Today I had the pleasure of dining with three other Wellington food bloggers for lunch; Mel, from Treehouse Kitchen; Laura, from Hungry and Frozen, and Millie, from Gusty Gourmet. We had decided a few weeks back that it was essential we camera-wielding types banded together for a Wellington on a Plate event, and arranged to meet for a weekday lunch at Pravda.
The DINE offering at Pravda is two courses plus a glass of wine and tea or coffee for $35. There is only one option for each course - smoked fish and potato chowder with saffron aioli and toasted ciabatta as a starter; venison and wild mushroom ragout with parpadelle pasta and parmagiano reggiano cheese as the main; and chocolate fondant with mandarin cream for dessert. The choice, therefore, was which two courses to have. Though the chowder sounded alluring I certainly couldn't pass up chocolate fondant - and I love venison, too. Two of my companions also favoured the dessert and Millie elected to have the starter instead. When we had placed our orders the waitress very thoughtfully checked with us about the timing, and arranged it so that the starter would come with our three mains, and Millie's main would arrive with our desserts - which worked well since we were all on lunch breaks from work and waiting for three separate courses might have been pushing our luck a bit. ;-)
The venison, which was a nicely sized portion (I hate when you go out for lunch and are presented with a mountain of pasta, as I find I usually eat what's put in front of me and subsequently wish I hadn't - this avoided that grim feeling of regret that hits as you stand up to waddle back to the office!) was accompanied by a single tomato, which was a pretty garnish and a nice accompaniment to the meal as well (Ray McVinnie would be proud!). The meat/sauce/mushroom combo was rich, and the venison incredibly tender. I really loved the mushrooms and enjoyed every last bite. We did wish for bread at the end to mop up the sauce left on the plate - we were discussing the lack of bread in general as part of NZ restaurant meals. Most of the time I would probably pass on bread anyway, since a meal out usually fills the stomach quite enough, but occasionally, like today, when there are delicious juices to be had perhaps the odd bread roll wouldn't go amiss. ;-)
The chocolate fondant, which is not at all done justice by this photograph, was AMAZING. As soon as you cracked it open with your spoon the oozy goodness was all over the place - so decadent and rich and the perfect indulgent dessert. The rich chocolate was complemented by the tangy mandarin cream, which reminded me a sophisticated, creamy version of citrus slice. It is always nice to have little bits of fruit with a dessert like this, so the mandarin pieces were well appreciated - and the tuile was perfect for scooping up bits of gushy chocolate and zingy mandarin cream and - well, probably you're supposed to eat your pudding with a spoon but I liked it that way!
When we had all polished of the last of our lunch the waitress came over to offer tea or coffee. We all felt a bit guilty for the duration of our lunch so told her we'd best leave, so she offered to have them made to go, which we were all impressed by (though I don't drink tea or coffee so didn't have one anyway, but still, service!). As ever the meal was made great by the company - I do so love eating with other food lovers - but enhanced by the lovely atmosphere and great food - and at a very reasonable price! I highly recommend checking out all the DINE deals which are happening around Wellington over the next couple of weeks (if you haven't already!) - it's a great chance to try out many of the city's best restaurants, with very appealing price tags attached to the set menus to make the scrumptious fare go down even more easily!
Pravda is located at 107 Customhouse Quay, Wellington, ph 04 801 8858