Feb 2014 Update - With fine-dining in Wellington reeling under its citizens' financial crunch (others might say that it's gone out of fashion), Chef Martin Bosley found it difficult to make ends meet and thus was forced to close his memorable restaurant.
Nov 2011 article.
Martin Bosley's has a built up a solid reputation as one of the Capital's bay-side fine-dining destinations with a special emphasis on premium seafood. In expectation of a top-tier evening ,I reserved a table for a degustation menu on a weekday. The start to this was not highly auspicious- there was an "open" sign at the unceremonious entrance though they were not yet ready to seat patrons. At the restaurant's entrance,there was no maitre'd to guide and welcome customers- they'd rather have us make our way to the counter in the middle of the restaurant and seek out a member of the staff. I was however seated with due ceremony, with my chair eased towards the beautifully set table which had a set of four knives and forks on either side.An ostrich egg was placed in a receptacle at each table's corner- reportedly the owner's preference for no specific reason! The dining room,designed length-wise along some thirty yards,with white and gray shades, generously faced the Oriental Bay and its harbour.
Sipping on a glass of agreeably smooth Clos Marguerite Sauvignon, with bites of fine complimentary bread, I looked out the window over turqouise waters set against the sails of boats. But the deck outside the window,not apparently a seating area, was ill-tended to- with weathered tables and an unclean floor. I handed over a list of dislikes which included yoghurt,beef,venison and organ meat among others -my hostess offered to consider these limitations.
The 'amuse bouche' was Clevedon oyster,salsa creola, chive mayonnaise & salmon roe. This small heap of putative pleasure was eased into the mouth- I could attest only to the detection- an enjoyable one- of the latter two embellishments.As for the oyster,'twas an optimally qualified representative of its ilk- tasting fresh and light as all oysters should (a good many don't) ,giving just a fleeting quota of gentle,good-natured work to the teeth before receding with its marine whispers ,like a wave at the shore. Second course- a small ceramic cup of big-eye tuna tartatre with chawanmushi. The purple-pink tartare barely afforded any distinct taste ,brunoised cucumber was placed beneath while the white custard at the base emerged the star - a "sea-cream" if ever there was one- deeply redolent of the ocean's delights, with a touch of sweetness and tiny gobbets of egg.
Next presented was a salad of spring vegetables - its aesthetics a good example of non-militant nouvelle cuisine. In a cozy stylish rectangle, a blend of pastel & vibrant colours nestled. Shallots,radish,cauliflower,broccoli & leeks were all delicately cut and presented in their pristine tenderness. Comte cheese afforded thin slices of creamy contrast while a beetroot pudding was a light, sweet distillate. A dainty quail egg, sprinkled over with sesame & seaweed, provided a delightfully liquid denouement to this vernal affair.
The service continued to be above-average and good-natured, but not acutely attentive enough to called world-class. One couldn't always count on the staff to be promptly preceptive about being at hand and responding to a summoning gaze .Post-dish feedback (a subtly cathartic and rapport-building device) was not requested.
Towards the mains- A fillet of Tarakihi was heralded with a mound of noteworthy mashed potato, mounted with brilliant colours. The tarakihi- admittedly a fish not having the most tender of inherent textures- afforded pleasing mouthfuls but not the tongue-to-toe sigh of ecstasy given by ineffably rendered fish. Violet,yellow & orange petals on the potato replicated the hues of turned heirloom tubers, made so soft that one could cut them with a spoon.
The central player in the next dish- the featured 'main'- was grilled snapper: softer and more enjoyable than the terakihi, while the lemon "air" above it was a pure citrus cloud enacting the role of an actual lemon slice. I couldn't fully appreciate the Chinese-inflected persuasions of the associates- Bok-Choy and the sweet-toasty notes of a shellfish flavoured XO sauce. At the left was the exquisite consistency of a coconut panacotta, with a mellow tropical creaminess- just three to four bites and then the tongue would languidly wave about, finishing the remains of the experience. The last component was the only one in the entire meal I didn't care to finish- snapper crab risotto- there was no actual crab meat in it and it tilted towards the drier side with a vague flavour of cooked, unseasoned crab (as distinct from say, rice with Mangalore-style crab curry which can be blissfully bolted down).
The finale was planned with three desserts. The first was 5 Textures Valrhona chocolate- which proved to be a suitably sinful affair. The mousse consistently captured the middle ground between cloud and clay, the terrine was agreeably "al dente" ,powdered bitter chocolate gave crunch when required while a choco smear & a white choco disc completed the spectrum. If this can be regarded as an intense smooch, the next dessert may be considered a sweet kiss. "Calvados baba" in a small plate akin to a black lid, turned out to be a fluffy muffin ,its interior moistened into further submission with spirits. 'Twas delectably paired with a dulcet lemon pit puree, while vanilla sugar gave another scintilla of sweetness.
The final act was ice-cream -the initial presentation was an elegant duo of yoghurt-'n'-lemon, with "popping rock"- a carbonated candy that fizzles in the mouth. Regretfully, the waitress was reminded of the printed list of 'dislikes' given to them earlier- I'm unable to tolerate the fermented sourness of yoghurt. Apologizing twice, they replaced this with a spiced ginger cake that was a little over-baked ,while its attendant syncytium of rhubarb,candied walnut & sage foam was not adequately realized. What remained the same on the plate was a raspberry-'n'-white chocolate ice-cream- this tasted of restrained brilliance :the resultant blend of a superb equilibrium betweeen tart,sweet & creamy notes. The whole tasting menu, to their credit, was paced neither too fast nor very slow.
Considering the tariff of NZ$150, was this a value-for-money meal? Yes - all eight courses offered had a consistent link of at least one praiseworthy constituent, and the kitchen proved its chops by cooking seafood ,vegetables and dessert with equal acumen. These did not leave me lamenting for more portions ;the service -though not perspicacious- made the cut, and the refined ambience all added to a sense of satisfaction. A cavil ,an admittedly demanding one, was that though the food was cooked with a very finessed hand, it did not ascend to heights of outstanding imagination and I'd have liked to sample more protein-based representatives than just the fish and oyster that were offered.The 'eftpos' billing was not brought to the table unlike its nearby fine-dining competitor; and I had to wait to engage the attention of the waitress for a return of my jacket,although they were polite enough to ask whether a taxi needed to be arranged.The end result of this evening, however, lived up to its basic expectations -I'm glad to report that Martin Bosley's offered a satisfying denouement to a limited but pleasurable set of dining experiences during a visit to the beautiful city of Wellington.
UPN @ Oriental Bay, Wellington
Next 4 pics - Enroute to Wellington
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