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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Logan Brown, Wellington

logan brown bar

"Have you seen the bar? There's a fish tank in it."

We are quick to investigate. The salt water fish tank runs the length of the bar at Logan Brown, winner of NZ Restaurant of the Year at the Cuisine Magazine Awards 2009. It's the last thing you'd expect to find in this stylish restaurant, housed in the impressive lofty surrounds of a former 1920s bank chamber.

Crayfish in the salt water fish tank

Bar patrons often forget about the sea life living quietly beneath their wine glasses. "You see quite a few people panic when they notice something suddenly move!" the bar man laughs as we marvel over the collection of fish and crayfish hiding amongst the pebbles, stones and oyster shells.

Mounted deer head above the bar

Of course the aquarium makes sense for anyone who has watched owners Steve Logan and Al Brown in their television series Hunger for the Wild, a celebration of fishing, hunting and cooking around the wilds of New Zealand.

Table booth

Quirks like the fish tank, as well as the sometimes eye-raising artwork on the menus and walls, add a sense of playfulness to this fine dining establishment. Soaring white columns extend to a domed ceiling, although the dining room itself is quite small and intimate. Chairs and banquettes are upholstered in a dark bankers green, the room awash with dark polished timber and stiff white linen.

black bean soup
Black bean soup amuse bouche

Tonight Billy, John, Peter and I are dining with Ania from Positively Wellington Tourism, sampling the special Wellington on a Plate menu which features three courses for only $35.

We start with an amuse bouche of black bean soup, a muddle of slightly salted black beans tempered by a creamy soup and a garnish of delicate micro herbs.

Our included wine is the Ata Rangi Sauvignon Blanc, just one of the 230 New Zealand and international wines on offer in the Logan Brown comprehensive wine list.

fish cake
Entree option 1: Smoked fish cake with prawn beignet, gribiche and lemon oil

We're given choices between two options for entrees, main and dessert. I have the smoked fish cake with prawn beignet, gribiche and lemon oil. The fish cake is a squat round, pan-fried on both sides until golden, smoky in flavour although I'm not quite beguiled by its pervading fishiness. The prawn is succulent beneath its crispy surface, although the mention of "beignet" in the description had had me expecting some sort of prawn doughnut instead.

mushroom tart
Entree option 2: Portabella mushroom tart with porcini cream and arugula

The portabella mushroom tart is delicate in presentation, a petite square of puff pastry topped with a meaty-tasting mushroom, fragrant porcini cream and a tangle of grated parmesan cheese and rocket leaves.

Paua raviolo (bonus course)

The paua raviolo has been on the Logan Brown menu since it first opened fourteen years ago, and the maitre'd insists we try it. Normally diners receive three ravioli in an entree - tonight we savour one in a complimentary extra course.

Paua is New Zealand abalone, and whilst I have sampled this delicacy several times during Chinese weddings and celebrations, it's the first time I've tried abalone prepared without oyster sauce. A parcel of smooth pasta encloses a surprise filling of minced paua, garlic, shallots and coriander.

The minced abalone is tender, its soft chewiness contrasting against the silky pasta and the nest of deep-fried sweet potato shreds. A buerre blanc of basil, lime and coriander adds a velvety zing. And if you do manage to happen upon a glut of abalone, Logan Brown have published their paua ravioli recipe online.

Waitstaff at our table with Ania, Billy and Peter G

In-between courses, we take turns to explore the balcony dining room, a cosy and secluded space accessed by a narrow and steep set of circular stairs. It feels like John and I are ascending a church bell tower, and I find myself touching the hand rail as the steps narrow with each curve.

Once at the top, we admire the incredible view, a sweeping panorama of the entire dining room afforded to the lucky table by the balcony edge. The birds eye view allows us to hurry back down again when we realise main courses have just been served at our table.

pork belly
Main course option 1:
Sweet spiced braised pork belly with apple sauerkraut and garlic mash

A parapet of sweet spiced braised pork belly is resplendent with ribbons of fat and topped with a tile of bubbled pork crackling. Apple sauerkraut is a modern twist on a traditional palate cleanser, and a quenelle of garlic mash is elegantly buttery.

tarakihi fish
Main course option 2:
Macadamia-crusted Tarakihi with warmed artichoke salad and caper buerre blanc

Keen to take advantage of the local seafood, I choose the macadamia-crusted tarakihi, also known as a jackass morwong. The flesh is firm and perhaps a tad overcooked for my liking, but the warm salad of artichokes and green beans livens proceedings, the macadamia crust adding texture.

confit yams
Confit yams with pancetta and beechwood honeydew honey $8.50

We greedily order three sides to go with our means. The confit yams remind me of witchetty grubs in shape, but these local sweet potato tubers are carbohydrate-rich, only faintly flavoured with beechwood honeydew honey. Pancetta crisps add a salty crunch.

truffle fries
Truffled fries with Reggiano parmesan $11

Truffled fries are an exercise in decadence, golden shoestring potatoes smothered in shavings of Reggiano parmesan flavoured with truffle. We also order a portion of the broccolini, crisp green florets drizzled with a black bean vinaigrette.

vanilla custard
Dessert option 1:
Baked vanilla custard with dark cherries and almond sable

Baked vanilla custard is the first dessert to be delivered. I plunge my spoon into the petite pot to find a wobble of custard that is as smooth as satin. A compote of dark cherries adds a fruity sweetness and two almond sable biscuits are short with butter.

golden raisin pie wih salted caramel ice cream
Dessert option 2:
Golden raisin pie with salted caramel ice cream and rum syrup

Golden raisin pie is sweet, buttery and rich with caramel, a combination that immediately reminds Billy of Momofuku's infamous crack pie. A scoop of double cream cuts through the sweetness of this dessert, but I find myself relishing the salted caramel ice cream even more, tantalising with its initial sweetness and lingering salty echoes.

Throughout the course of the evening we find out more about the kitchen which is housed below. The tiny prep kitchen sits within the historic bank vault, its entrance flanked by a heavy steel door just like a scene from a movie. With the exit of dishes monitored closely by head chef Shaun Clouston, picturing them prepared and delivered from a concrete-reinforced strongroom seems apt and appropriate!

logan brown
Logan Brown
192 Cuba Street
(corner of Cuba and Vivian Streets)
Wellington, New Zealand
Tel: +61 (04) 801 5114

Opening Hours:
Lunch Monday to Friday from 12pm
Dinner Monday to Sunday from 5.30pm

A 3 course bistro menu is available for $39.50pp Monday to Friday lunch or Monday to Sunday early dinner. Tables must be vacated by 7.30pm.

Grab Your Fork dined at Logan Brown as a guest of Positively Wellington Tourism as part of Wellington on a Plate. Wellington on a Plate ran from August 14-29, 2010.

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Boulcott Street Bistro
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Devour Gala Dinner
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Fidel's Cafe
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Logan Brown
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Matterhorn
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Osteria Del Toro
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Petone Food Tour
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Te Papa Museum
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Wellington Pop-Up Restaurant
Wellington on a Plate 2010 - Wellington Pop-Up Restaurant in Sydney

13 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 8/29/2010 12:45:00 am


  • At 8/29/2010 3:53 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    i like the word resplendent! especially when you're talking about pork!

  • At 8/29/2010 10:05 am, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    Truffled fries! Salty, crispy, pungent, earthy...can imagine that it is absolute heaven.

  • At 8/29/2010 11:22 am, Anonymous Anna Johnston said…

    What a fun concept having the fish tank as the bar, I'd love to dine at Logan Brown just to see this, which is crazy because every image & delectable description has had my mouth watering.
    Great experience, I'm quite envious :)

  • At 8/29/2010 12:52 pm, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    Love your photos Helen. How I wish we could check out their kitchen with the vault....

  • At 8/29/2010 1:35 pm, Blogger Hannah said…

    I think I want the base of my bed to be a fish tank. That would be utterly awesome. And I would wake up from my well-rested aquarium sleep to truffled fries for breakfast every morning.

  • At 8/29/2010 2:43 pm, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    Lol at the ninth photo. "Quick Helen my pork just arrived!" Mmmm, crispy, fatty and buttery!

  • At 8/29/2010 3:13 pm, Anonymous thang @ noodlies said…

    the place looks fantastic, helen.. great idea for $35! the pork looks fab

  • At 8/29/2010 5:45 pm, Anonymous Maria @ Scandi Foodie said…

    Haha how awesome is the bar! Great selection of dishes!

  • At 8/29/2010 9:34 pm, Anonymous Iron Chef Shellie said…

    I want to see the bar with the fish tank! That is such a cool idea!!

  • At 8/30/2010 3:46 pm, Anonymous penny aka jeroxie said…

    I will love to see fish tank in the bar. The truffle fries is definitely my favourite. I know I will love it. the photos are also all so amazing. totally envious now!

  • At 8/31/2010 11:34 am, Blogger Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said…

    I forgot all about the fish tank! Your post brings back so many memories Helen!

  • At 9/02/2010 5:22 pm, Blogger milliemirepoix said…

    I didn't make it to Logan Brown for this year's WOAP but I remember the custard from last year... now you've made me wish I had gone back another time!

  • At 9/06/2010 2:10 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi chocolatesuze - lol. I agree. It's a great pairing :)

    Hi mademoiselle delicieuse - They were rather tasty!

    Hi Anna - The fish tank is such a cool idea, although I can imagine the upkeep is quite expensive!

    Hi Billy - I know. I would have loved to have seen the vault downstairs!

    Hi Hannah - Haha but then you'd have to lie on the floor to see your fish? Truffled fries would be very decadent indeed :)

    Hi John - lol. Yes I did exit rather quickly at the sight of our mains!

    Hi Thang - The meals are incredible value during Wellington on a Plate. Rather unbelievable to Sydneysiders.

    Hi Maria - The bar is very cool and yes, we did rather well when it came to dinner!

    Hi Iron Chef Shellie - It is, and we would never have even noticed it until the waitress told us.

    Hi Penny - I wonder if you could replicate truffle fries at home. Truffles and potato are a great combo.

    Hi Peter G - I was so impressed by the fish tank. How lovely would it be to sit at the bar and watch the fish beneath your glass!

    Hi Millie Mirepoix - You're so lucky you can go back anytime :)


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