Taste of Auckland is an annual festival which showcases some of the best restaurants in Auckland. Each of the ten restaurants offer 3-4 tasting plates from their menus which you can purchase and sample. As well as that, there are a large number of exhibitors selling their food and beverage products. (You can find this year’s menu here.)
We’d been umming and ahhing about going this year, but a free ticket courtesy of Zomato sealed the deal. The way Taste works is that you purchase a ticket for entry, but then once you are in, you need to pay for your dishes using crowns (1 crown = 1 dollar) which are loaded onto a card for you. (You get a refund at the end of the night for whatever you don’t spend.) Each restaurant tasting plate generally costs somewhere between 8-12 crowns. We bought eight dishes between the two of us, as well as buying some goodies to take home, which all adds up. It’s not the cheapest festival to go to, but is a great way to sample dishes from all different restaurants you might not normally go and visit.
This is the third time I’ve been to Taste – the first time I went was to the very first one that was put on, a modest affair at Alexandra Park. It’s now much bigger and this year it was held at Western Springs. Unfortunately the weather didn’t play nice and it has been cold, rainy and windy. Luckily, the night we chose to go it didn’t rain. It was cold and it was muddy, but we didn’t get wet.
Part of the reason I was a bit unsure about going is because I don’t like crowds. This might be because I’m really short – my face is usually armpit level with people of average height, which makes for an unpleasant experience, especially in close quarters (surprise, surprise!). I think that it wasn’t as busy last night as it could have been because people didn’t want to brave the weather, but it was still quite crowded. Of course, at events like this, you always get the insufferable posers (“Oh, I’m such a foodie daaahling!”) and last night was no exception. It was hard not to groan out loud at the person who felt the need to declare very loudly, “I just HAVE to find something to go with this pinot gris!” And don’t even get me started on free samples. As my husband said to me early in the evening, “People are at their most feral when it comes to things like free food.” And he was right. Laughing loudly and joking about how you are SO hungry so you just have to be rude and push to the front, does not in fact make it less rude. And just because you are pretending to listen to the spiel being given by the person weilding the tray of free food does not mean that we can’t see that you just ate your weight in samples.
Ok, but I digress…
Other than the fact that other people have to be at these events (how dare they?!), I actually did enjoy myself. We got to try some really yummy food such as:
Smoked Ora King Salmon with beetroot and mint salad, pickled grapes, grilled vienna bread and horseradish cream from Harbourside Ocean Bar Grill. This was the first plate we tried and it was a fantastic way to start – the salmon was smokey and delicious.
Confit duck leg, charcoal, brie custard, Iberico ham and pickled grapes from Lava Dining. This wasn’t my favourite dish of the night, but that’s not to say that it wasn’t well-cooked and tasty. Because it was.
Hariyali chicken (marinated with crushed ginger, garlic, coriander, spinach and mixed spices, finished in the tandoor) and the lamb gilafi kebab (hand ground prime lamb mince on skewers mildly blended with coloured bell peppers), both from iVillage at Victoria. We bought the lamb first and found it so delicious that we went back and got the chicken as well, and it was even better. Succulent pieces of meat grilled in a tandoori oven with aromatic spices is hard to beat in my book. Although not much to look at, these were some of our favourites of the night and we are keen to visit the restaurant at some point!
Beef short rib with butter poached crayfish, wasabi, asparagus and samphire from Cable Bay. We actually ordered two of these because we didn’t want to share! We both love crayfish, and short rib, so this was a dish just made for us. It was nice to see some Waiheke Island restaurants included in the line up. Mmmmm, butter poached crayfish…
Valrhona chocolate delice, white truffle ice cream, caramelia squares and dehydrated mousse, also from Lava Dining. A rich and indulgent way to finish off the night.
Of course, we weren’t quite done there and I couldn’t resist taking home some goodies.
We bought a pack of mini cupcakes (strawberry, lemon, raspberry and Snifter) from Petal and some beautiful loose-leaf tea packs from Tea Total. Needless to say, we had a rather lovely morning tea the next day when a friend came over to visit.
So anyway, if you haven’t been along to Taste of Auckland, I’d encourage you to go along (but probably once the weather is better, unless you enjoy being cold and wet). If you want to experience food of a fine dining level in a more relaxed and casual atmosphere, this is definitely the event for you.