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photo 1 copyThis review required some men­tal time travel on my behalf, because while this issue will come out in early sum­mer, we dined in the depths of winter. We tried to ima­gine gaz­ing out across the dunes towards a golden sun­set, Kapiti Island cast into glor­i­ous sil­hou­ette as the last rays stroked the sky… but our thoughts were drowned out by the rattle of hail against the darkened windows.

The staff did a vali­ant job of mak­ing the light and airy space feel cosy, with a large fire, port­able heat­ers and warm smiles, though they battled against draughts and a half-empty din­ing room. Nev­er­the­less, it’s clear that the decor would be per­fectly suited to sum­mer: mostly plain, let­ting the view dom­in­ate, but with some play­ful Kiwiana touches that stay just on the right side of cliché.

We began with two dishes that looked optim­ist­ic­ally towards spring: crab ravi­oli, and risotto with peas and Mon­tevec­chio cheese. The former was def­in­itely entrée-sized: just two mod­est ravi­oli in a dark puddle of crab bisque. Each ravi­olo con­tained a fairly unadorned serving of roughly shred­ded crab meat, but this allowed a dir­ect expres­sion of the crab’s tex­ture and fla­vour. The bisque was much more intense, but stopped short of over­power­ing the crab meat, and the sim­pli­city of the res­ult was delight­ful. In con­trast, the risotto was a hefty por­tion, ver­ging on stodgy. The cheese fla­vour was muted, and if they were rely­ing on the verd­ant fresh­ness of peas to lift the dish, then it was the wrong season.

Things looked up with the fish of the day, pan-roas­ted snap­per, which arrived on a sea­son­ally appro­pri­ate plinth of roast pump­kin with parsnip purée. While the pump­kin was a touch under­cooked, it was enlivened by an agro­dolce reduc­tion, which also cut through the but­ter­i­ness of the crab and chive sauce. But the snap­per itself was the star, and in par­tic­u­lar the glor­i­ous crunch of its skin.

My lamb rump was also wintry, served atop thick slices of parsnip and car­rot and a vis­cous pea purée. While the lamb was attract­ively pink, it was just short of tender. On the oth­er hand, I sur­prised myself by enjoy­ing the Brus­sels sprouts (though pick­ling can make almost any­thing pal­at­able) and a cauli­flower side dish (Gor­gonzola gratin will do likewise).

For dessert, orange mousse was subtly deli­cious, with a del­ic­ate tex­ture, but it paled beside the mag­ni­fi­cence of their Sicili­an par­fait. Much more rus­tic in tex­ture than the silky fluffi­ness I nor­mally asso­ci­ate with par­faits, this had a tooth­some con­trast between cream­i­ness and crunch. Accord­ing to the waiter, the secret was a com­bin­a­tion of can­died roas­ted hazel­nuts and almonds, ground into a car­a­melly nutty rich­ness, topped off by slivered almonds and chocol­ate sauce.

Waimea tries to cov­er all the bases. The dishes we sampled were some­where between reli­able café fare and sim­pli­fied fine din­ing, though at a reas­on­able price and with a com­mend­able emphas­is on fresh loc­al pro­duce. The menu also includes pizza and tapas, so they have some­thing to offer any­one who comes here for the sea­side loc­a­tion. Get­ting here by pub­lic trans­port would be a frus­trat­ing mis­sion, so as a car-free urb­an­ite I’m unlikely to be temp­ted out of cent­ral Wel­ling­ton. But if you’re in the neigh­bour­hood, or drawn here by the cli­mate and view, then the food will not disappoint.



Address: 1 Waimea Road, Waikanae

Phone: 04 293 4240

Cost: Entrées $10–20; mains $23–30

Open: Wed–Sun 9am–1am

Food: Mediterranean/modern New Zealand

Drink: Tuatara Hefe $7; Riondo Pinot Gri­gio $9/glass, $45/bottle[/warning]


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