17 May 2012
Just a taking a little break from my usual meatridden spiels to reflect on a moment of finer dining a couple of months ago. It was our last night at home in Wellington and we were looking for a convenient excuse to convince my parents to allow us to take them out for a bit of a blow out at a nice restaurant. As it turned out it was their wedding anniversary so off we went to The White House.
The White House is one of Wellington’s swishier restaurants, situated in the prime location of Oriental Bay, looking out onto beautiful views of Wellington Harbour.
As we very rarely go out for such meals, we decided to go the whole hog and ordered the Menu Degustation all round. The meal was wonderful. Each dish a delight. Beautiful to look at and beautiful to eat. Little nods to molecular gastronomy here and there. Explosions of exciting and complimentary flavours and textures left, right and centre. Ten courses of heaven.
What a fun way to start the meal. Crudité served in the form of a pot plant with everything being edible (except the pot). I’d seen photos of such dishes before, but never experienced the pleasant surprise of having one presented to me. The “plant” was in fact a freshly picked radish grown on the restaurant rooftop, served embedded within rye breadcrumb soil and delicious creamy goats cheese deep below.
2. Heston’s Mock Turtle Soup
The fun continued with the second meal. This was the main item which drew my attention to the Menu Degustation int he first place. I’d enjoyed the television series Heston’s Feasts, where gastronaut Heston Blumenthal created an amazing consommé seemingly with a gold pocket watch in a teacup and some hot water from a teapot. We had a great time watching this dish recreated at The White House and the consommé (which turned out to be chicken) was delicious!
3. Seared scallops, red pepper harissa, smoked fish puree, fennel, date and orange salad
I love scallops and these were nicely seared and complimented with a combination of sweet citrus and umami flavours with a just hint of spice. Gorgeous.
4. Slow-cooked pork belly, ginger and lychee jelly, spicy cashew butter
The pork dish was one of our favourites, although this is a very close call as we loved them all. Lovely Asian flavours, tender pork and fun textures. I particularly enjoyed the cashew butter.
5. Palate Cleanser
The palate cleanser arrived with some ceremony in a bowl of dry ice. Inside we discovered a refreshing strawberry granita with balsamic vinegar to help intensify the rich strawberry flavours. Dehydrated strawberry crisps added a bit of extra crunch.
6. Sous-vide breast and leg of duck, braised cabbage, orange kumera mash, mandarin paste
Another favourite, the duck was beautifully tender from the slow sous-vide method of cooking. I liked that we were given meat from two different parts of the duck for contrast and comparison of flavour and texture. The flavours were kept relatively simple here but it was hugely enjoyable.
7. Angus pure beef fillet, fried scampi, Worcestershire spatzli, carrot puree, oxtail juice
The fillet of Angus beef was served rare and incredibly juicy and melt in the mouth. I was also surprised by the size of the fried scampi which added a tasty “surf and turf” factor to the dish.
8. Over The Moon triple cream brie, blushing pear
The cheese course consisted of an incredibly creamy brie served with a nice poached blushing pear. Delicious!
9. Classic creme caramel
Dessert arrived in the form of a lovely and light creme caramel, one of my Mum’s favourites. Traditional but flawless.
10. Molten chocolate pudding, buttermilk ice cream, malted chocolate soil, raspberry puree
What meal would be complete without a second dessert? For those who find a creme caramel too restrained, this should certainly keep them happy. Rich and chocolatey with a gooey decadent centre, the milky buttermilk ice cream made a good contrast.
I think my parents really enjoyed their meal. We certainly did not leave hungry! Every dish that emerged was an absolute delight and we couldn’t fault a single thing. I have only praise for head chef Paul Hoather. At some point during the meal he wandered by and my Dad (formally being in the wholesale fresh produce business) remembered him from one of his previous kitchens called him over for a little chat and reminisce which was nice.
Although the price of $140 per head was very expensive as far as New Zealand meals go, I felt that for the quality of food we received it was very good value compared to what you would pay in London for something equivalent, even in spite of the terrible exchange rate! If you can afford it as a rare treat on a very special occasion I’d highly recommend it.
The White House
232 Oriental Parade