The final event of Wellington On A Plate for us this year was A Sterling Night Of Truffles. Sterling restaurant is another newcomer on the Wellington dining scene. It is associated with, but not owned by, the new(-ish) Park Hotel on The Terrace, in what is becoming a newer business model for hotels these days: rather than owning a restaurant outright, they allow the restaurant to benefit from their guests, but have an autonomy which means they don’t have to offer the usual bland hotel-restaurant fare.
ASNOT is, naturally, a menu based around truffles. Our guide for the evening was Gareth Renowden, of Limestone Hills truffle farm in the Waipara valley. Truffles are now available in New Zealand, as several growers have now established farms to grow the various types of truffle. Gareth claims to be the only grower of four different types of truffle in New Zealand – black, white, Burgundy and winter black. Between courses he told us about the history of truffles, the different types, how to find them, and how to use them. He subjected truffle oil to abuse, telling us it’s a faint shadow of the real thing. He also said dogs are better than pigs for finding truffles, for two reasons: whilst both pigs and dogs will want to eat the truffles they find, it’s a lot easier to stop a small dog than a 60 kg sow; and a 60 kg sow doesn’t fit well in the back of your 2CV.
The first course, amuse bouche, was a duck liver parfait rolled in truffle. We were sharing a table with another couple, and unfortunately we wolfed these down before it occurred to me to take a picture, so you’ll have to be content with a description: they were black balls of deliciousness. I’d gone for the wine matches as well so washed it down with a tasty Elephant Hill chardonnay.
Next up was the entrée of seared scallops with a white soy and truffle dressing. The wine match with this was an interesting Wooing Tree Blondie – a blanc de noir, i.e a white wine made from grapes traditionally used for red wine. In this case it is pinot noir, with the juice left on the skins for almost no time at all, resulting in a very pale pink colour. The nose was very floral – reminiscent of a gewurtztraminer, with a hint of strawberries.
The main course was a spatchcocked poussin with black truffle, served with three coloured carrots and kale. The truffle in this case is stuffed up inside the skin of the poussin, to infuse the meat with its flavour as it roasts.
The final course was chestnut millefeuille with bianchetto (white truffle) ice cream. The chestnut cream is quite a savoury flavour so this was not an overly sweet dessert. The Ned noble sauvignon blanc is quite a sweet dessert wine, so I felt that this was a bit of a mismatch…a misstep at the final hurdle. Other than this, I thought the wine matches were pretty good.
So that’s our WOAP adventures over for another year. The only remaining option will be to try the winning burger once that’s announced later this week.