Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pop-up restaurant, Wellington

Wow! We have just come home from an incredible dinner in a pop-up restaurant - that is, a 'restaurant' for two nights only, in the old Rialto cinema just down the road. It was organised by Absolutely Positively Wellington as part of Wellington on a Plate.

The produce was donated from various local businesses and as it was a trial the meal was only $29 per person for three courses, plus $6 per glass for wine or beer. The meal was prepared by three chefs; Rex Morgan, from Boulcott Street Bistro; Jacob Brown, from The Larder; and Raju Rai, from Monsoon Poon.

The kind man we spoke to on the way out offered to have the proper photographers send me some good photos so I will add these later, when they come through - but I thought I should get my post up in the interest of any of you who want to try your luck at getting a seat tomorrow evening! 

We cruised down at about quarter to 7, as the Facebook page I saw suggested tables would be available on a first-come, first-served basis from 7. On arrival we were directed to the bar area to wait, and got ourselves drinks, but it was probably only about 10 minutes before we were able to be seated.

The decor was really well done - the building has a pretty industrial/warehouse kind of feel but it still felt like a nice dinner venue and had all the right touches. There were flowers on all the tables and also on the windowsills, and there were some really cool candles-in-paper-bags (well, we suspect fake candles but the effect is the same) which looked fantastic but sadly I didn't get a photo of. Drinks were handled on a sort of tab system - you were given a little tag, which was put in a glass on the table, and each time you ordered drinks they were added to the card, then you took it to the counter when paying - simple and effective.

The place had an awesome vibe - partly due, I'm sure, to everyone feeling like they were in on a secret, but the decor was very well done and made it feel like a venue, not just a room with some tables. ;-)

The menu consisted of a starter plate (shared between two), three choices for main, dessert and coffee. The starter plate included Lot 8 spiced olives, venison caparccio with horseradish cream and wild watercress, citrus cured salmon gravlax with wasabi panna cotta, and fried goats cheese with manika honey and feijoa chutney. The olives were delicious - lovely and well marinated, with a bit of extra zing from the chilli - but definitely not overpowering. The venison capaccio was also great - rich and tender, and the horseradish cream was an interesting accompaniment - added an extra dimension. The gravlax was pretty good - I'm not a huge fan of cured or smoked salmon, but the citrus flavours made it pretty yummy. The panna cotta was accidentally left off our dish but our wonderful and super-attentive waitress noticed as she walked us through the items on our plate and brought some over before we had even noticed it wasn't there. The wasabi wasn't too strong and the panna cotta went well with the salmon, though I found I didn't need very much and when I tried a little bit on its own I didn't like it too much. The star of the dish for me (though all components were very tasty) was the fried goats cheese - although the cheese wasn't overly strong it had the goats cheese tang, and was soft and gooey and delectable. The crust was crisp and hot and worked perfectly - and the feijoa and honey chutney was beautiful, sweet and perfectly complementary to the cheese.

Mr Cake's beef was served with mashed potato, roasted tomato and beans, and was lovely and tender. Thne mash was rich and very, very good. The beef was perfectly cooked (to mine and Mr Cake's tastes, anyway) and very well seasoned. I was a bit jealous! ;-)

My groper (sorry for the awful photo) was melt-in-the-mouth lovely - there's just something about fresh fish... It came with mussels, clams, and green pea stew. I'm not a big seafood kind of gal but the mussels and clams here were pretty tasty - I guess maybe I just haven't had the right mussels and clams up until now. And the pea stew - well, it seemed more a butter sauce but who's complaining? Except I might as well have strapped it straight to my hips, but yummy!

The dessert was fabulous - Mojo coffee brulee with Whittakers chocolate orange mousse. The brulee was smooth and the top had a very satisfying crack, and the coffee flavour was distinct yet not too strong (I don't drink coffee and don't like it too strong in my sweets!). The mousse was very rich and dark, and the orange leant it the tang it needed to not overwhelm the tastebuds. Though I'm sure it shouldn't have been surprising given it was a carefully constructed dish I found the optimal way to eat this was with both brulee and mousse on my spoon at once - scrummy! My only complaint was that it was over all too quickly.

To top off the exceptional value of the meal was coffee (or in my case, hot chocolate) and a square of Whittakers chocolate. The Mojo folk were set up in the corner, busily brewing up coffees galore, and I have to say at this point that I LOVE the Mojo hot chocolates. I know many people who swear by their coffee, and Mr Cake enjoyed his caramel latte tonight, but as a non-coffee drinker I have had many hot chocolates and found them wanting - but Mojo consistently makes them rich and satisfying. So there we go - the coffee and hot chocolate markets covered. And maybe with a chocolate drink I might not have really needed that extra square of Whittakers but I enjoyed it all the same!

Our waitress for the evening was exceptionally helpful and friendly, and even offered to get my menu signed for me by the three chefs when I asked if I could keep it. We really appreciated the high level of service, especially given the circumstances - this is not a run-of-the-mill operation, so the level of knowledge and the efficiency and attentiveness was greatly appreciated - and it's always wonderful to have a genuinely friendly server. So thank you, if you ever read this; you were wonderful!

All in all we had a fantastic night - an excellent start to us for Wellington on a Plate, and we're looking forward to some more great events and meals over the next couple of weeks. If you want to pop along to the pop up restaurant tomorrow you can check out the event on Facebook - but I'd suggest being early! Definitely well worth while, though. A big thanks to the organisers - we loved it, and would come to another at the drop of a hat, and think it did Wellington proud!


  1. Sounds fantastic - I'm going to run along tomorrow and see if I can get a table! That fish looks amazing... just what I'd like to eat after a huuuuuge long Sunday roast I feasted on today :) and I know what you mean about Mojo's hot chocolates, even though I usually overlook them (I'm a too much of a coffee fiend)... they're so rich and chocolatey.

  2. Fantastic- what a novel idea. Fantastic menu and tons of fun. Shame they don't do thins like that more often. Op up restaruants would relieve some the monotony of having the same old same old all the time.
    Love your carrot cake pops too by the way!!!

  3. Great reading, it was a great night last night.
    cheers @HospoTrain

  4. Millie - I hope you managed to snare a spot!

    Deb - it is great, isn't it, having things that just pop up? Very in the moment!

    Anon - it was, glad you enjoyed it also! :-)

  5. Totally agree with the review. We signed up not having a clue what we would be in for. It was an awesome experience, and having such attentive but cool and laid back wait-staff topped it all off.

  6. I am so super jealous. I would be there in a heartbeat if I could


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