Petone, New Zealand – December 16, 2015
Taylors on Jackson was our destination of choice to celebrate Leslie’s birthday. What an AMAZING choice!
The ten-week-old restaurant is at the corner of Jackson Street and Queen Street in Petone. The building began life around 1935 as the office of Dental Surgeon N. E. Willis. The smartly appointed interior is inviting. The beautifully refinished wood floor provides a warm hue to the dining area. It blends in with the paneling, some of which are painted while other portions are accented with stained wood. A picture-rail molding adorns the top of the wood panels. The crown molding marries the walls to the ceiling. It is all quite true to its early 20th Century roots.
Our celebration began with a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. It was The Yearling, 2013 vintage, from Coonawarra, an area in southeast Australia. The earthy aroma complements a peppery aftertaste. We thought it was one of the best wines we have had. The bottle sports a twist-off cap rather than a cork. As we have noticed, that seems to be the norm in New Zealand. I have been trying to find out why twist-off caps are so prevalent here. Our server, Peter, shed some light on why those are used. The wine industry in New Zealand and Australia used corks from Portugal until the late 1990s or early 2000s. It was at that time the cork trees suffered blight.
The fears of importing an offshore blight into New Zealand, coupled with pure economics, led to the switch from cork to twist-off caps. When using corks, as many as one bottle in ten can “cork,” which is a type of spoilage. With twist-off caps, that number is closer to one bottle in every three hundred. That is much more appealing to vintners. In one instance, even for $5 million to retool the bottling line, one vintner who decided to move from corks to twist-off caps, broke even on the expense in three vintages.
With the wine story and a sip under our belts, we prepared to tuck into our starter. In New Zealand, one sees entrées on the menu, which means starters. What we refer to as our main entrée is known here simply as a main.
I genuinely believe our entrée is on the path to heaven. We opted to share a wooden platter that came topped with beetroot cured Ora King salmon, beetroot gel, lemon curd, avocado mousse, and young fennel. There were four generous portions of salmon rolled up and topped with the gels, etc. noted above. Each bite seemed to melt away, providing a new taste treat each time.
Following the entrée, Leslie ordered a dinner salad. Our server explained that the norm in New Zealand is to bring the salad with the main. He understood that Americans prefer to have the salad before the main. He kindly obliged.
Leslie’s main course was pork belly, sour apple slaw, the texture of mandarin, ginger, saffron and orange vinaigrette. She loved everything except for the ginger. For her taste, it was a little too strong. She thought everything else was great. Pork belly is essentially the same portion of the pig from which we get bacon; however, it not cured. It is somewhat like a generously thick slice of ham with an edge of fat and crispy skin. Other than the ginger, there was nothing left on her plate.
I decided on the fish of the day, red snapper. The menu referred to it as line-caught fish, pistachio-crusted, kale chips, saffron Pernod broth, clams, mussels, and prawns. The meal came in a large bowl. The Pernod broth was a yellowish broth with a delicious taste. In the broth sat some mussels, clams, prawns, and a generous portion of red snapper. I am not a massive lover of seafood; however, given our current posting, I vow to try more and different seafood. This one was a major hit with me. The next time we go to the restaurant, I would have the same meal—if it were not for all of the other delicious sounding mains.
The best was yet to come with dessert. We decided to split the BFG snow egg, coconut crumbs, kiwi granite, and raspberry sorbet. We had to ask our waiter, just what BFG stood for. As it turns out, BFG means Big Friendly Giant. That name is for a series of books written by Roald Dahl of the same title. He also co-authored James and the Giant Peach. The giant ate everything from a jam jar. The BFG dessert is a deconstructed sweet served in a jam jar. When our server brought it to the table, he explained the bits. One of the more obvious items in the jar was the “chef’s hair.” That was spun sugar. The snow egg was a meringue. This was an incredibly delicious dessert. When we return, I would have this again.
The dessert came with two spoons that somewhat resembled a long teaspoon, with a couple of significant differences. The first was the spoon portion itself. It was easily twice as deep as a teaspoon that we are used to seeing. About halfway along the handle, there was an S-bend in the handle. Even though the spoon may have been a little different, that did not deter either of us from digging around in the jam jar.
For others that may be in the area of Petone, New Zealand, I cannot recommend dinner at Taylor’s on Jackson strongly enough.