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Featured Restaurant
posted December 6th 2003 features the Vine Dining series.

photo by Sue Courtney

Terroir at Craggy Range
253 Waimarama Road
Havelock North
Hawkes Bay
Phone: 06 873 7126

Open from Tuesday to Sunday for lunch or dinner.

Every lifestyle magazine I've picked up since the beginning of the year seems to have had a review of the fabulous new Craggy Range winery in Hawkes Bay. It's called 'The Giants' and incoporates the world class restaurant, Terroir. It hit the headlines with a spectacular opening last summer, an outdoor concert with a who's who guest list headed by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Sir Edmund Hillary and pop star Tim Finn, and has attracted media attention ever since.

I looked at the magnificent pictures, read the magnificent reports and wondered when I would ever get to Hawkes Bay to see it. Then on the first real weekend of winter the opportunity arose. I was off to Hawkes Bay for the Charity Wine Auction as a guest of Hawkes Bay Vintners and when I arrived, was knocked for six to see 'Lunch at Terroir' on the itinerary. It turned out that a fellow traveller had flippantly suggested "lunch at Terroir would be nice", although the fact that we were actually going there was as much a surprise to him as it was to me.

'The Giants' is nestled under the towering peak that is Te Mata, a name that translates to 'The Sleeping Giant'. As one descends down the hill into the valley, the breathtaking scene emerges. It is a setting that the pictures in a glossy magazine cannot prepare one for - especially on a day like the blue-sky, wind free, winter's day we visited. The grandiose buildings, the towering craggy peak and the wispy white clouds reflected in the tranquil man-made lake and the regimented vines, spindly and semi-naked as they dropped their autumn gold leaves in their preparation for winter dormancy, stretched out to the banks of the swiftly flowing Tuki Tuki River nearby.

Steve Smith welcomed us to his dream that had become reality and our group of six made our way to the Terroir, the restaurant. On entering there was a feeling of warmth and comfort with a double-sided roaring log fire surging from a grand marble fireplace in the centre of the room. But the tinted floor to ceiling windows of the circular shaped restaurant drew ones' eyes past the fireplace, past the wooden tables and chairs, to the outside. It looked like it would be fabulous sitting on the lakeside terrace at an umbrella-shaded table but looks deceive and on this coolish day we would be dining in. The table was set for a feast with cutlery and glasses for several courses.

The print on the menu is small so if, like me, you need glasses for the fine print, donít leave them behind.

'You have to try the anchoiade' said Steve. It's a decadently rich creamy paste of anchovy and garlic cream - probably breath-stinking and vein clogging - but simply a gorgeous treat. It was one of the components of the vineyard platter and could be purchased seperately if desired as could each of the tempting dishes that make up the platter, but at $13 for one or $39 for the four, it made sense to take the platter and share. In reality it wasn't a platter but instead a long, narrow, high-edged, boat-like basket. As well as the anchoiade it contained Duck liver parfait with cognac soaked raisins, Deep fried sardines and Labna - a homemade yoghurt curd. Each was described on the menu with their own accompaniments, toasted brioche for the duck, salse verde for the sardines, dukkah spice and olive bread for the Labna and garden vegetable crudites for the Anchoiade. Of course by the time the food had arrived the menu had gone, so it was mix and match.

"How is the anchoiade made?" I asked. "It's a secret recipe" was the reply but later, at home, an Internet search revealed that the common ingredients were anchovy fillets, plump garlic cloves and olive oil blended together to make a thick creamy spread. "Olive oil is good for you", I reminded myself, thinking that perhaps it wasn't so cholestorel-laden as I had originally thought.

While my fellow diners chose substantial mains such as the 'Whole wood fired fish seasoned with country herb and lemon with fried potatoes' ($28), 'Venison' ($32) or 'Char-grilled Eye Fillet' ($32), my eyes were drawn to the uniquely New Zealand starter, 'Paua Sausage with a warm Urenika potato salad and piko piko fern fronds' ($18). This dish was specially designed for the Craggy Range opening by famed New Zealand chef Peter Gordon in conjunction with Terroir chef David Griffiths. It proved popular on the menu and so it had stayed. I chose a side of 'Roquette, pear and Parmesan salad' ($6) to accompany it.

I didnít really know what to expect with Paua Sausage, but remembering paua is shellfish I was not too surprised by the taste. The purple-skinned Urenika potatoes, however, didnít really suit my palate - I found them dry and starchy, while the piko piko fern fronds, which are the fiddle heads of (probably) the hen and chickens fern, didnít have quite the vibrant verdant hues that I had expected. But on the whole it was an interesting dish and if I hadnít ordered it I'd still be thinking about it.

Unlike most other vineyard restuarants that only offer their own vinous tipples to accompany the fare, the Terroir wine list was 5-star in its selections. The New Zealand wines on offer included Dry River, Kumeu River, Neudorf and Stonyridge for starters. Taittinger seemed to be the house bubbles and there was the most fantastic selection of red and white Burgundies that I've ever seen on a New Zealand wine list.

But the Craggy Range wines were too good to pass up.

I loved the Craggy Range Seven Poplars Chardonnay 2002 ($54), a smooth, mealy toasty chardonnay that was ripe, balanced and definitely moreish. It was followed by the Craggy Range 'Le Sol' Syrah 2001 ($119), just a little youthful as it was newly released but with fabulous potential.

There's a small selection of desserts, none that were ordered by our party at this lunchtime feast. There were more places to go, more people to see.

If you have the opportunity to dine at Terroir be prepared to be pampered Ė the service is discreetly ever present. It's run by Prue Barton and David Griffiths of the famed Vinnies, one of Auckland's success stories. They have taken their careful thoroughness to Hawkes Bay and left no attention to detail behind. Donít be like us, rushing to your next appointment. Take the time to enjoy the occasion. Just donít forget the gold card.

Copyright © Sue Courtney
December 2003

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