192 Cuba Street
Te Aro, Wellington
+64 4 8015114
We arrived in Wellington after a bumpy ferry ride through the Cook Strait from Picton late one Saturday afternoon. It was a grey and extremely windy day, which was nothing unusual for Wellingtonians, so we were keen to spend the rest of the afternoon in our hotel. We did, however, eventually come out of our hibernation for a walk around the city before our 8pm reservation at much-lauded Logan Brown.
Co-owned by Al Brown and Steve Logan, this Wellington institution has won the heart of Kiwis and Aussie foodies from across the ditch. The restaurant is all about being eco-friendly so they’re big on recycling, reducing landfill and cook with responsibly-caught seafood. In addition, they also won Cuisine Magazine’s coveted ‘NZ Restaurant of the Year’ award back in 2009 so we were definitely in good hands.
Marty and I thought the bar was pretty steez. In fact, the whole restaurant was pretty steez. The 1920s style building was previously home to the Bank of New Zealand which explained the elegant chandeliers and vaulted ceilings. Very nice.
Every Saturday night, Logan Brown do a degustation menu dinner at 8pm. The six course menu is NZD$110/AUD$87.30 per person, which I thought was a bargain compared to the prices were we paying in Australia. We were especially hungry though, so we decided to go for the nine course menu at NZD$150/$AUD119 per person. And because we are alcoholics, we decided to go for the matching wines. In total, this dinner was NZD$230/AUD$182.54 per head. Armed with a 25% off voucher (value up to NZD$40 – or was it NZD$50? I can’t remember), we thought we may as well go all out.
Our first dish was to be served with a glass of Tonon Prosecco NV but we had the option to switch to a glass of Louis Roederer for an extra NZD$10/AUD$7.94. Why not, right?
Our first course was the milk-fed roast lamb shoulder with cumin yoghurt and crisp bread, duck liver parfait with gingerbread wafer and macadamia soup. We both thought that the mound of tender fall-off-the-fork lamb was wonderful but Marty as too sure about the liver parfait – he hates liver so most of it ended up on my plate. My favourite bit of this dish was the macadamia soup which was beautifully creamy.
We then had a plate of West Coast whitebait with lemon puree and crayfish mayonnaise. My parents order whitebait all the time at yum cha and I usually only nibble on one or two pieces. Logan Brown’s version was a LOT better than its Cantonese version – sorry. The whitebait pieces were insanely fresh, having probably come from the sea that very morning and its batter so light and crispy. I also liked the creamy mayonnaise that was infused with crayfish shells while the lemon puree beautifully cut through all that richness.
Next, we had the fresh Te Matuku Bay oyster with Waikanae crab salad and popcorn scampi, paired with a glass of Rippen Riesling 2010. Being from Australia, I must admit that I’m spoilt when it comes to access to Pacific oysters so I was surprised to find that the Te Matuku Bay oyster, a Pacific, was better than a lot of the oysters I’ve tried in Australia. It was plump and fleshy with a beautiful fresh and clean flavour. Meanwhile, I likened the Waikanae crab to a slightly fleshier blue swimmer crab (which I’m not a fan of) but in salad form, it worked well. As for the scampi popcorn? Two thumbs up for us.
The paua ravioli with coriander, basil and lime beurre blanc is undoubtedly Logan Brown’s signature dish. Apparently there was a huge outright when the chefs tried to remove this dish from the menu and I can certainly see why. ‘Paua’ is the Maori word for several species of sea snails, though the texture of this delicacy most resembles that of the abalone. What really made this dish delicious was the coriander, basil and lime beurre blanc – it was the perfect balance of creaminess and herby-ness with a bit of tartness in the mix. Amazing.
The accompanying wine was the Ata Rangi ‘Petrie’ Chardonnay 2010, which I thought was odd. While it was a good chardonnay with strong peachy notes and a hint of sexy spice, it was still UGH-OAKY-OAKY-BLEURGH. It made me wonder why they didn’t just pair this with a sauv blanc which, in my opinion, would have cut through the rich sauce more effectively; after all, we WERE in New Zealand.
Things got a little meatier with the venison tenderloin with parsnip mousse, game sausage and asparagus. I get the sense that Kiwis prefer Bambi over Lamb Chop, which I (and probably Sam Kekovich) will never understand. LAMB FTW, if you ask me. That said, I find that NZ venison is better than the stuff they dish out in Australia (which isn’t even bad in the first place) – it’s cleaner, tastier and juicier. The dish paired well with the seductively spicy and chocolate-y Urlar Pinot Noir 2010.
Our final main was the Rangitikei lamb rack with rabbit Bolognese, pumpkin polenta and green pea, served with a glass of Craggy Range Merlot 2009. Marty said that it was probably the best ‘fresh’ lamb he’s had (and by that, he meant lamb that wasn’t doner-ed or souvalki-ed) and I had to agree. It was succulent and OMG-IT’S-ALMOST-LIKE-BUTTER tender. I couldn’t stop nibbling on the bones even after I was done as it was so so good. I didn’t quite like the rabbit Bolognese though but I did like the pumpkin polenta in all its creaminess in cube form.
For our first dessert, we actually had the choice between two different drinks, a wine and a beer. Being a man[sic], Marty went for the beer, the Yeastie Boys Gunnamatta India Pale Ale, while I chose the Fromm Lale Harvest Gewürztraminer 2010. My Gewürztraminer was lovely, though Marty only thought his ale was ‘okay’ (this is coming from someone who prefers lagers over ales though).
The dessert was the cardamom and orange panna cotta with pistachio wafers, lemon and pomegranate delight, which went beautifully with my Gewürztraminer in all its zesty goodness. I couldn’t really match the panna cotta with the beer, however but props to the kitchen for trying. The panna cotta itself was perfect – it was creamy yet delicate at the same time and all the trimmings contributed to what was a delightful dessert.
The next dessert, however, was the winner. A glass of sweet Yalumba Museum Reserve Muscat NV accompanied the chocolate caramel torte with espresso milkshake and hazelnut tuile. I’m not a fan of chocolate cake (but I do like the Crowded House song – and yes, I’m claiming them as Australian) but I thought this was one was fantastic. The star of the mix, however, was the creamy espresso milkshake which came in a little glass with a straw – too cute!
Our final course was called ‘Over the Moon Galactic Gold with white fig compote and oat wafers.’ Sounding more like a Beastie Boys song than a dessert (I’m guessing the chef is a huge fan? First, the beer; now, the dessert?), I wasn’t sure what to expect. Could it be an epic cake? A vanilla bean soufflé decorated with gold leaves? I sure wasn’t expecting a piece of washed rind cheese that was soft in the middle and piquant all over. It was served with a glass of Churchill’s 10-year tawny port, much of which remained untouched not because it was terrible (it wasn’t – it was great) but because we were pretty much smashed by this stage.
We were offered coffee at this stage but we declined them (it WAS approaching midnight). We were also given a containing a chocolate truffle to eat whenever we wanted later on, which I thought was a nice touch (truffle didn’t taste too bad, either!).
As we were gearing up to pay for the bill, I realised that I had left my 25% off voucher at the hotel. It was a decent walk from the restaurant so I definitely wasn’t up for running back and forth to get it (especially in the wind and rain!) but the waitress, who had been lovely all night (and looked a lot like our friend, Claire!), said that she would be happy to honour the discount on the night – provided that I came to the restaurant the next day with the voucher. Because I was heading on a food tour that was going along Cuba Street the next morning (that will be my next post!), I agreed to do that.
After eating at Fergburger three times and eating our fair share of pizzas, meat pies and Bluebird potato chips, we were glad to experience the finer side of New Zealand cuisine at Logan Brown. Although we didn’t think that Logan Brown blew us away like Quay, Marque and Jacques Reymond et al did, we would recommend it to visitors in Wellington.