Sunday, 21 October 2018

Louis Sergeant's tasting plates

Louis Sergeant has a new home at the top of Lambton Quay. The decor has been refreshed and now boasts a street-facing store front to entice hungry customers in for afternoon tea. There are fewer tables and no kitchen on site so the selection now focuses on a more refined and predominantly sweet menu. The high tea menu has also been refreshed. There are now nine sweet items (no savoury) available Wednesday to Sunday.

Even with a refined menu, you're really spoiled for choice. Everything looks so perfectly appealing. If you can't decide, I'd recommend a tasting plate of three petits fours and coffee or hot chocolate for $14. The selection changes frequently and features miniature versions of the full sized patisserie items. My platter gave me explosions of flavour featuring chocolate, hazelnut, choux pastry, lemon, vanilla and pistachio ... and an appetite to return and try three more treats another day.

Tasting plate

Friday, 14 September 2018

Petit fours at the InterContinental

I'd heard that petit fours on the InterContinental Hotel Lobby Lounge dessert menu are Wellington's best kept foodie secret. I'm already a big fan of high tea at the InterContinental. Yesterday, my team and I checked out petit fours.

For $18, you get a platter of sweet treats to share. It's enough for one between two if you want to sample everything or three people if you're being polite. The selection changes regularly. Yesterday's menu included macarons, chocolate truffles, candied orange wedges dipped in dark chocolate, biscotti, fruit jelly, coconut ice, marshmallow and new season strawberries. Delicious!

Petit fours
Petit fours are a great introduction to high tea if you have less time or are after a smaller treat. Ssh - pass it on!

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Two hours of power at The Arborist

Wellington on a Plate wrapped up its tenth birthday today. We ended a foodie fortnight by saving the best for last. Two hours of power at The Arborist was described as a kiwi take on yum cha. Apparently the kitchen was given free rein and came up with a seemingly endless menu. This is what they promised:

An ambitious promise
The menu listed nine courses, in no particular order, plus two desserts. We actually started with a bonus dish not on the menu: baked potato with pulled pork filling. (Don't worry - each potato was to share between two people.)

Baked potato with pulled pork appetiser
So, with our palettes ready, then dishes kept coming in yum cha style. There were so many highlights and I only remembered to take a few photos. Marmite glazed pork ribs, hot smoked salmon devilled eggs, prawn cocktails with avocado on melba toast, mushroom and feta mini quiche, slow braised lamb shoulder with smoked kumara pastries ... we were served continuously for an hour before needing to slow things down a bit - a welcome reprise before starting again.

Would we like seconds of any dish? Although we were pretty full after nearly two hours, here's what we chose to sample again.

Beer battered snapper with salt and malt vinegar fries
Coq Au Vin chicken tossed in hiracha honey and garlic with blue cheese dip
Mini pavlova with strawberries, kiwifruit and chantilly cream, and a mini lemon curd tart topped with crumbled meringue finished off an amazing meal at The Arborist. The service this afternoon was exceptional and the food simply divine. A fitting end to another Welly on a Plate season.

A sweet ending

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Mad Hatter's Tea Party with a twist

High tea two weekends in a row? It must be Wellington on a Plate. The Mad Hatter's Tea Party with a twist was held at the festival hub behind Prefab Cafe.

This dapper couple were suitably dressed for the occasion.

Thomas the Tank Engine meets the Mad Hatter
We entered through the magical festival hub, where candy floss clouds were there for the taking.

Candy floss clouds
Walk past the popcorn wall and entice your palette. Which will you choose: sweet, sour, bitter salty or umami?

A wall of popcorn
Alice invites you ...

  ... to follow her down down the rabbit hole ...

Don't get lost!
... and take your seat.

Table setting
The flowers look so pretty ...

Pretty flower bowl
... but they're actually a resting place for this little blue penguin!

A penguin ice sculpture
Ooh, a game of chess! Who is brave enough to play?

Giant chess board
Time for tea. Teapot cocktails were served. There were no non-alcoholic or coffee substitutions included (apart from some available for purchase) so we stuck with water.

Tea is served
While waiting for our food to arrive, we visited the vending machine in the Visa Festival Hub and munched on another pottle of popcorn along the way.

Treat yourself for just $1!
Here's how the menu transformed:

Mad Hatter's high tea
Where to start? At the bottom, of course! Rabbit pies, chicken liver and plum jelly brioche doughnuts, and cucumber, cream cheese and cricket (yes, cricket) sandwiches. The brioche and bread were amazing. The fillings ... well, I need a bit more getting used to chicken liver and crickets. Surprisingly, the chili and black ant candy floss was actually quite delicious.

Savoury style
These champagne jelly tarts were set on shortbread and dusted with freeze dried raspberries.

Champagne jellies
And no Mad Hatter's tea party would be complete without jam tarts. We finished off high tea with a mini chocolate (mousse) garden.

The Queen of Heart's tarts
This Mad Hatter's tea party was a magical way to wile away an hour on a Saturday afternoon.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Homegrown high tea at Artisan Dining House

Wellington on a Plate continued today with Homegrown high tea, an elegant high tea experience at Artisan Dining House in the Bolton Hotel. High tea featured a range of handcrafted gourmet teatime treats made with local ingredients and began with half a glass of The Griffin bubbles from Palliser Estate on arrival. The tables were set.

A bubbly start
The menu promised nine items sourced from locally produced ingredients along with a selection of teas.

High tea menu
 Thankfully we could exchange tea for coffee. Our high tea arrived.

Artisan Dining House high tea
Where to begin? The classic cucumber sandwich was actually on the top (dessert) tier, so we started there and then moved to the savoury bottom layer. You can see little venison pies, mushroom arancini, and lamb croquets. They're hiding a teeny tiny cheese scroll nestled in behind.

The middle tier had a range of sweet items, including citrus slice, almond friand and a Whittaker's chocolate coconut fudge slice featuring an elegant white chocolate shark with a pretty marbled effect. This was my favourite high tea treat.

We finished high tea with a tiny salted caramel macaron.

The Artisan Dining House is a lovely setting for an elegant Sunday afternoon high tea.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Find your inner chocolatier

I've long been a fan of the Wellington Chocolate Factory. Their story of how they locally produce bean to bar organic fair trade chocolate is as legendary as their salted caramel bars at Christmas time. Find your inner chocolatier offered a magical hands-on Welly on a Plate experience at this inner city chocolate factory.

Did I mention how delicious the factory smells from the moment you walk in the door? The event began with a private tour of factory. We learned about what bean to bar means for their production line and sampled cacao beans and four different types of chocolate from around the world.

Chocolate sampling
We were shown various machines and gadgets, each one playing an important part in the chocolate making process. There is a window into a small room to the left of the entrance. This is the ageing room, where the chocolate blocks are left for around three months to age before it is tempered and crafted into bars.

Chocolate is left to age, much like wine and cheese

Then, we got to don aprons and sexy hairnets to have a go at making and wrapping our own specialty bars. The machines have names, making them as much a part of the team as the rest of the staff. Betty was busy preparing raspberry milk chocolate for us to dollop into chocolate bar moulds. Luckily she knows the exact amount needed for each mould and will dollop this in when you press and hold the foot pedal. The side tables vibrate. They remove the air bubbles that form and help to distribute the chocolate to the edges of the mould, which is a far more efficient way to do this than dropping a chocolate mould repeatedly on the bench at home.

Betty is tempering raspberry milk chocolate
Tui stands next to Betty and tempers dark chocolate to be made into salted caramel brittle bars. Dark chocolate flows more freely and was much quicker filling these moulds. The bars are flavoured by sprinkling sea salt and caramel crumble on top before leaving to set. I rebelled and made hokey pokey bars. (I'm completely over salted caramel.)
Dark caramel brittle blocks
After a short time setting in the fridge, it was our turn to hand wrap our chocolate bars to take home. It's actually not as easy as it looks to get perfectly straight edges, especially with chunky caramel pieces sticking out the back. (I'm not too good at wrapping presents, either.)
My finished products
We got to take home our four delicious bars and their full range extends to eight varieties. If you're in the Cuba St area, pop around the corner to the Wellington Chocolate Factory and step into a world of chocolaty goodness. I hear their hot chocolates are also magical.
The full Wellington Chocolate Factory range