Matterhorn - Te Aro Wellington

Venison Denver Leg with captivating sides.
A coolish mid June evening surfaced after the early winter sunset brought down temperatures.  The open fire places in the restaurant were being stoked and the engaging male staff in the courtyard allowed me to sit inside.  Both the food and drink menu is impressive.  The latter concentrated on New Zealand wines (especially from Hawkes Bay, Central Otago and Marlborough)  but also had several selections from Spain, Portugal, Italy and France. Crayfish, tuna  and salmon are featured for seafood but I reckoned the uplifting feature of the menu is the clever and thoughtful combination of ingredients.

I thoroughly enjoyed the duck variations with brioche entree.  Creative, imaginative and tasty on the palate, degustation of the several duck variations inspired my expectations and uplifted my comfort. Perhaps a mark of the return of head chef Sean Marshall from late last year.  Settling down in an Indian Runner cocktail, I did find the place rather too dark for its own good and the tiny flickering table lights did  not much help in reading the menu.

The Matterhorn in Wellington CBD is located hidden inside a passageway - after the sign outside on Cuba Street mall side, there is no other indication of where the restaurant is.  The staff were diligent in ensuring my drinks did not run out, whether non-alcoholic or not.  Seated near the bar, I could catch the banter of guests who treated it more like a pub.

Duck in the dark with brioche.

Being such an established institution in The Land of the Long White Cloud,  the Matterhorn carries a heavy burden in reputation and delivery.

I enjoyed the Franco-German theme and feel of the set up, provided with a finesse in the way the kitchen prepared meats, grilled and cured.  I selected the Venison Denver leg for my mains as it is local Kiwi produce  and I was looking forward to how the Matterhorn served it.  When the dish came, I was immediately distracted by the side servings, especially the eggplant caviar plus the Miso mix with sweet potato - this was an elegant representation of the best from the land.  Black sesame with other grains echoed absolute globalisation.  Oh yes, getting back to the venison, this had a deep flavourful texture.  It held its firmness and yet it was subtle on the bite.

Perhaps it was too early a start.

It had not been easy to zoom down to my final choice of starters.   The coddled egg had gravy over accompaniments of oyster mushrooms, polenta, garden peas and chicken wing bacon, all on one plate.  Another entree, wild rabbit, was enhanced with Spanish sherry, flavoured with cardamom and served with Shitake mushrooms, wild greens, barley and Heritage carrots.

For  lighter mains, Matterhorn offers the house Agria Gnocchi, made with seasonal harvest , pecorino and nettle pesto.  For heavy eaters, the Plate of Pig jumped out to my attention, served with pickled pumpkin,  Savoy cabbage and cider sauce.  Very German, very Oomp Pah Pah!

For those not having a course meal, the Matterhorn offers an interesting option to go with just drinks - the Grazing Food section.  An example of informal flexibility, you can have small serve items like mussels  bathed in malt vinegar, a Charcuterie board, Momma's fried chicken, Tuna sashimi, polenta fried zucchini dipped with spiced Tahini yogurt and simple Dukkah bar nuts.   Just great for after office chill outs and group drink sessions.

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There are two outlets for the Matterhorn in New Zealand:

1.  Wellington - 106 Cuba Street, Te Aro

Open Monday to Saturday from 3pm till late;  Sundays from 1pm till late.
Nearest cross road  - Ghuznee or Dixon Streets
Telephone:  04 3843359

Bookings recommended on weekends.
Atmosphere - relaxed and diverse, with business, family and social groups
Sit down section inside and outside  with a joint bar section.

2.  Auckland - 37 Drake Street, Freemans Bay at the Victoria Street Markets  (not visited at this stage).

Open Monday to Saturday from 3pm till late;  Sundays from 1pm till late.
Telephone: 09 9292790

My impressions of the Matterhorn in Wellington:

Ambiance:  It can be a pub, it can be a fine dining experience.  Relaxed and diverse, one can be sitting near boisterous guests or have a private corner.

Taste:  More than satisfying.  Accompaniments bring the diner to higher sensations on the palate.

Location:  Not exactly ideal and such food created deserves a better waterfront setting.

X factor:  The chef's clever combination of ingredients to create exciting and well blended dishes.
Attentive mindset by most staff.

Would I return?  Yes, for the inspiring menu.  Also to soak in with the English Patient Martin Miller's, Saffron Gin, lemon, sugar and hopes made ginger liqueur.  There are only four Australian wines that evening if I saw it right - the Knappstein Shiraz from the Claire Valley South Australian; Shaw & Smith chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills;  Adam's Rib chardonnay from Beechworth and the NV Chambers Muscadelle from Victoria.  One USA choice  - the Zinfandel from California.


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