The WLG pop-up restaurant hit Melbourne just over a week ago with Wellington’s best chefs, hottest produce and most distinguished moustaches in tow. Following the success of last year's Positively Wellington Tourism event in Sydney, Melbourne needed no encouragement to get involved – with 500 tickets being sold within the first 25 minutes. It’s not surprising. Costing $35 a head for a three course dinner cooked by a chef line-up that has plundered Wellington’s best restaurants, this event has good times stamped all over it.
The first eight days have been a right old knees-up, with diners sharing tables and getting acquainted over Marlborough, Wairarapa and Hawke’s Bay boutique beers and wines.
The five chefs who have brought it together are Terry Lowe of Black Barn Bistro, Shaun Clouston of Logan Brown Restaurant, Jacob Brown of the Larder, Rex Morgan of Boulcott Street Bistro, and for Capitol Restaurant, Tom Hutchinson. We don’t know who’s minding the fort back in NZ, but frankly, we don’t give a damn. They’ve been impressing the socks off of diners with the collaborative shared tasting plate starter, followed by a choice of five mains (one by each chef) and two desserts, all heavily pushing some impressive Wellington produce.
Stand-outs on the taster plate include slivers of lamb shortloin cured in Manuka salt and doused with a beetroot, white balsamic and walnut dressing, and spheres of tangy goat’s cheese, deep fried and napped in a sharp/sweet kiwi fruit and Manuka honey chutney. From the mains, we’re impressed by Clouston, who has pulled off the first and only non-stodgy pillow-puff beetroot gnocchi we’ve ever experienced (thanks to use of freeze-dried beet powder, so we hear). Another winner is Hutchinson’s groper dish. This is one firm and meaty beast of a white fish so he’s been able to pair it with soft textured potato purée dotted with chunks of salty preserved lemon and tiny whitebait, which are fried and sprinkled on top like tiny fish-flavoured fries. We’re also tempted to go back for the licorice and limoncello (lemon liqueur) soft-set panna cotta. It’s impressive stuff.
The event finishes up this Sunday folks, so sharpen your elbows and get down to Gertrude Street to try and nab one of the last walk-in spots.