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By Heather• 29 Apr 2016
Bistro 52 is the training restaurant of the WelTec School of Hospitality in Lower Cuba Street (the same building that houses Le Cordon Bleu). A fair number of the students from here end up in our local hospitality industry, so I figured it would be rude of me not to go along and give them some practice.
The students are mostly school leavers, with some already working in the industry part-time. They either do 17 weeks of food and beverage service training, or 34 weeks of cookery before launching forth on their careers, or an OE. And indeed on the night we dined, our server Alex was a student who’d decided 7th form wasn't doing it for him and this training ahead of an OE would be much more useful.
The School partners with local artisans and suppliers (for example Mojo coffee and Ora King Salmon), local industry folk (for example, the Island Bay Butchery) and local chefs to help educate the students and run workshops. This keeps the training relevant, fresh and up-to-date. Nice!
By mid-April and mid-September the students are ready to open the Bistro to the public ($15 for a two-course lunch, or $30/$40 for two/three course dinners), and rotate around the various tasks and sessions. The menus are designed to practise a range of cookery methods, incorporate a wide selection of seasonal ingredients, and meet a variety of dietary requirements - including gluten free and vegetarian.
The dinner options ranged from a salmon caesar salad, to sichuan pepper lamb rump with stirfried greens and rice fritters, to housemade spaghetti with preserved lemon and crispy basil, to chocolate delice with poached pear and raspberry sorbet. I’d say that covers most cooking techniques and ingredients. The menu also recommends a NZ wine or craft beer match with each course (with the exception of one French dessert wine for the eagle eyed among you who visit).
We chose the pork and shiitake dumplings with extra vegetables as a kind of main (pacing to guarantee sweet tooth satisfaction at the end!), the porcini crusted fillet steak, the frozen banana and praline parfait with caramelised bananas, and the lemon tart with meringue cookies.
The standouts were the complimentary house-baked focaccia which arrived first (light and airy with a tangy, salty dukkah crust), the porcini crusted fillet steak (a very generous lump of protein, perfectly medium rare, and with a rich delicious oxtail jus), the wine match with the fillet steak (a Babich syrah), and the meringue ‘cookies’ on the lemon tart (nicely soft inside and an interesting interpretation).
There were a couple of whoopsies through the night, with our order lost in the kitchen and having to be re-taken, cutlery set back to front etc, but that’s all part of the fun and opportunity for the students to practise. And you also get to watch the kitchen staff in action via the screen on the wall. No pressure!
A latte lab is also run by the students on level 1 during term time to practise the art of coffee making (the restaurant is on level 3). So you should definitely pop by there too if you’re in the vicinity. Grab a loyalty card on your first visit.
The event draws competitors from across the industry and will be open for you to check out the action – coffee and cocktail making, cooking, front of house service, cake decorating, even housekeepers making beds (bet you didn't see that coming, huh!).
What a glorious food city we live in. Plenty for you to see, do and support.
Georgia looks forward to Winetopia and gets some help from Master of Wine Bob Campbell.