The degustation on offer is billed on the Wellington on a Plate site as a seven course set menu with a Tijerina Cooler cocktail to start. It's $100 per person, which might sound like a lot for dinner, but a degustation is more of an experience and the Matterhorn version certainly lived up to expectations.
We were impressed immediately by the friendly waiter explaining the menu, and he said they would start preparing our meal now. He asked if we wanted the matched wines, which we didn't, having had such a generous helping at White, White, Baby last weekend.
The Tjerina Cooler came out not too long after we were seated - the waiter explained that it was matched to the tuna starter, and in particular to the wasabi cream. It was really tasty, with a very cool, refreshing cucumber-y flavour, and a kick of wasabi.
The tuna followed not long afterwards, and was delicious and well accompanied by the cocktail. The tuna was tender and the wasabi cream leant just enough heat without overwhelming it. The wakame (a sort of seaweed) was crisp and gave both flavour and texture to the dish. It was all gone in no time! (in fact, the waiter may have commented on how quickly we inhaled it)
We asked for a glass of wine each to match some of our courses, and the waiter was very knowledgeable on the contents of the meal and the wine options available and on asking for a red he recommended the Crater Rim pinot noir, which we both really liked and were stunned to learn at the end of the meal that it was only $9.50 a glass. It went particularly well with the rabbit and venison, and with the consomme with the snapper - so if you want a match for those I definitely recommend it (although I also recommend the advice of the waitstaff!).
The second course was rabbit, and this was Mr Cake's favourite (though it was pretty hard to pick favourites). It came with carrot and cardomom custard, 'soused shiitake' and candied carrots, with crunchy little bits of barley. The rabbit was gamey, but in a subtle kind of way. The mushrooms were delicious, I'm not sure what they were soused in but I liked it! The candied carrots were fabulous - sweet in a way that matched the dish - it all sounds very odd to me writing it up now, but it was fabulous, and the barley topped it off nicely, giving a nutty flavour and adding crunch.
About the time the snapper was due we noticed we had different menus; I said to Mr Cake "I wonder what roullie toast is" and he said "What?" and I said "Roullie toast" and he said "What?" and I pointed to his menu... And then realised that his menu didn't say roullie toast anywhere on it. The third course was the only substantially different one, with his menu saying "soused clams, octopus bacon, scallop custard, bouillabaisse consomme" where mine said "braised fennel, roullie toast, olives & bouillabaisse sauce". We obviously were following Mr Cake's menu as I still don't know what roullie toast is!
The consomme was poured at the table and was perfectly clear and gave off the deliciously aniseedy aroma of fennel. The snapper had a lovely crispy crust and was fabulous with the scallop custard. The octopus bacon was nice, though apart from being a bit chewy wasn't much different from normal bacon so far as I could tell. We were given spoons so that we could finish the consomme if we wanted, and we both practically licked our plates clean so that got the tick of approval too. ;-) If anyone knows what roullie toast is please impart your knowledge!
The duck was spectacular and carefully explained to us on arrival (as indeed was every couse - degustation as it should be). The whole dish was very rich, and was accompanied by some to-die-for brioche. I loved the neck sausage (bottom left) and liver and cognag parfait, which was incredibly rich. This was my favourite dish, so varied and so rich - but it was a bit of an effort to get to the end of it!
Venison was our next course and this was also great - the cocoa and caramel sauce was rich, and both flavours were detectable but I probably wouldn't have picked them without prior knowledge. The chestnut cream was beautiful paired with the venison, I could have eaten much more of that - and the meat was perfection, peppery and tender.
When our plates had been cleared from the last savoury course the waiter brought us a palate cleanser - a simple sorbet with grapes and almonds. Fresh and just the thing to clear the way for the more desserty things.
By this stage we were quite disbelieving, I think - every course was so good we kept expecting something to disappoint. Happily, our expectations were not met in that respect. Dessert was billed as "Apples and Pears" on the menu, so we really had no idea what it would be. Turns out, it's a brulee-type centrepiece, some almonds, a poached piece of pear, some apple drenched in deliciousness, and granny smith apple sorbet (slightly late to the table as it was initially left off the dish - but it was brought to us before we had taken our first bites so I'm more than willing to forgive). The brulee was smooth and rich and had a really delicious, spicy base. The apple was fabulous but through some complete lapse of judgement I shovelled the lot into my mouth in one go and it was gone in an instant. The pear was almost honey-y, and was deliciously caramelly. And the sorbet - oh, the sorbet! So zingy, and the ideal counter to a rich brulee custard.
Last but not least, petit fours. We were offered tea or coffee but declined (it was 9pm and we like sleep), and shortly afterwards this glorious dish was brought to us. The waiter, who had earlier told us that the person who bakes the bread starts work at 2am, said that she is a pastry chef and also makes all of these wee treats from scratch. From top to bottom; ganache truffle (chocolatey, rich, delicious); after dinner mint (refreshing, rich, delicious); citrus and almond cake (moist, citrussy, delicious) and lemon custard tart (zingy, delicious, delicious). In case you didn't get it they were all delicious. ;-)
We had a great night - it was about 3 hours from start to finish and we thoroughly enjoyed every course. It was well timed, well presented and the staff showed excellent knowledge of every dish. If you happen to have space for a rather large meal over the next three nights (as Wellington on a Plate finishes on Sunday) I highly recommend it - and several of these items are on the normal menu too.
Matterhorn is located at 106 Cuba Street, Wellington, ph 04 384 3359, www.matterhorn.co.nz