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By Heather• 3 Dec 2015 • 2 Comments
Elite athletes train rigorously for their big events, right? Then why should the Christmas day big eat deserve any less?
So the trainer and I jogged off down to Artisan at the Bolton Hotel for an [expected] elegant weekend lunch to get started. I was keen to check out what Chef MacLean is up to these days, having been a menu finalist for this year’s Visa Wellington On a Plate, and recently awarded at the HospitalityNZ awards. They're also not a buffet (highly allergic to those!), and at $45 for a three course lunch, seemed really good value.
The elegance was definitely all around as we swept up the circular staircase (does a grand entrance count if no-one’s watching?), and the lunch was long, lazy and delicious.
There weren't a lot of traditional Christmas dishes, but many that showcase seasonal ingredients heading into the silly season. You'll see the dishes we hoovered (err, trained) through below, with the pork terrine (extremely tender and nicely enhanced by both sweet cherry and tart piccalilli), the slow roast pork belly (an excellent mix of soft tender belly and crispy caramelised crackling, which kept on giving), and the christmas date pudding (moist and moorish, with both brandy and caramel flavours) being the stand outs.
The Clearview Estate Haumoana Pinot Gris was silky with an oily richness as promised, and it was an overall excellent experience for $45 per person. Note different menu and pricing for nights.
So like all good interval training, we had a day off and then were back into. This time it was the Hideaway Bar because their Christmas menu looked such fun - turkducken with cranberry bacon (I believe there were eyerolls in the kitchen when Vince suggested turducken), bourbon baked ham, christmas tiramisu, cranberry cheesecake, chocolate pumpkin brulee pie and more – and because I love their rich red speakeasy feel.
Turns out their Christmas menus require a certain number of bodies, so they kindly fitted us in as gooseberry to a group doing the two course $36 Christmas dinner (thanks guys!), then it turned out they upgraded to the $55 Christmas feast, so we too had to up our game. Instead of standard hydration, we figured it only right and proper to head for the Moet and Chandon bubbles.
The resident piano man (Murray Giblin) was belting out lively tunes to the big lively group, and we were up and running.
The stand outs were the shrimp Louise lettuce cups (nicely elevated with chilli), followed by the turducken (tender right through, notoriously hard to get right) and the turkey, duck and chicken were all well distinguishable. Together they gave a lightly smokey taste, and a definite xmas feel.
The lamb cutlets were tender and flavourful, resting on a medium-density equally flavourful jus, and the 64 degree egg made a fabulous sauce for the slightly salty and tangy asparagus (percorino shards and balsamic), and looked rather wonderful slowly escaping its white.
The cranberry cheesecake was memorable for the unexpected bursts of cranberry in the base; the apple tarte tatin was light, flakey and warmly delicious; and the chocolate brulee pies were a sweet finish dolloped with pumpkin puree.
We staggered home up the Plimmer Steps (thank god tomorrow is rest day!), and contemplated our next move. Still to fit in were Ti Kouka (again with the bubbles), Boomrock, the Boulcott Street Bistro, Muse on Allen, Dockside, and possibly the Thistle Inn or Leuven (mussels go straight to the muscles don't they?).
Love to hear about other good 'training' spots though...