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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Devour, Wellington on a Plate


It's the only word to describe the atmosphere in the room, as world-class tenor Benjamin Makisi holds a high note with ringing power.

Tonight we're at the Devour Gala Dinner for Wellington on a Plate, the big ticket event of the festival that is celebrating Wellington, particularly the City Market, its providores and its supporters.

Table setting

The dinner takes place in the atrium of the Chaffers Dock Building, the usual site of the Sunday City Market. The Markets were established by local chef Martin Bosley in 2009, a weekly gathering of small and artisan growers and food specialists. Tonight the space is an elegant ballroom, festooned with fairy lights and decorated with all things edible.

French cheeses

At the entrance is a long table overflowing with products from the stallholders at the City Markets. Brown paper sacks spill over with potatoes, ruby red tomatoes are shiny and luscious-looking, and a rainbow of carrots make everyone appreciative of the fantastic range of produce accessible to Wellingtonians.


Breads, cheeses and preserves

French cheese and artisan breads

Yams and parsnips

Potatoes and Spanish onion

Waitstaff serving canapes

Avocado tartlets with mandarin and coconut powder

We mingled with the pre-dinner crowd, snacking on canapes of oxtail tortellini with horseradish mousse, avocado tartlets with mandarin and coconut powder and pressed chicken terrine with watercress and walnut mayonnaise. Freshly shucked Ta Matuku Bay oysters are enormous bivalves, sweet, plump and briny.

Te Matuku Bay oysters

Parsley bouquet

Table settings have been themed, each holding a creative centrepiece featuring a certain stall or product.


Orange placecards

I love the idea of writing guests' names on oranges!

Roses in milk bottles

Le Canard duck soup with duck liver mousse crostini

We take our seats at what turns out to be the media table, an eclectic collection of food bloggers and food journalists at the Le Canard table.

Our amuse bouche is an elegant serve of Le Canard duck soup, a rich salty broth that is topped with a shard of crostini slathered with the lightest and smoothest duck liver mousse one could hope for.

Smoked fish banadade with rye bread crumbs

Our entree is a very sophisticated-looked smoked fish bandade, served on a slice of celeriac panna cotta and garnished with a sweet corn emulsion, rye bread crumbs and micro greens.

The dish has interesting components although I'm left wishing there were more textures to this dish, like crostini or something crunch, to break up the mutiples of softness.

Roast beef

Mains are shared amongst the table, a huge platter of roast beef fillet with anchoide, sides of cauliflower gratin and roasted Agria potatoes, and the star attraction, massive Northland snappers roasted whole and served with Cloudy Bay clams in XO butter sauce.

Agria potatoes roasted in Martin Bosley's Vadouvan spice mix

Cauliflower gratin

Serving the snapper

Roast Northland snapper with Cloudy Bay clams in XO butter sauce

Fish eye goo

Of course nothing can go to waste here, and after John and I have a fish cheek each, we delve into the eye sockets with our forks.

Fish eye

I do love the gelatinous surrounds of the fish eye although the actual eye ball can be a little chalky. Go on. Try it next time.

Esque chocolate, Feijoa Turkish delight and Borek filled with Turkish delight

Dessert is also communal, squares of Esque chocolate studded with toffee and cubes of icing sugar-dusted Feijoa Turkish delight. The borek is a surprise treat, filled with stretchy rosewater Turkish delight inside.

French cheeses

The cheeseboard by Le Marche is an aromatic delight of soft bries, blues and a particularly feisty washed rind.


The entertainment was the real treat here, and later during the dinner, Benjamin is joined by two more tenors. They laugh as they call themselves the Three Pacific Tenors, enthralling us with spine-tingling performances of opera classics like Nessun Dorma and Santa Lucia, as well as Frank Sinatra's My Way.

There's much light-heartedness in their singing, and the joy in their faces easily spreads throughout the room. Benjamin is easily the show-shopper, commanding in his presence, with thundering confidence. Apparently he is affectionately known as the Polynesian Pavarotti because of his stature, stage presence and strength of voice.

An incredible evening.

Benjamin Makisi, the Polynesian Pavarotti

Keen to experience Wellington for free?

Don't forget to enter the Freebie Friday competition to win dinner for two at the Wellington pop-up restaurant in Sydney. Entries close on Thursday 16 September 2010 so don't delay, enter now!

Grab Your Fork dined at Devour as a guest of Positively Wellington Tourism for 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

10 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 9/11/2010 11:11:00 am


  • At 9/11/2010 12:04 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    I can almost smell that bread (dear heavens, I'm starving right now...) and those yams remind me of witchety grubs!

    Oh dear lord, I've eaten fish eyes several times in my youth, but that picture of the goo is almost enough to make me regret it!

  • At 9/11/2010 12:17 pm, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    Mmmm fish eye slime, my favourite! Greetings from Kuala Lumpur! xx John

  • At 9/11/2010 12:34 pm, Blogger Brenda said…

    Let nothing go to waste! : ) Good on you. I personally can't bring myself to eat an eyeball....so....squishy hahaha!
    How were the avocado tartlets with mandarin and coconut powder? Sounds like a very interesting combination of flavours.

  • At 9/11/2010 4:56 pm, Blogger Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said…

    Oh yes! The fish eyes! You like to live dangerous...that much I know. A great eveniong I would have to say with great food, great entertainment and lots of "lively" discussions!

  • At 9/11/2010 5:22 pm, Anonymous thang @ noodlies said…

    the yams look stunning, Helen.

  • At 9/12/2010 5:11 am, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    I love the idea of combining a concert with dinner, and the produce table settings are gorgeous too! Your shots of the fish eyes are amazing, but I'm not quite convinced I want any - lucky there's only two.

  • At 9/12/2010 9:23 am, Anonymous Brian said…

    The thing I miss most from NZ after being away for 35 years?

    Yams. Roasted, steamed, mashed.

  • At 9/12/2010 9:47 pm, Blogger Anna said…

    Looks like a lovely event, beautiful styling, food and live entertainment - the trifactor!

    Love the pic of the yams!

  • At 9/13/2010 8:43 am, Anonymous Rachel Taulelei said…

    So it was you two who stole the fish eyes from our table!! stunning account of the evening Helen - I wish we had some video footage, hearing the guys sing again would bring it all back.....what a night. A pleasure to have you all here.

  • At 9/14/2010 6:24 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hannah - The yams are such amazing shapes aren't they. And lol, the fish eye must be done. Always more fun with a partner though!

    John - lol. Hope you're having fun in KL! Can't wait to check out your photos!

    Brenda - The avocado tartlets were very intriguing - I didn't get much of the coconut powder but the avo + mandarin combo was unusual.

    Peter G - With you? Always!

    Thang - They are fascinating to look at.

    Arwen - The table settings were stunning and lol, never ventured, never gained!

    Brian - Yams are such a NZ treasure. A shame we don't more of them here.

    Ladybird - It was a memorable evening :)

    Rachel - Yes, 'twas us! I agree - video footage would've been great. Thank you for being such a fantastic host - I can't believe you guys then had to pack up and set up the markets for an early start the next morning!


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