with tea, ginger, pomegranate and vodka.
Zibibbo is firmly cemented in our list of places to go and I look forward to what they can offer us for next year’s degustation. This year’s was definitely a winner!