Last night I needed to take a work colleague out to dinner. He was over from Australia, so we went for a wander round the always picturesque Viaduct Harbour. After peering at a few menus and looking in the windows of various establishments, we settled on the Foodstore, www.thefoodstore.tv, which is a fairly new restaurant sited in a prime corner spot where the old Heineken bar used to be.
This restaurant is an offshoot of Food TV and as such not only has the kitchen open and visible to all customers, but has TV screens showing what the chefs are doing as they make your meal! I was a bit concerned that we were going to see Hell’s Kitchen style shenanigans, but the only time it ever approached this was the chef, Wylie-Dean, calling out orders and responses of “Yes Chef”. Otherwise it was all very understated and calmly frenetic. We were seated on the extension area with pull down weatherproof sides and marble-topped tables rather than the dark wood tables in the rest of the restaurant.
But I know that all you want to read about is the food :-). The first thing about the menu is the labeling. You all know this is a pet bugbear of mine, so I was delighted to see one symbol for gluten-free, another for dairy free and a third for light meals. The next thing was that the selection available for those of us who are gluten-free was excellent – 8 of the 17 dishes on offer. All the dishes could be ordered in either a starter or main size, and my dinner companion and I decided to go with the traditional starter-main-dessert offering.
First up was the choice of drinks though, and hallelujah! Scotts Gluten Free Beer was on the drinks menu! For the first time in 9 months, I started my meal with a beer. And OK, so it was about 2 degrees outside and a summery pale ale might not have been the most seasonally appropriate, but I thought it was great! I ran across Scotts Beer at the Gluten Free Food and Allergy Show a few weeks ago (refer to my old post on this) and you can find their stockists on their website: www.scottsbrewing.co.nz
My meal consisted of Pan-fried duck salad with smoked eggplant puree and buffalo yoghurt followed by Venison loin with pecorino polenta, caramelised onions and beetroot dressing (you all know I’m a sucker for polenta!) and finishing up with Classic Kiwi Pavlova with fresh fruit, passionfruit curd and vanilla yoghurt. So look at that, a complete meal without having to make substitutions, choose things I don’t like or feel like I’m being a complete fusspot! My colleague chose the Chargrilled Squid with chorizo salad, roasted red onion, radicchio, soft herbs and artichoke and was pretty much speechless by how good it was. His main was Aged NZ Sirloin with crispy onion rings on button mushrooms and his dessert, suggested by a waitress who was clearly psychic as he was already leaning in this direction, was Old fashioned apple pie with Bergamot ice cream and plum puree.
The flavours were extraordinary and unusual; everything was fresh; the food was beautifully presented on funky serving dishes and clearly a lot of thought has gone into the menu choices.
For a Monday night, it was humming busily. The wait staff were a little overly attentive and extremely keen to have us order dessert – we sent them away 5 times! Special mention must be made of our waiter who was on his first shift and managed to combine knowledge of the menu, efficiency and professionalism with a very quirky dash of humour.
Price-wise, it came in at $191.00 for the two of us, which for 3 courses, 3 beers and a wine, seemed fairly reasonable, although for me personally, at that price point it would need to be a special occasion dining experience. I’ll certainly remember for future work events and overseas visitors. It will be great to be able to tell them that all the produce they’re eating is sourced locally in New Zealand. I do wonder where in New Zealand they breed buffalo…
So I’d give The Foodstore full marks for catering for gluten-free eaters and for providing an unusual and stimulating dining experience without sacrificing the quality of the food or service. Check out their website for their full seasonal menu and a whole lot of interesting information about their food sources and chefs.