Sunday, July 26, 2015

Grateful for Sundays 11

Due to the plethora of stand out eateries near the Britomart, I am always trying to schedule any meetings in that vicinity during meal times. 

This week, I was able to enjoy a delicious porridge at The Store before my 8:30am meeting at Auckland Transport. With rhubarb, stewed apple, puffed wheat and a generous piece of honeycomb, this was the perfect way to start off my Friday.

After stalking their Facebook page for over a year, I finally plucked up the courage to go to No Lights No Lycra. NLNL is a great way to shake off any stresses and worries by dancing in the dark - there is no need to be good at dancing because no one can see you! I've been twice so far and find myself looking forward to practicing my new dance moves.

One of my dearest friends got married this month, to the man of her dreams. I was absolutely honoured to be a part of their special day as a bridesmaid. Everything about the day, from their vows to the place settings, was perfect!

Lastly, a picture I took from Five Knots, where we had dinner. Auckland is quite beautiful when you take a moment to look.

What are you grateful for this Sunday?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Sugar Club

In my head is a long list of restaurants and eateries I want to visit. I can often convince my peers to try out new places with me but there are a few reserved for special occasions.

Known for its spectacular views from the 53rd floor of the Sky Tower, The Sugar Club is one of the super special restaurants  reserved for a romantic birthday dinner. Especially because I had to outdo Jason for picking my birthday dinner at The Engine Room

I had booked our table months before Jason's birthday because I was so excited.

The Sugar Club in The Sky Tower is the fourth reincarnation of the restaurant since the Peter Gorden opened the first one in Wellington back in 1986. Since then, The Sugar Club has made appearances in London at Notting Hill and West Soho.

The menu here encourages sharing and is quite unique. All the dishes are entrée sized so you can try a wider variety. All dishes are the same price and diners pay for the number of dishes ordered - prices vary from $90 for 3 dishes to $128 for 6 dishes. This way, you don't have to let the price decide your order.

Tokyo Café - $20
I sipped on a Tokyo Café while we perused the menu. The bubbly champagne was flavoured with raspberry which gave it a deep rouge colour. It was fruity without being sickly sweet.

Jason had a Leigh Sawmill Pale Ale which had light citrusy notes.

Bread Basket
The complimentary bread basket was filled with a fig and fennel loaf, rye bread and fenugreek and celeriac bread. The fig and fennel was our favourite as large pieces of fig brought a welcome sweetness to the spiced bread.

Amuse Bouche
Made up of a small slice of cured salmon topped with sunflower seeds, spinach relish, fish roe, cumin and a micro salad, this amuse bouche is one of the most complex I've ever had. The salmon was delicate and I enjoyed the pop of the fish roe. Although the toppings brought a variety of texture, I can't help that the dish was a little too busy.

The name of this dish is "Mushrooms...". I love mushrooms and the ellipsis in the title managed to intrigue me enough to order it. The quenelle of mushroom parfait was  light and flavour packed. The medley of wood ear fungus, sesame enoki mushroom, shiitake mushrooms, crunchy crumb and black garlic all added together to make an amazing dish jam packed with umami. 

Wild Paua
The wild paua was served two ways. The first was braised and thinly sliced on a very smooth smoked mash. The second, my favourite, was little paua morsels packed into a small bread basket -the pieces were small enough to be delicate but big enough for us to appreciate the texture. The paua foam provided a light saltiness and popped delightfully in my mouth.

The lamb was cooked to a perfect medium rare and had a distinct Middle Eastern flavour to it. The kalamata olives and goji berries gave little bursts of flavour while the pumpkin puree formed a nice base flavour. I liked the crunchy falafel but felt that there was not enough sauce to go around.

Thrice-Cooked Pork Belly
The pork belly was easy to cut into and melted in my mouth as I bit into it. The side of Kimchi and buckwheat was a welcome crunch to the dish (unfortunately there was no crispy skin). My favourite part, however, was the delicious smoked tofu purée everything was sitting on -incredibly smooth and flavoursome. 

Pekin Duck
Like the pork belly, I missed the crispy skin in this dish. The duck was a tad over cooked but went well with the chili and mango jam. The stand out for me were the squid dumplings -chewy and fragrant with big chunks of squid and a light crispy coat. 

Beef Pesto
A classic dish of Peter Gordon's, the Beef Pesto dish has been on The Sugar Club menu circa 1987. The beef fillet was very tender and sitting on a bed of hearty vegetables including zucchini, beetroot and capsicum. The generous dollop of pesto married all the flavours together.

We were pleasantly surprised when our pre-dessert came to the table. The combination of pineapple and coconut tapioca is a classic and the toasted macadamia shavings on top was just brilliant. I would have happily eaten a full sized version of this light dessert.

This plum cheesecake is now officially our favourite dessert. We were initially confused because we were expecting a traditional looking cheesecake but quickly forgot once we dug in. Sitting on top of stewed plum and plum purée is a shortbread biscuit topped with a scoop of creamy white chocolate ice cream. The stewed plum was not too tart and brought a freshness to the dessert while the meringue provided a nice texture change.

Peanut Butter Parfait and Blackberry Jelly
Peanut butter and chocolate is another one of those classic flavour matches made in heaven. The parfait was very light and smothered in a caramel sauce and salty peanut crumb. The chocolate soil was a great contrast in texture while the macintosh sauce gave a the rich dessert some freshness.

Needless to say, we were quite satisfied at the end of the evening. The service was very attentive and our waiters were very knowledgable. 

The Sugar Club can be found on the 53rd floor of The Sky Tower, at 72 Federal Street, Auckland.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Sage and Kumara Soup

I was about 12 or 13 when I had my first taste of pumpkin soup. Up until then, the only pumpkin flavoured food I had was in the form of dessert (pumpkin and red bean anyone?) and the idea of a savoury pumpkin sounded absolutely absurd. And herbs? My Chinese palate had yet to discover those!

I remember being quite excited about pumpkin soup, thinking how lucky my friends were to be able to have what is essentially a dessert for a meal. I can proudly tell you that I was ever so polite and finished my meal but I was thoroughly confused. 

I went home and shared this revelation with my mother who, incidentally, had experienced the same thing just a few months prior -with Kumara soup. At home, our idea of kumara soup is to boil large chunks of kumara in hot water. That's it. It doesn't sound terribly exciting but I can assure you it is tasty.

We bonded over crazy western foods that night.

Since then, my palate has developed considerably and there is not a lot I won't eat. While pureed soup is not my ultimate favourite food, it is up there on my list of winter warmers because it is so easy to make but packed full of goodness. 

If you have find yourself a little short of time after work this week, give this Sage and Kumara Soup a try. Everything cooks in one pot so clean up is also a breeze!

Sage and Kumara Soup
(Serves 4, adapted from Mindfood, June 2015 issue)


1 Tbs olive oil
4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped into small pieces
2 onions, roughly sliced
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1.2 kg golden kumara, peeled and chopped
1 Tbs sage, roughly torn
1.5 L chicken or vegetable stock


1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon and fry until crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Keep the oil and bacon fat in the pan.
2. Add onions and 1/3 cup of stock. Use a wooden spoon to uplift any bacon bits that have stuck to the pan. Cook until onion is soft and translucent and the stock is mostly evaporated.
3. Add garlic and stir until fragrant.
4. Add kumara, sage and remaining stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until the kumara is soft.
5. Use a stick blender to puree the kumara until smooth and season with salt and pepper.
6. Sprinkle bacon bits on top and serve with warm bread.