Monday, April 26, 2010

Cook 'N' With Gas

Mr Cake and I both graduated from Canterbury University on Friday - Mr Cake with a B.Com (Hons) and me with a plain old B.Com. Since such occasions are a great excuse for dining out we sought out (with a bit of help from our trusty Entertainment Book!) a nice restaurant for a long, delicious dinner with our families. We settled on Cook 'N' With Gas, as I had heard it was good and it's handily located in the centre of Christchurch.

The restaurant is on Worcester Boulevard, opposite the Arts Centre. At night they light the big torch in the middle of the courtyard so you can't miss it!

The restaurant is a converted villa and still divided into rooms (though somewhat open-plan) and has a very relaxed atmosphere - perfect for a somewhat rowdy dinner for ten!

Instead of tablecloths, the tables are covered with thick paper, which is stamped with the restaurant's logo. Pretty cool, and also came in handy mid-meal when we had a debate on the spelling of idyll (it can be either idyl or idyll and still be acceptable, apparently).

I was also pretty impressed that they obviously had me in mind when they chose their drink specials. ;-) I had a Mt Rosa riesling and it was very nice. Plus, I am now in the draw to win an 'ideallic' (that's where our aforementioned spelling debate originated) weekend away.

Having such a large group we had a pretty good variety of dishes, so I have lots of photos today. First on the menu is my hot smoked venison. The plate was loaded with lovely flavours - the avocado was delicious, and I could have eaten much more of it with the crisp lavosh. There was a lovely grilled tomato, and the best pickles I've ever tasted (I'm not normally a pickle fan). And the venison was pretty good, too (I jest, it was great).

The chicken liver parfait came with beetroot chutney, ciabatta, apple and rocket and though I didn't get to try this I definitely heard appreciative sounds coming from the owner of this plate!

The most interesting starter was the pea and ham soup - the bowls came out with a small pile of lentils, leek and chorizo, and a smear of mustard and tomato - then the waiter came out and ladled the soup over the top. I think my dad was a bit worried he was only getting lentils for a moment or two. I also have to point out at this point that our waiter was fantastic, and not only was he very friendly and helpful throughout our meal he also helped me take photos - pretty much the food blogger's dream waiter.

The last of the starters, this was Mr Cake's choice - and I think he was on the money, because it was amazing! The description was "Harissa and potato mazigran filled with braised mushrooms and thyme with cream fraiche and tomato fondue" - but basically it was a big ball of yum. I didn't get very much because it was too good to share (also my food was so good I forgot to steal) but the mushroom I had tasted like it had been steeped in tomato for, oh, a year or two, and it was like magic. The ball had a crust and then there were more mushrooms hidden in the middle. It was very, very good - and a vego dish! It always makes me happy when the vegetarian dishes are as good as the meaty ones - there are so many more flavours in vegetables than in meat it seems silly that so many restaurants fail at veggie fare.

Onto the mains:

I had the duck (I know, I had the duck at Logan Brown only a week ago - but half the table, including Mr Cake, had already chosen the pork, which was my first choice), and it was really good. It came with lovely little dumplings, and the meat was tender and delicious. I'm not a huge parsnip fan so didn't like the mash too much but the rest was great - and the serving was very generous (I definitely ate too much as it was) so probably a good thing that I didn't lick my plate clean!

Mr Cake (and literally half the table) had this tasty-looking belly of pork. I think the selling point was the "x-factor" sauce (in fact, Mr Cake had decided about a week beforehand that he had to have the x-factor sauce so just as well the website menu was up to date!) but it's also pretty hard to pass up crackling. The meat was tender with nice crispy skin. It was served with truffled kumara and olive whip, which was delicious - according to Mr Cake the only bad thing was that the x-factor sauce didn't have enough x. I rather suspect they don't intend for patrons to plan their meals a week ahead on the sole basis of the sauce!

The seafood dish (roasted NZ king salmon with kelp pepper on smoked Warehau and pea risotto, with grilled prawn) was gobbled up keenly - I have no doubt it was delicious but I can't tell you so you'll have to go and try it for yourself. ;-)

The desserts were all pretty good - the classic chocolate dessert had marsala chocolate marscapone mousse, which was pretty tasty, smooth and delicious, and had morello cherries studded through it.

The "Paris-Brest" - a warm choux bun with cream, strawberries, kiwifruit, banana and butterscotch sauce, was also hungrily devoured - again, I didn't try any but you have to admit it looks pretty good!

Mr Cake went with his old favourite of sticky date pudding with caramel ice-cream. The pudding was actually ginger, with Drambuie dates served with it - I thought it was great but then, I love ginger - Mr Cake was a bit sad there weren't dates all through it but still really enjoyed it.

My dessert was the burnt southern cream - a very lemony creme brulee, basically. I really liked this, though it was very sweet (but I love sugar), although I did think it was a bit too runny (maybe because it's in such a wide bowl and heated up too much when they burnt the sugar? But the upside of that is more crunchy sugar topping).

All in all, it was an amazing meal - we spent over three hours enjoying our dinner, and we were all amazed at the end of the night when we looked at the time to see how it had flown. The waiter was amazing - his name was Tim, so thanks Tim! - very tolerant of our strange behaviour, between taking photos of the food, drawing on the table, and making make-believe trenchers to recreate the graduation experience for the siblings who were working during the day! The food was great, and the atmosphere was perfect for a group - not so noisy we couldn't hear each other but not so quiet we felt we had to hush.

Definitely highly recommended!

Cook 'N' With Gas is located at 23 Worcester Blvd, Christchurch, ph 03 377 9166,


  1. Sounds awesome, wish I had been there.
    Oh and congratulations by the way! :-)

  2. your younger sister found it an expensive evening - who knew they imposed $60 parking fines between 9.30 and 10.30pm! food brilliant - company fantastic

  3. Shame you couldn't be, Beth, but at least you can drool over the food. ;-)

  4. What a fabulous review- have just stumbled across it, Mrs. Cake! Love the photos too. I will make sure that Tim is aware of it. Thanks so much.
    Kate from Cook'n with Gas.

  5. Thanks Kate! We loved our meal - the best service we've had in a long time and the food was great. I really recommend your restaurant as service counts for a lot to me, and you gave us a very enjoyable evening - so thank you for that, and please do let Tim know - he was great!


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