Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Election Special

For lunch on Friday I decided to eat the full tasting menu at The French Café, to celebrate all the MC and copywriting work I’ve been getting through my new website Actually, I haven’t had a single enquiry through my new website yet due to not enough potential clients flicking through 13 pages of Google results to find it when they search my name, but my tech guy tells me I can improve my Google ranking by including the web address as much as possible on other websites I contribute to. I reckon if I’m clever people won’t even notice me doing it.

Degustations are fun to eat but boring to hear about, so I thought I’d try to infuse some sort of topicality, by comparing each of the nine courses with one of our nine major political parties.

Venison tartare was like the National Party – worked well as a unit but there’s really only one star and that’s the deer. He came from humble origins that deer, raised in a state forest and forced to eat acorns and plants to survive. Yes, things were grim for a while but now he’s in the French Fucking Café so at the end of the day things will work out for you if you’re prepared to work hard.

The spring vegetables were like the Greens – sustainable and colourful with lots of promise but to be honest spring is barely here yet and the various components weren’t quite as flavoursome as you might have expected. The whitebait/Lucy Lawless helped bring some celebrity power to the mix, and the fact that those flowers were foraged not ten metres from our table meant that, a bit like talking to an environmentalist at a dinner party, we wanted to be enjoying it a bit more than we actually were. 

Egg yolk confit was like the leader of the ACT Party – really posh and you'll be lucky if you ever see it again. The egg yolk is barely set and it comes with smoked potato, some bacon crumb along with leeks and Iberico ham; a little consommé was poured over it at the table. This is the sort of thing you get when you try to order bacon and eggs in Epsom.

This quail was my favourite of the day – boned and wrapped in a perfect disc, topped with a little black truffle. That mousse thing you can see is pureed croissant. Plus there’s a chestnut there and some very good wild mushrooms. This was the Te Ururoa Flavell from the Maori Party – I can’t find a bad word to say about it.

Fish of the day was like Winston Peters – an overdone piece of snapper, with a bit of a skin on. This was the only major disappointment of the meal – why snapper when so many other interesting fish are out there? Why would Labour voters go for Winston Peters when there were so many other better options?

The duck was the Conservative Party, because conservatives hate change, and this dish or some version of it has been on the menu for ever here and that’s just how the regulars like it. That kumara puree you can see top right was perfect although, like Colin Craig, I feel that sort of thing increasingly belongs in another sort of time. The orange puree is mandarin – a shout out to the Chinese guy who tried to get Colin Craig out of trouble with a phone call on Thursday when he was getting media heat about his press secretary leaving him. There’s an orange and duck stock sauce tying everything together and don’t get me wrong, this dish was extremely tasty. I'm just not convinced it should still be there in three years time when we do this all over again.

[Side note: this tasting menu at the French café was actually just incredible and some of these slightly disparaging sounding comments are mostly there to serve the metaphor. If you’re an Auckland foodie you owe it to yourself to try it out at some stage, for the great food but also to experience what absolutely perfect service looks like.]

This dessert was one of the best moments of the meal – raspberry and rhubarb, my two absolute favourite fruits plus meringue and whipped buttermilk – a sort of constructed/deconstructed Eton Mess I guess. Different shades of red worked well for this dish but not for Labour, who need to decide who they are or they’ll get replaced by some rich chocolatey monstrosity. That sounds a bit racist, doesn’t it. I just don’t like chocolate at the end of a big meal is all.

I haven’t even mentioned Internet Mana yet – maybe they're the moment you pay the bill and wonder if all that money was really worth it.

The tasting menu costs $140 and comes with a bunch of other things I haven’t mentioned. But here are some pictures.

Like the election night coverage it takes almost four hours from start to finish and as I’ve said before on this blog, when you’re looking at value you should compare it to a night out doing something really special – a Rolling Stones concert say, or something else you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

If there are enough of you wanting to do it, ask them about their new private room which you can have to yourselves if there are at least 14 people dining. The chef cooks in front of you and you can spend as long as you like out there, looking out through the big windows and watching the vege garden grow, watching the fountain splash and burble, watching the bees buzz in and out of the new little French Café beehive.

Those busy bees in the kitchen are working just as hard – there must have been almost ten of them in there at one stage, chopping, prepping, cooking and plating. It really does make you feel like a king; who knows how badly you’d need to behave in order to get thrown out.