Saturday, September 18, 2010

Plum Cafe, Wellington

We first discovered Plum Cafe a while ago, on a Friday night that was supposed to be a few casual drinks with a friend, but which became less relaxed than we had anticipated when a visit to The Library on Courtenay Place (which has amazing decor, and has been recommended by many - I think we were just unlucky) was a complete customer service fail, and after almost two hours we'd had one drink each and some small nibbles and were ravenous. We wandered out, back along Courtenay Place, failing to find anywhere that appealed, but turning onto Cuba Street we spied a cafe with friendly looking waitstaff and which wasn't thronging with people (meaning, we hoped, speedy service). The waitress was very friendly and the snacks we ordered were swiftly delivered and hot and oh-so-good after our frustrating wait. So this week when a friend asked if we'd like to catch up we thought it was time to sample the dinner menu of Plum Cafe.

As with many Wellington cafes, Plum Cafe is in a long skinny room in an old brick building, and has a lot of character, though perhaps not an ultimate amount of comfort from the hard wooden chairs. ;-) I was the last of our table of six to arrive (I was trying, as I often do though I should know better by now, to fit more activities into my day than is humanly possible) and the waiter came over soon after I sat down to tell us the specials.

We ordered our food, and I asked for a Frank sparkling blood orange juice, which I thought sounded fantastic (and I have enjoyed many a thirst-quenching beverage from Frank in the past!), which prompted two of my companions to follow suit - definitely had the alluring name going on. Disappointingly, the drink was fairly reminiscent of Fanta - not really what I was going for, way to sugary to really be enjoyable. 

The saffron risotto sounded pretty delicious - though it was the only vegetarian dish on the menu, and the two vegetarians in our group both chose to give it a miss (opting instead for starters) given risotto's status of most thoughtless vegetarian dish of the century. One of the others chose it, though, and let me try. She was unimpressed by the rice, which was slightly odd in texture, though I liked its creaminess. The flavour wasn't remarkable, though, and I think I would have been a bit disappointed with this, despite the cool presentation.

Mr Cake chose the chicken, which was stuffed with herbed cream cheese and served with sauteed jerusalem artichokes, red capsicum and spinach, and it was amazing! The tiny bite of chicken he let me have was soooooo moist and succulent, and he tells me the artichokes were fantastic. Next time I'm having this!

My option was the fish of the day, which was snapper with salsa verde, ratatouille, spinach and very thin, chewy slices of a sort of salami - I thought he said something like ventricelli but google will not confirm for me. The fish was nice but nothing about the dish was amazing - and I found the ratatouille a little bitter. Oh well - still nice enough!

We also ordered a couple of sides - I had a craving for chips (something to do with going to the gym, which always has me craving salt, a craving usually satisfied by only the unhealthiest of foodstuffs therefore negating the whole purpose), and I remembered that they were good, which they were, if a little irregular; a wide variety of sizes. I think this is good, though - I like both the soft potato-ey big ones as well as the crispy little ones which are really little more than fat and salt but taste so good... We also ordered the caramelised baby beetroot, which was perfectly cooked, though tasted basicallyjust as if they had put sugar with it - which I guess would be caramelisation but the flavour maybe wasn't as deep as I had hoped. However, they were yummy.

For dessert Mr Cake had the creme brulee, which came with one piece of biscotti which I am told was sadly soft, but the brulee lived up to all expectations and cracked satisfyingly when rapped with a spoon. Can't go past a good creme brulee! Our friend chose the pannacotta, which was nice and wobbly and came with rhubarb and little knobs of lime jelly. The jelly was very strongly flavoured - not sure if that ended up being a good or bad thing - and the rhubarb was quite hard and she needed a knife to cut it, but once in site-sized pieces it proved the perfect accompaniement to the pannacotta. I chose the chocolate brownie, which came with "Grand Marnier drunken oranges". The orange was delicious, not strongly boozy (good!), but the brownie, though absolutely mammoth - easily two servings - was pretty average. It was dense and rich but quite dry and that's enough to take all the joy out of a brownie for me. It was nice combined with ice-cream and orange but there was too much brownie and not enough of the other two!

We had a lovely relaxed dinner and all in all the food was pretty good - some things better than others (I think Mr Cake chose very well!) but all acceptable. And great company, as ever, makes for a great meal.

Plum Cafe is located at 103 Cuba Street, ph 04 384 8881,

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