Friday, September 23, 2011

Metro review - Euro

The following review of mine appeared in Metro, January 2011. You can read my review of Simon Gault's new restaurant Fish in the latest issue, out Monday 26 September.
The newly refurbished Euro is a sprawling food factory. Staff communicate via earpieces, walk-up parties of 30 are seated in a flash, and every now and then the maître d’ will call a couple of tracksuited waiters off the reserves bench to warm up in case someone on the frontline pulls a hamstring during the long dash between kitchen and table.

Neighbouring bars Pasha and the Green Room have been subsumed by the restaurant, although a certain level of Moët-fuelled suit/gold-digger interfacing continues in the central bar area. While we were eating, one of the girls in question tripped over behind us and landed on her face. True story: as blood trickled down her forehead into her eye she wailed, “Argggh! These are new fucking shoes!”

Euro offers a choice between classic dining and an exciting new chef’s table. More on the latter soon, but the first thing to say is that for all its scale, the main dining area works very well. Even the menu is huge — salads, pizzas, pastas, meat and fish done all sorts of ways. It’s a level of choice you generally see only in first-class mega-restaurants or in poky suburban eateries which never have any customers but somehow offer 11 different types of shellfish. Euro is firmly in the first category but the intention is presumably the same: to be everything to everyone.
Many Euro favourites are still on offer. Calamari with prosciutto, parmesan, rocket and dates is incredible, although the “classic” tuna steak was unseasoned to my taste, relying heavily on mozzarella and tomato for interest.

“Simon Gault’s choice” scotch fillet was a spectacular piece of meat, perfectly cooked — charred just the brown side of burnt on the outside and all pink, melting pleasure within. Those girls dancing around with Prada handbags might not feel their erotic moves are particularly enhanced by the half-dozen meat carcasses hanging in a see-through chiller at the bar, but I love having that visual connection to the meat I’m eating.

Over at the new chef’s table, diners sit along a bar while a dedicated chef painstakingly prepares each dish — about 10 of them plus extras if you’re doing the whole degustation. The food is a big step up from the standard dining menu, with experimental flavours, playful textures and extensive use of molecular techniques.

 Paua with mango paint is simple and superbly balanced, while a grilled Cloudy Bay oyster arrives suspended between two mandarin slices. Another Kiwi classic is referenced in the “Pea Pipe”, a glass cylinder of pea soup topped with a cube of potato, prosciutto dust, truffled sugar and anchovy caviar. Fancy, but not unnecessarily so — that dust, for example, packs a big salty ham hit without you having to chew your way through a slice of it.
Other dishes feature scallops, crab, venison, wagyu beef and more. While there’s no official wine-matching option, staff will happily help out — each well-chosen glass straddling two or even three diverse dishes with ease.

Eating the chef’s food while he watches takes practice, especially when it’s Gault himself, as does finding somewhere else to look while he’s measuring out the butter. But the opportunity to see behind the curtain is a rewarding experience, a great addition to the main restaurant service.

MasterChef has turned Simon Gault from respected chef into household name, so we’re lucky he’s still in the mood to extend himself. Book now before we lose him to Celebrity Treasure Island.