Soul Bar and Bistro: Cuisine – Villa Maria Restaurant of the Year

Soul is on the waterfront overlooking the boats

Soul Bar & Bistro
Viaduct Harbour,
ph: 09-356 7249,
Lunch & dinner 7 days  (5-31 July) $70

Entrée Smoked salmon with salsa verde & toasted sourdough

Main Jerusalem artichoke  risotto with truffle, parmesan  & a poached egg
OR roasted Harmony pork chop, Puy lentils, silverbeet & apple purée

Dessert Tamarillo brulée
OR Kaimai Creamy Blue – Waharoa NZ & Soul’s oatmeal biscuits

Choice of two wines:
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Verdelho 2008
Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2007
Reserve Noble Riesling 2009

The starter again quaintly designated “Entrée” was simple and nicely balanced, understated elegance, with a tasty pesto and a strong olive oil drizzle that set off the salmon beautifully.

The pork chop was huge, but pronounced really good. The artichoke risotto continued the understated balance, with nice touches like the little crispy bits (I do not know the technical term, and the waiter understood what I meant) made from  very thinly sliced bread rolled thinner and deep fried. I would never have thought of using Jerusalem Artichokes in a risotto (starch on starch) but it went so well.

The Tamarillo brulée was a nice finish to a really good meal.

The wines were delicious, the Verdelho went really well with the risotto, but I was less convinced by some of the other matches, and also wonder if 2 from 3 is a cop out. It would have been a fairer comparison, and more fun for us to list the wines against the courses and then say 2 from  3 – after all food and matching is part of what it is about!

Again though a lovely meal, very good service and superb value :)

BTW in case you are wondering at two expensive meals in two days, the previous week Barbara was on holiday, and we were both sick and so hardly stepped outside the door, some holiday! This is part of the make up :)

Prego: Cuisine – Villa Maria Restaurant of the Year Competition

In the evening there is parking next door, but on a rainy lunchtime we arrived like drowned rats :(

226 Ponsonby Rd,
ph: 09-376 3095,
Lunch and dinner 7 days $65

Entrée Crispy skin pork belly  & pistachio nut roulade on  peppered beetroot & spinach with peach aïoli with Villa  Maria Single Vineyard Omahu Gravels Viognier 2007
Main Pan-roasted duck breast, vanilla mashed yams, sautéed cavalo nero, tamarillo compote  & black fig molasses, with Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2005

This was a brilliant matching of food and wine, with the viognier strong enough to partner the heavier than usual starter. (Why do Kiwis call starters Entrées when in France, USA and the UK this word refers to the main meat course? Isn’t it time we either grew up and said “Starter” or learned to use the foreign term more or less correctly?) The superb Syrah also complemented the duck well. In neither case did either the food or the wine overpower the other.

The service was also excellent, when we arrived in a windy downpour staff explained that the vacant table might suffer a draft and explained our choices. The young woman who served our table was attentive (even spotting a grimace from Barbara and checking that the problem was not with the meal) and seemed enthusiastic about the food. Service was prompt (apart from the inevitable wait at the start, late on a busy lunchtime), efficient and not obtrusive.

The starter was interesting, though I would have liked the pistachio to be more evident, and think the pork skin should have been crisp (as indeed the menu suggests) even when served round shredded meat. Despite those quibbles this dish was interesting, and a fine match for the deep and interesting wine.

The main was a delight. The vanilla yams and the fruity juices complemented the duck as well as being interesting in their own right. The wine again worked with the food rather than one or the other “winning” :)

Food: Very good
Wine matching: Excellent
Service: Excellent

We can’t wait to try the next one!