"Trust the Chef". How many out there would? Would you leave the selection of your dining up to a complete stranger? For me, nothing delights me more than leaving the decision of what to eat to the chef and luckily my fellow dining companions all food journalists are of the same thinking. We are at Amisfield Wine Company in Queenstown, New Zealand for their popular Trust the Chef menu. Somehow we innately know that we'll end up with the best of the menu but just to be on the safe side, I make a special request for the Bluff Oysters. Just because some things shouldn't be left to chance ;)
When you visit a winery it would be remiss not to do a wine tasting. A few of us give the wines a try before heading into the restaurant area which is full on this Saturday afternoon. I've had quite a bit to drink so far on this trip so I try with a restrained hand but that doesn't stop me from admiring the pretty bottles.
A limited edition bottle of their Lake Hayes pinot gris
Bluff oysters, aged balsamic and shallots $22
We sit down to eat curious to see what the chef will pick for us. The bluffs here are slightly smaller than the ones at Whare Kea and they're served with a shallot and red wine vinaigrette sauce although to be honest I prefer bluffs with a simple squeeze of lemon to bring out the brininess to them as an aged balsamic although gorgeous is a bit too sweet for the oysters.
Prosciutto, marinated tomatoes, NZ buffalo mozzarella and rocket $17
There were some changes to the menu as this dish was originally supposed to have prosciutto in it. Nevertheless, this is a really pleasant, refreshing dish for the warm sunny weather with some local buffalo mozzarella and marinated tomatoes with a variety of flavoursome tomatoes.
Fresh fig, beetroot, radicchio and roquefort $17
As this dish was set down there was a chorus of ooohs and aaahs. There's nothing prettier than the colour palette of figs and prosciutto. Again this dish was supposed to have a few components like radicchio, beetroot and roquefort but instead there are fresh white figs, prosciutto and reggiano shavings and peppery watercress which went superbly together covering sweet, salty and peppery flavours.
Fried salmon with French green lentils $28.50
The fried salmon comes with French puy lentils which are flavoured with the stock from cooking the salmon. We did find that the salmon is a tad overcooked although we enjoy the lentils.
Roast ribeye with spiced eggplant and lemon ricotta $28.50
The roast ribeye is a thing of beauty-an enormous thing of beauty in fact. A very generous serve the meat is wonderfully tender and ringed with juicy fat and it is paired with fabulous spiced Japanese eggplants and piquant lemon ricotta. Oh how I wished I could have taken the leftovers home to make myself a sandwich the next day!
Fried halloumi with peppers and mint $9
It's probably a good thing that this side came right at the end as I am a halloumi freak. These have a translucent, light coating of batter much like agedashi tofu does before it is fried and the result is deliciousness. We lament not being able to finish the enormous serve and harbour fantasies of taking this and the beef home to Sydney to fill a roast beef sandwich.
Steamed potatoes with dill mascarpone $9
The steamed potatoes are very large and the mascarpone has become a creamy buttery sauce with little fronds of dill. They're not bad although I think I would have preferred mascarpone and dill on crispy potatoes rather than steamed but that's a personal preference.
Feijoa friands with vanilla anglaise $13
The thing about the Trust The Chef menu is that apart from the special request for the Bluffs, everything that came out was what we would have ordered. Including these friands which are marvelously soft with small cubes of feijoa fruit which are all over New Zealand. It comes with a very vanillaey vanilla custard and we marvel at how most and moreish these are.
Chocolate, walnut and brandy cake $13
The chocolate cake looks to be made with a nut meal, perhaps a walnut meat and is quite crumby. I prefer chocolates cakes that are a bit darker and moist although others seem to like it although out of the two desserts the feijoa is the pick although I do love a good retro brandy snap.
So would we trust the chef again? As long as there are bluff oysters included, absolutely! ;)
So tell me Dear Reader, would you order from a trust the chef menu? Or do you prefer to decide what to order?
NQN dined as a guest of Amisfield Wine Company and travelled to and explored New Zealand as a guest of Relais & Chateaux and Qantas
Amisfield Winery and Bistro
10 Lake Hayes Road, RD1 9371, New Zealand
Tel: +65 (03)442 0556