A seat at the table: a vegetarian feast

Every now and again, it is worth splurging on a treat. This Saturday evening, a friend and I headed down to Hillside Kitchen and Cellar for a seven course degustation menu. The menu was put together for Wellington on a Plate, the annual food festival event held here in the city, and included their festival dish, based around that wonderful root vegetable, the potato. Hillside is a vegetarian restaurant, and as the website states, ingredients are sourced where possible from growers within a 150-kilometre radius, grown in the restaurant garden, or foraged nearby. So, it is quite a special sort of place.

We decided to go for the wine matches with our food, which meant we had a real mix of interesting wines. All the wines were from New Zealand, but I am afraid I didn’t make a note of them all, though they all matched the food perfectly. We started our meal with some sparkling wine to accompany the snacks. The first round of snacks was based around that wonderful spring vegetable, asparagus. There were some asparagus tips with dips, a pickled asparagus and, pictured below, fermented asparagus on crackers. All three were quite wonderful, and made a great start to our meal. This was followed by a lovely soft bread, made with kumara (see my Friday post), and served with an amazing cultured butter, that almost tasted like cheese.

Then came the rest of the food…the menu below doesn’t quite give the whole picture of what we had, but is worth showing if only for the ‘quote’ at the bottom….

Ocean and coast was based around a salt baked swede, glazed in a miso glaze and dusted with kelp , fried millet, lemon pickled onions and samphire. All I can say is – one of my favourites of the evening. The following mushroom dish was heavenly – but then I love mushrooms anyway. The mushrooms were brushed with pine oil and then grilled over charcoal. The photograph gives zero indication of the flavours and just how good it was.

Next up was the festival dish, a potato cooked in soil, or more accurately, a hassleback potato roasted in soil and mixed with rosemary and kawakawa, the fried to make it crispy. There was onion jam and a ‘dirt hollandaise’ made with the soil the potatoes were cooked in, leftover malt crumb from Garage Project and onion weed/wild garlic. This was really good and took the humble potato to a new level.

Next up was ‘pumpkin and seeds’. If you look at the featured image at the top of the post, you will see that the sauce, an apple beurre blanc, was served in a small pumpkin brought to the table. The other accompaniments were a quinoa based dish and more asparagus. This dish was a baked pumpkin and apple rose, with pumpkin seed dukkah spice, pumpkin puree and fried sage

By this time we were feeling quite full, but there was more to come. The cheese course was a sort of crumpet type base (oh why didn’t I write it down!) and topped with a tamirillo chutney and blue cheese. So rich, so flavoursome, we appreciated the apple sorbet that followed as a palate cleanser.

The first of the desserts was a miniature rhubarb tart with a soft and crumbly pastry base, and a coffee flavoured dessert. We had no room for the petit fours, which were boxed up for us to take home.

Verdict: a real treat and experience. Well worth going to for creative gourmet vegetarian food.

You can find Thistles and Kiwis on Facebook, and also on Instagram@thistleandkiwis.  As for Twitter….am totally inactive these days.  If you want to get in touch, email me on thistlesandkiwis@gmail.com

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