It was the picture perfect day to fly into Wellington and venture over the Rimutaka’s and into the velvety green pastures of the Wairarapa. The road to Wharekauhau took us on a beautiful scenic journey past Lake Wairarapa with paddocks full of lambs frolicking in the sun. As the road narrowed and the rugged coast appeared before us, we wound our way up a long drive where the grand lodge known as Wharekauhau stood majestically overlooking Palliser Bay.
We had made the journey to experience the creative culinary talent of Marc Soper, one of our 2015 Ambassador Chefs. It is easy to see where Marc gets his inspiration from working in such a beautiful corner of New Zealand and with Wharekauhau Lodge having bountiful gardens and a working farm Marc has only the best produce to work with.
This was truly showcased at Marc’s specially prepared six course beef and lamb dinner which began that evening in the lavishly decorated main lounge with drinks and canapés. Once seated in the elegant dining room complete with log fire, our first course of rice paper, beef fillet, braised tongue, smoked yoghurt, hazelnut and nectarine was served. This was a delicate dish of soft textures and smokey flavours with the delightful addition of cripsy rice paper adding a nice crunch to the dish.
This was followed by lamb shoulder, sweetbread, pistachio puree, Agria potato, poached egg, roast garlic, spec, jus.
Sweet and succulent lamb was perfectly tender and nicely contrasted against the crisp, savoury sweetbread. The tiny poached egg was a nice touch visually and a great texture contrast.
Course three was a culinary masterpiece; breaded beef, cauliflower, rocket, spring onions, coast line fennel and granola
and featured a nice juxtaposition of textures and complementary flavours. Marc had used cross cut blade for the beef; slow cooked, tender and full of flavour with a delicious chicken mousseline breaded casing. The coast line fennel which Marc forages from the property was a delicious light and fluffy mousse and the granola added a wonderful crunch to the dish. As always the addition of the creamy cauliflower was the perfect flavour accompaniment to the rich beef.
The next dish was a visual feast. A stunning, delicately pink lamb cutlet stood atop a base of lamb shank, Jerusalem artichoke, shallot, broad bean, truffle all surrounded by a deep savoury broth.
The hero of the dish was tender and flavoursome and just had to be picked up in our fingers to ensure every last morsel had been taken from the bone. The underlying shank was meaty and flavoursome and featured layers of shank and artichoke held together by an outer wrapping of delicious salty bacon.
Course five and our final protein was a favourite beef cut of mine, scotch fillet with garden herbs, barley, paua & tree mushrooms and pickled carrots.
This was a delicious dish with a bold meaty flavour from the beef which was perfectly complemented by the earthy flavours of the mushrooms and barley.
To finish our taste buds were treated to a sweet treat of sheep’s milk cheesecake with winter fruits and radish. This dessert had a medley of sweet, sour and savoury flavours which left the palate with a crispy freshness and was perfect to finish off a stunning evening.
This had been a truly indulgent experience and a real culinary Wairarapa adventure with the lamb sourced from the Wharekauhau Farm and the beef sourced from nearby Waiorongomai Station. Many of the products and produce are sourced and gown locally and Marc gets a his inspiration from what grows locally on and around the property. It was a pleasure to dine with some of the local sheep and beef farmers and for them to see their products showcased by one of New Zealand’s top chefs in the most lavish and luxurious surroundings!