Treacle Cured Beef Fillet Served with a Red Pepper Sorbet, Shiso, Kogi BBQ
Veal Sweetbreads, Lamb Shank, Asparagus, Black Garlic, Beetroot
Angus x Jersey Butter Beef Scotch Fillet, Shiitake Pot Sticker, New Zealand Seaweed
The Beef + Lamb Ambassador Series was designed to showcase our very talented Ambassador Chefs who are selected each year for their skillful and innovative cooking of beef and lamb. Each dinner highlights the chef’s unique strengths and brings to our attention yet another layer of flavour or creative use of beef or lamb. Just when we think we have seen every possible meat cut or flavour combination our taste buds get treated to another sensational creation. This was certainly the case in Hamilton this week when I dined at Victoria St Bistro where Chef Andrew Clarke hosted his Ambassador Series dinner to a sell-out crowd with each course matched to a beautiful wine from Mills Reef Winery.
Seven courses later, I would have to say Andrew is the ‘master of flavours’ with each dish showcasing beautiful ingredients which highlighted their individual flavours yet combined together so well. Texture was another highlight of Andrew’s dishes which was evident from the very start with his clever lamb and rosemary volcanic ciabatta. With the appearance of a bread roll with a golden brown crispy exterior and a sprinkle of rosemary, when pulled apart a delicious soft creamy interior of mascarpone and shredded crispy lamb was revealed with a lovely savoury taste to get the evening started and highlighted by a delightful Mills Reef Gimblett Gravels Merlot Rose 2016.
Second course of treacle cured beef fillet served with a red pepper sorbet, shiso, kogi BBQ was a delight to the eye with a pop of colour from the red sorbet and a delicate crisp slice of lotus root placed on top. The cured beef was soft and tender and had a sweet richness. The kick of spice from the kogi BBQ sauce was a lovely contrast to the sweetness of the dish and the sorbet cooled the palate nicely and highlighted the subtle sweet flavour of the red pepper.
This next dish featured a cut which Andrew explained was a childhood favourite of his – the infamous sweetbread! Now offal is not everyone’s cup of tea, however this dish of veal sweetbreads, lamb shank, asparagus, black garlic and beetroot was simply outstanding and would entice the harshest critique to eating sweetbreads! Once again flavour and texture was highlighted with a beautiful crunchy exterior, soft moist interior and subtle flavour of the sweetbread matched with the earthy flavours of local grown asparagus, smooth sweet beetroot purée and the rich treacly texture of the black garlic. The lamb shank rolled into a neat parcel spoke for itself with that delicious lamb flavour it is renowned for. For extra texture the dish was topped with sprouting quinoa which we were informed was the first batch to be grown in New Zealand.
Course four tantalised our taste buds with compressed lamb belly and miso glazed tenderloin, puffed barley risotto and whipped feta. The lamb belly had the perfect combination of crispy outer, soft tender interior with the lovely rich flavour that comes from long slow cooking to break down all the fat and collagen adding real depth of flavour. This contrasted nicely with the more subtle flavour of the lamb tenderloin and the beautifully cooked barley added great texture while the smooth and creamy whipped feta offset the richness of this dish.
Moving on, the next two courses to be served brought out the big beefy flavours and gave us the opportunity to taste a new breed of beef. Angus x Jersey Butter beef scotch fillet with Shiitake pot sticker and New Zealand seaweed was served showcasing the beautiful pink and slightly marbled interior of the beef scotch fillet. This was accompanied with earthy flavours from the smooth celeriac purée, crunchy savoury seaweed and the crispy fried dumpling. 24 hour organic beef rump, smoked potato and bone marrow gnocchi, needle mushrooms, sauce au poivre, onion ash was our final savoury course and with portion control closely monitored I did actually have room to devour this whole dish and still leave room for dessert! The rump was beautifully pink and tender with a delightful meaty aroma. Andrew had replaced the butter in the gnocchi with rendered bone marrow which added a subtle flavour to the smokey soft potato interior. The sauce was peppery and sweet and the dish was topped with a splash of colour from the peppery rocket and a sprinkle of onion ash which added a slight char flavour. This dish was a modern and innovative dish using the classic ingredients of steak, potatoes and mushrooms.
And finally to round off a night of stunning cuisine and fine wines we were served dessert – salt caramel ‘Opera’ tiramisu accompanied with a nice sweet glass of Mills Reef Elspeth Gimblett Gravels Vintage Port 2013. Together these created a sweet, salty, rich end to a fabulous evening. A huge thanks to Andrew Clarke and Victoria St Bistro for taking us on this culinary journey and to Mills Reef Winery for the outstanding wine matches.
Check out Victoria Street Bistro online here