A couple of weeks ago I went to St Johns Bar for lunch with a friend, and although Wellington on a Plate hadn't quite started yet they had just introduced their Burger Wellington offering, a venison burger with bacon and field mushrooms, and it was fantastic. So fantastic that when Mr Cake and I were trying to pick somewhere to go to lunch to enjoy the Dine specials he chose this - not that I was complaining!
St Johns is a fabulous art deco building, built for and used as St Johns ambulance base in Wellington in the 30s. It's right by the waterfront and they have lots of outdoor tables and even beanbags when the weather is nice - and as the NZX told us as we walked towards it (St Johns is right next to the NZX) "You can't beat Wellington on a good day" - so they are often put to good use. The inside is pretty cool - with the fittings playing to the age and heritage of the building. In fact, one of the Wellington on a Plate events hosted by St Johns was an art deco dinner, which sounded awesome.
Not long after arriving we were presented with Bloody Mary appetisers by the chef - accompanied by celery sticks filled with blue cheese, walnut, praline and apple. The Bloody Mary was good - spicy and rich with just a bit of a kick - but the celery stick was fantastic! This was one of the features of the art deco dinner - bring back the 30s, I say!
I'd messaged ahead on Twitter (ah, social media, my good friend) to ask if my starter could be ready round about when we expected to arrive, as we had limited time and a bit of a walk to get there. Sure enough, we didn't have to wait long before a delicious plate of calamari was presented. This is described as "Calamari crusted with sunflower seeds, oregano, flash-fried chilli and served with lemon and tartare sauce". The crust is super delicious and it was served very fresh and hot. It was nice to have so much flavour and texture in the crust and both Mr Cake (who I let share - aren't I nice?) and I enjoyed these.
Mr Cake, as promised, had the wild game burger, which he really enjoyed and apparently it lived up to my hype. He even let me steal a couple of the fabulous and enormous fries and an onion ring. Yum! We saw lots of these being carried out to people sitting outside, so they're obviously proving popular.
I had the pork belly, which was actually a bit rich for me, possibly due to the enormous quantities of rich food I have already consumed in the last week. The skin was soooo crispy, though, and the meat was very tender, and the thin slices of potato hiding underneath the meat were delicious (mmm starchy vegetable!). I definitely enjoyed the flavours, I just couldn't get through all of it.
The Dine lunch deal at St John is $25 for a starter and a main, and there are two choices for each, plus a glass of wine and tea or coffee - so fantastic value. The burger is $20 and well worth every penny! I was also impressed at the speed of the service - we certainly didn't feel rushed, but for a workday it was the perfect lunch out, as I managed to be back at my desk precisely an hour after leaving, with about a 7 minute walk either side - that's a good turnaround for two courses! Thanks to St Johns for accommodating us. :-)
If you haven't seized your chance yet, remember that Wellington on a Plate ends on Sunday and you don't want to miss out, now, do you? ;-)
St Johns Heineken Hotel is located at 5 Cable Street, Wellington, ph 04 801 8017, www.stjohnsbar.co.nz