Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Modern Pantry: New Zealand cuisine, who knew it?

So what is New Zealand cuisine? According to that all-knowing source, Wikipedia, it is "a diverse British based cuisine, with Mediterranean and Pacific Rim influences as the country becomes more cosmopolitan".  So basically a bit of everything.  Set up by New Zealand raised Anna Hansen, the Modern Pantry has been pigeon-holed as serving New Zealand cuisine (at least by my proudly Kiwi roommate at work - All Black flags a plenty in my office).  But a quick look at the menu shows it is so much more than that.  Anna takes a bit of what she likes from around the world and fuses ingredients together to create bold new dishes.

We headed along on a Sunday lunchtime, the place packed with mid-twenty something professionals  regaling their tales of the night before.  The great thing about going at this time, though, is that you can take advantage of the two courses for twenty, three for twenty five, offer. 

I started with the salmon sashimi and squid ink dressing, delicious. Others had the marinated feta salad with pickled gooseberries and broad bean salad and some grilled aubergine with Thai cress and a soy and and ginger dressing.  Contrasting flavours from around the world, perfectly merged together.

Salmon sashimi with squid ink dressing

Grilled aubergine with Thai cress and crispy shallots

Marinated feta with broad bean and pickled gooseberry salad

What I had next perfectly sums up the approach at the Modern Pantry, with nods to South America (plantain chips), Thailand (a som tam style salad) and Europe (slow cooked pork belly with wonderful crackling).  A seriously good plate of food. LJC had the butternut squash - this had been mashed with ricotta and what I think was coconut milk and wrapped in a thin, crispy dosa-style pancake. She declared it to be one of her favourite dishes of the year. Also very good, but perhaps not quite up to the other dishes, was the Barbary duck  with saffron and poppy seed spatzle. Nice, but didn't really excite me.

The Barbary duck

Pork belly, plantain chips and Thai salad

Butternut squash and ricotta
Following two delicious courses we were starting to strain at the waistline so decided to skip on the interesting looking ice creams and settled instead on sharing a bowl of black cherries.  These were a little expensive, priced as they were at four fifty. But, in saying that, they were probably the best cherries I have ever had so the price can probably be forgiven.  Served straight from the fridge, they were wonderfully juicy and sweet.

Those cherries
For me fusion is a dangerous word when it comes to food, it is after all only three letters away from confusion.  And mostly that is what I find fusion food to be, confused.  I am therefore very cautious to brand the Modern Pantry as a "fusion" restaurant.  That is what it is though.  It serves ingredients from around the world, fused together.  Thankfully, in this case though, the food is quite exceptional. There is no doubt or confusion in my mind, the Modern Pantry is excellent.
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