Monday, April 11, 2011

A night out on the town - off to EURO!

After Fiona Read was evicted at the hands of merciless children there was some consolation offered to her by the ever generous Simon Gault.  Fiona was invited to do a tour of Gault's culinary kingdom dishing out her impressive Hapuka audition dish to the lucky guests at Euro, Auckland, Bistro Lago, Taupo and Shed 5 Wellington.

I don't really need much of an excuse to go out for a nice meal and with Fiona in Auckland last week I got on the phone to fellow contestant Nadia suggesting she join my wife and I and head to the restaurant to support our friend's fantastic achievement.

Masterchef Family in the House.
Euro was of course the scene of Episode 4 in this series where we were thrown in the deep end and asked to cook five star dishes for 100 discerning guests in an impossible amount of time under a bucket load of pressure.  Some of us came out with our heads held high, while some of us were wondering how much it costs for a professional change of identity.

Not long after sitting down Fiona came over to see how we were and it was great to see her again.  By Friday she had spent the last four nights working hard in the Euro Kitchen.  From the sound of her voice it was hard work, but very enjoyable.  A real treat to be immersed into such a professional kitchen with the honor of cooking your own dish.  It was really interesting to hear how the dish was created and to hear about the subtle changes in method required to upscale the cooking of the dish from a personal kitchen to a professional one, having things prepped and ready for the hungry evening diners.

My lovely wife Kelly and Dietician extraordinaire Nadia.

Of course Fiona's Hapuka dish was always going to be our main but we had starters to get through first.  Euro really does have a fantastic selection of 'filler' food.  Whether it be standard entree's or a selection of cured meats to lots of interesting bar snacks there really is a great range of tasty treats to get you started.  I'm excited by the Jamon Iberico.  Definitely the king of cured pork it comes from the Iberican Black Pig that is coveted so much within Spain that hardly any of the stuff makes it into export.  The meat gets it distinct flavor from both the breed of pig and the fact that the pigs are fed mainly on acorns.  Simon admits that it takes a lot of paperwork with MAF to get this coveted morsel to the country.  Thanks for the effort Simon.  We need people bringing the best of the world all this way down south!!

We decide to order from the standard Entree Menu and I choose the Scallops served with Ginger and Three Caviar Risotto, Kelly goes for the Crispy Duck and Nadia chooses the Tuna Tataki.

My scallops are well cooked.  Still tender with a nice caramelization on the surface.  They were a little under-seasoned but they worked very well with the creamy risotto, which is flavored with pickled ginger and caviar.  The creaminess of the risotto works well with the texture of the scallop and it is a delight on the palette which works perfectly with our chosen wine, being a Peregrine Pinot Gris.  I don't even notice the caviar however and had I not reread the menu I wouldn't have known it was in there.  That could be simply because I'm not that familiar with the taste of caviar though!!

Kelly's Crispy duck looks tasty and the roasted cashew dukka and orange flavored slaw are nice additions to what is otherwise that classic combination of pancakes, cucumber, hoisin sauce and Peking style duck.

Nadia's Tuna Tataki is well received.  The combination of Pear and Tuna is perfect with the sweet ripe pear cutting through the fatty taste of the tuna.  The dish comes with a pipette of soy vinaigrette, so you can add as much as you desire.  Simon must have bought a bulk load of these plastic pipette's from China as they seem to make frequent appearances in the restaurant's dishes!  Also on the dish is perhaps the most interesting thing in our first round.  Sea Grapes.  Speaking to Simon later on we discover these are a small type of seaweed that grow on coral.  Tiny green balls they burst in your mouth with an intense saltiness.  It's little touches like this which as Simon would say, bring that 5% magic.  Surprises from the kitchen that are not only interesting but work well with their chosen dish.

And then we move onto our mains.  Time for the trumpeted arrival.  Cue music......

Fiona Read, amateur chef in a professional world presents to you:

Hapuka with Black pudding served with sherry potatoes, saffron aioli and nettle and walnut pesto.

Now you might think as friends we are quite bias in our opinions, and you would probably be right.  But that goes with all tasting.  The mind is a powerful tool and preconceived ideas already affect your palette before you've even opened your mouth.  That being said I don't think I would have ever thought to combine black pudding and fish!!

Fiona confesses she is a fiend for the boudin noir and it must be that obsession that led her to try an extravagant combination which suprisingly works very well.  I've never had Hapuka before and I am blown away by the thickness of the fillet and the true meaty texture which it possesses.  The dish works very well with different layers of flavor combining well.  The fish is the first taste on the tongue which is smoothly taken away by the earthiness of the black pudding.  Following through is the aioli and the nettle pesto with a slight citrusy sweet finish from the sherry potatoes and the orange vinaigrette.  A fantastically put together dish so all accolades to that woman Fiona.

Nadia shared in the Hapuka dish and she was equally impresesed. Kelly went for the Salmon on Prawn and Pea Risotto.  Perfectly cooked Salmon with a crunchy skin.  The Pea and prawn risotto was tasty and creamy, but did not have enough of the sweet pea flavor coming through for me personally.

Organized Banoffee Pie
By this stage of the evening we are extremely full but as always the dessert menu somehow makes it way onto the table.  My eyes are drawn by an Organized Banoffee Pie.  I'm a very organized person.  I write lists.  I check lists.  I tick lists.  I rewrite lists cause I can't read them.  Organized Pie.  Yes thanks, I'm sold.  It turns out to be a treat.  Sweet banana crisps, lovely ice cream and a fantastic combination of caramel and what looks like a set banana puree covered in freeze dried raspberries.  The importing company Sous chef do a range of freeze dried berries and fruits which are sensational.  Real intense flavour in a small package they are a fantastic addition to the dish.

Kelly has pavlova which includs a hidden kiwifruit jelly.  It looks great and Kelly confirms that it tastes the same.  Nadia goes for the melting chocolate pudding, which good to it's name ooooooozzzzes all over the plate.  Yum Yum.  The desserts are a fantastic way to finish the evening's eating and what a way to top a meal.  If you head to Euro try, try hard, not to eat too many bar snacks, so you can enjoy the sweet treats on offer.  Either that or book for lunch and intend to stay there till dinner ensuring you have a room booked at the nearby Hilton so you can just roll on home.

Our night finishes with Fiona and her lovely husband Chris joining us for a few Pinot Noir's and we find ourselves sitting on the table next to one William Shatner.  Perhaps the most amazing finish to an already fantastic evening.  Euro's cuisine is somewhat similar to Shatner's most famous character Captain Kirk's eternal quest: to boldly go where no man has gone before.  Well that may be taking it a slight step too far but there is nothing quite like the joy of suprizes when dining.  And you are sure to get that at Euro.  Suprises that taste good just make it even better.

Fiona has finished her run at Euro but southern friends still have a chance to get a taste of this dish.  Fiona will be in Taupo at Bistro Lago for the next few days and at Shed 5, Wellington from the 18th-22nd April.  It is well worth the effort!!

3 courses for 3 with 1 bottle of wine was $300

Food 8/10
Atmosphere 7/10 + 'William Shatner' Factor = Illogical Captain.
Value 8/10
Service 10/10
Suprise Value 10/10


  1. What a neat post! Looking forward for more post from you. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Aha, 'rewrite lists cause I can't read them!' having seen your handwriting I can certainly believe that :p

    Taupo's just a hop and a skip from me - if only I hadn't spent all my money on the boys birthday!!

  3. Thanks for the support Mr. Cart Ridge!

    Yep Patrick, who would have thought a son of teachers could have such terrible handwriting!