Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Friday, April 19, 2019

IWFS Auckland Festival March 8th to 10th 2019 - Day Two

International Wine and Food Society Asia Pacific
Auckland Festival March 8th to 10th 2019

A recollection and remembrance of eats, drinks, sights, sounds, and people from across the event. Organised by IWFS New Zealand, it brought members from all across the world to enjoy the food and wines of the country. 

Saturday 9th March 2019 - Day Two



I half remember a fuzzy and late breakfast before joining everyone gathering at the hotel entrance to board the bus for a tour around the city. The weather looked as if it had finally turned against us, with grey skies and rain in the air. I recall a couple of random "Good Mornings" with the pilgrims, though I hung around in the background more than anything - me and mornings after are not normally happy playfellows. 

There would be two buses taking us around the city. The first already had a queue lined up to board so I headed for the second. We were soon all present and apparently axcounted for and ready for the off. 

The bus driver was an intense grey haired and wiry lady of at least sixty and probably near seventy, with a wry and dryish sense of humour. She was also the commentator for the tour, though much of the commentary seemed to be her observations on the traffic or the weather or random thoughts on New Zealand life and the people who lived in her part of town. Which was quite entertaining, though perhaps a shade less informative than some might prefer. Seems we were originally going to do the famous view from Mount Eden, but got told by the driver that the rain and clouds had put the mockers on that idea. We were instead taken on a quick round of the town centre area before heading out to Newhaven (recognising the Sails where we had our dinner the night before) and going across some large bridge type structure before coming back in to again cross the city and into the Mission Bay area for stop on a hilltop overlooking a stretch of sea. The map suggests this to have been the M J Savage Memorial Park because there was a, er, Memorial there. There was also a toilet which got some immediate use. Getting off the bus, the pilgrims splintered off into their various couples or foursomes or singles and wandered about the pathways. It had already started to spit rain as we got off the bus and it increased in spittage as the grey clouds rolled in and the rain started coming in with a serious windy vengeance. Those with umbrellas continued on a short walkabout whilst those not so well equipped grimly hung out in a canteen on the hill to shelter and wait for the bus doors to open. 

The rain kept in for the rest of the morning and put the total kibosh on any decent photos of the City Tour. Om. Our driver told us that the main destination in Mission Bay is a place called Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life. This is a favoured destination of families keen to look at the fish and (according to the brochure) actually swim with sharks. It was clearly popular given the scarcity of parking space there for the many cars looking to muscle their ways in. There you go. 

We passed a number of seaside style bars and restaurants all looking a bit forlorn in the rain before the bus took us around the "rich" area of expensive properties and homes to ogle at the opulence and manicured front areas. In my experience, quite a few of the city tours do this, and I am never quite sure why. I guess it must be some projection style fantasy of living such a gifted lifestyle that is beyond most of us in this lifetime. Wealth beyond imagination. Or maybe it is my lack of imagination is the problem...  I thought I noted a tinge of envy in our driver's commentary. Lucky rich b******

The bus then headed back to the city via one of the highlights of the morning for me - passing through the Auckland Domain area around the Hospital and Auckland War Memorial Museum. This was a delightful area of greenery and walks and would clearly make for a splendid couple of hours wandering through this parkland. One of the guidebooks talked about a walk that could be followed which takes in the Auckland Art Gallery. I made a mental plan to do this on my spare day before my flight out of Auckland (though it would not eventually come to pass - see later scribbles). We then drove through a very pretty section of town called Parnell, chock full of roadside stores, before coming back into familiar territory of Auckland Centre. We then drove along one of the Jetties to turn back around and get us nearish to our lunch destination. Apparently. After we got off the bus we ended up walking back up along the jetty we had driven down. Someone had a Google Map and most of us followed. Naturally we overshot. I veered off and found a friendly restaurant that turned a blind eye to my stealing a pee in the toilet. On coming back out, the clouds had again burst and unleashed a drenching torrent of rain on the wharves and anyone stranded thereon. I was saved by my portabrolly and packaway raincoat and wandered back along the wet and slippery wharf. I spotted a familiar face sheltering in a restaurant entrance who told me the lunch venue was a bit further along and could I give him a brolly lift. Which I did. And got a pretty good soaking in the process - lesson here is never share a portable brolly with a six foot Italian Australian man. 

The Giraffe at the, er, Giraffe

Our IWFS blurb said that "After our tour, we’ll be lunching at Giraffe, Simon Gault’s restaurant where he presents an eclectic variety of dishes using both traditional and molecular techniques. Following lunch, for those not involved in the Presidents’ Round Table, there will be an opportunity to either take a cruise under sail on the harbour on board the sailing scow Ted Ashby for one hour or visit the Sky Summit Tower." I had originally opted to go sailing but got pressganged into attending the Round Table - see later. 

The Giraffe is a relative newcomer to the Viaduct Harbour section of Auckland. Helmed by NZ Food Celebrity Simon Gault, Giraffe is "a celebration of everything that makes New Zealand great. Home grown, showcasing the finest local producers and growers our country has to offer (yet) mature enough to recognise that occasionally the very best ingredients are from further afield."

Giraffe IWFS Menu and the starters
Giraffe looks to capture a "spirit of innovation" in its preparation and presentation of delicious dishes, and is "uncompromising in our promise to surprise and delight every time." It also looks to engender a spirit of sharing - dishes and knowledge - with an aim to "capture the essence of friendship and conviviality" and "share in the same narrative of quality, pride and passion for the end-result. At Giraffe, we’re all about personal connections."

So, as said I was a bit bedraggled and dripping as we entered the restaurant where my hitchhiker grabbed a couple of large gamps to retrieve the remaining refugees. We were greeted by this huge fluffy giraffe in the bar area, clearly the mascot of the place and presumably waiting for selfies - some of us were not quite in the mood. Well, one of us wasn't…    To add to this damp picture of misery, most of the plum seating had been taken by the earlier arrivees and the tardy and bedraggled had to wetly plonk ourselves down wherever we could. Not the best form of introduction to the assembled. I found myself again next to Dr Jag and Malkit and opposite Richard and Pam Hinds from Washington in the USA. I divested my anorak and wiped myself down with the pocket bandanna whilst some kind soul took the wet brolly and parked it with other wet brollies. 

Jaya from IWFS Kuala Lumpur and Richard from IWFS Washington USA
The Giraffe is bright and light and airy, with large glass window doors at one end and the open kitchen at the other. Seating is long stretches of tables along with a bar stool area in front of the service doors. Nice breezy feel about the place and the young keen staff. Who quickly poured an introductory glass and started piling food on the tables. 

The Whitebait Rolls
I have no note on the Smoked Kawahai ((NZ term for Australian Salmon) Pate, though I do remember wolfing it down on the excellent though darkly black bread. Though I don't remember much in the way of fish flakes like the photos on Google suggest it should be. My photo of the Giraffe version shows it to be green and avocado like. And the Giraffe breakfast menu shows Avocado on sourdough toast. So perhaps there was a late replacement. So it goes. No one seemed to notice and happily wolfed away. Chunky gunky and salting the tongue and mouth with good healthy infused ooze. Yum.

My note on the Pork Belly wafer is "wicked". It was a bacon pork roll with some creamy goat cheese and wrapped in a leaf. Brilliant combo that ticked all the boxes of this closet Chinaman and total sucker for anything pig. It was excellent. Though I somehow missed getting a photo - clearly too busy hoovering these bad boys down…

Ambience at the Giraffe
I have a note on some Ceviche which is not on the menu - perhaps a late addition. It was very good. I particularly liked the mashed pepper which gave piquant fire and bite to the fish (which tasted of Snapper but could have been pretty much anything). There was also a tongue stabbing Ginger bite in the sauce and a dollop of parsley made for a peppery pop. 

The unexpected Ceviche
My notes say the Whitebait was a bit soggy, though the excellent bread and the yuzu mayo made it all a delightful chew with a zesty bite.

Nautilus Albarinho - yum
For the first part of the lunch we were drinking the Nautilus Albarinho which was lovely. Lightly crisp and floral and the smoothest of finishes, it slipped through the system like a harbour yacht in a summer breeze to be first across the Americas Cup line. Most excellent, and very versatile in matching nicely with all of the starting dishes. Will definitely look to buy this one in Malaysia if we see it. 

The second part saw a Rose getting poured which on first blush felt a bit okay only but proved a deceptive beast when I found myself feeling quite smashed half way through the lamb. With which, it needs to be said, the Rose was not a brilliant match. The cutting acidity and nice fruity balance made it more of a chugging party wine rather than a reflective sip to help the meat go down. So it goes. Or went. 

The excellent lamb - double yum
Myself and some of the others on the table observed that the wine was feeling a bit thin in the pourings. The IWFS Pilgrims are a thirsty bunch at the best of times and today the refills felt a shade tardy and parsimonious. The staff were clearly in awe of the Bottle Meister ladies and could only relay our requests to these Guardians of the Booze who seemed to be holding on to the precious bottles against the barbarian hordes. Or at least the barbarian horde singular that was me. There you go - I guess they were under instruction somewhere up the line to ration so that the guzzlers did not suck it all down before others got a first taste. Fair enough. Though I seem to recall someone on our table buying a bottle to stave off the drought. Very necessary. During the lunch, new friend Richard starting talking about wines made in Virginia which was quite instructive - I never realised grapes grew in that part of the USA. He praised them highly - I will have to look for them when next in the United States. 

The lamb was excellent. Coming out in two-rib cutlets, you could slice it down the middle with a genteel knife and fork or grab it by the bone and bite through viking style. Totally wicked either way. Perhaps a shade rare, but hugely tender and full of succulent taste and firm bite and chew. Memorable. 

The brilliant Pavlova
The Pavlova was equally excellent. The freshest, lightest creamiest cream, sweet crunchy biscuit, superb fruits. It was wicked good creamy delicious and totally more-ish. Both this and the Lamb are definitely worth a return for. 

Chef/Owner Simon Gault showing off his cheese...
I managed to squeeze in a quick chat with the hugely affable owner and Executive Chef Simon Gault before he came out to introduce the cheese. The Giraffe website says Simon "continues to be at the forefront of New Zealand's innovative restaurant and dining scene. His ability to capture the culinary zeitgeist and personalise it with his own unique twist, captivates tastebuds and the imagination." I couldn't seem to find too much detail on Simon's background, save that he did a stint on MasterChef NZ, has written a number of cookbooks and seemingly endorsed a range of products in supermarkets across the land (NB shoutout to the nationwide Countdown supermarket chain, my source of bread, ham and cheese for the various bus and boat rides across the nation). 

In our chat, Simon confirmed that all the food was farm to plate and made to traditional New Zealand style preparations. His passion for the result was evident and infectious. Quick to smile and generous with his time, Simon is a massively easy chap to like. 

Say cheese? No, EAT cheese!!
The cheese had apparently been flown in from Nelson in the South Island that morning. It was an 11 month mature Sheep cheese with a white vein and figured it for a perfect ending to the lunch. And so it would prove - a good easy bite with a slight smoky mouthfeel. All in all, an easy breezy but filling lunch with excellent dishes throughout. Very happy to go back to the Giraffe any time. 

Giraffe Restaurant
85–87 Customs Street West
Viaduct Harbour
Auckland, New Zealand
+64 9 358 1093
email info@girafferestaurant.co.nz

Monday–Friday 7am till 11:30am
Saturday–Sunday 8am till 11:30am
(Kitchen closed 11:30am-12pm)
Monday–Sunday 12pm till 4pm
Monday–Sunday 6pm till 10:30pm


For The Table
Smoked Kawahai Pate - Ciabatta and Crudites
For The Palate
Crispy Pork Belly Wafer - Devilled Date
West Coast Whitebait - Bread Roll, Yuzu Mayo
Trevally Crudo - Sour Plum, Ginger, Marinated Shiitake
The Giraffe Way
Lamb Rack - Kumara, Mint Sauce, Sheep's Milk Yoghurt
A Light And Fruitful Finish
Pavlova - Whipped Coconut Cream, Kiwi Frut, Passionfruit, Berry Compote
New Zealand Cheese Selection
Table friends Philip and Christine Clark IWFS Devonshire

The ever smiling Lydia from IWFS Western Australia

Our Lady of the Wines. And Food.


By the time lunch had finished, the sun had put its hat back on and was beaming brilliantly on the now sated pilgrims. It had been somewhere decided that, rather than make the bus wait and pick us up for a fifeen minute drive, a gentle ten minute stroll from the Giraffe across the road and up along Albert Street might be a better option. And so it proved - nothing like a short wander to walk off some of the lunch. A range of tour options had been scheduled for the pilgrims, whilst an informal meeting was in store for the various IWFS Branch Presidents to discuss upcoming events and basically keep each other on the same pages as to general APZ matters. I had shoehorned myself into this meeting on the possibility I would be handling APZ Newsletters in the future and thus needed to be in the know. This possibility quickly became an assertion as the meeting got underway. Most of the discussion concerned new Website, upcoming Festivals and getting new branches up and running. It was a good insight into how the IWFS meetings run - little different from most other meetings across the globe...


Getting back to the room after the roundtable at about 4.45pm, I opted for a quick nap whilst Mossie fiddled with things Internet. Around about 6pm I figured to start to get ready for dinner so as to get out ahead of Mossie's way. Shower, shave and on with the Tuxedo, Black Tie and Medallion and down to the Ballroom where the fizz had already started popping and the handphones were gaily snapping anyone who was happy to be snapped. I always seem to get variable results on the Samsung phone so usually opt for the old and battered Sony DSC-P72, which celebrates its 15th year of photographic service this year. For some reason, the photo quality is good, the colours are vibrant, and with the food dishes I normally get a result. Excellent lens - don't make them like this any more.

IWFS KL Dr Jagjit Singh with IWFS WA Gloria Kunzmann
I think I have said elsewhere that I am not massively comfortable with the early evening schmoozing; I need a couple of sherbets to loosen up and get in the flow. The brain somehow does not fire on all six without some joyjuice in the system. Just can't seem to keep the conversation flowing in this early schmooze…  

Happy IWFS people at Lucky Table 8
The fizz should have been good - Deutz as I recall - but for some reason it was not as I'd had elsewhere. This one felt…  a bit metallic and thin. A lot of cream in the mouth and not really pleasant. I thought it might be the glass, but a refill in a fresh glass felt the same. Perhaps I was still hung over from lunch and not really in the mood to get fizzed up. But certainly not a patch on the Quartz Reef we had the previous night at the Sails. I parked my glass somewhere and snuck into the Ballroom to get some pre dinner snaps and scout out the tables and park the notebook. I then snuck back out and hid in the bathroom for ten minutes, more to avoid having to schmooze and drink the fizz than anything. Antisocial? Maybe…  possibly just painfully shy without a belt of the booze. Think my dad was the same…

Light entertainment
I emerged just in time to be one of the last through the door and plonked myself in my appointed seat. I would be sitting with Sunny and Boots from the Philippines, Michael and Grace from Perth and Rajan and Stephanie from KL. Good company all round. Couple of early speeches and then it was heads down into the food.

The starter chicken seemed to have a lot of salt to my tongue and I think I left it as a result. The rest of the dish was fine - tomato was crisp and crunchy whilst the orange and avocado combo worked strangely well together with its citrus tang and creamy gunk. The watercress lent a good vegetal bite and the ensemble fit together nicely. 

It was being paired with a 2018 Pinot Gris which was frisky, with large gooseberry and fresh grass on the nose. I got peach and apricot with some spice and a pepper note in the mouth, and a cool clean finish with fair length. 

IWFS Hong Kong President Karen Leung receiving the
Hong Kong Charter from APZ President Yvonne Wallis
Matchwise, it didn't quite work for me. The chicken texture pretty much neutralised the fruit and lightness of the PG whilst the salt just made you want to drink more. Which we did. It was a lovely wine to drink, and drink it our table did - many refills were requested and answered. 

At this point there were more speeches and a presentation of medallions of various calibre. Pretty much the whole delegation from Kuala Lumpur got the White Medal of Commendation (including your scribe - ahem) whilst Kuala Lumpur's Dr Rajan and Victoria's Amber Dowling got an Andre Simon Bronze each. We all had two medallions around our necks and they were constantly clinking each other for the rest of the night - no one told us we could take the old one off…   We also got some detail of a superbranch being formed in Hong Kong along with an AGM Festival to be held there around October 2020. Hong Kong's President Karen Leung received the Charter from IWFS APZ President and Global Ambassador Yvonne Wallis. 

The Chicken entree
Then it was back to the food. The Artichoke was okay, but more texture than anything else. It certainly needed the nuts and herbs to bring some oomph to the dish. Some of what appeared to be olive oil and the lemon helped give the thing some sass, though I could not find much in the way of manuka honey. The Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc with which it was being paired again did not work for me. I felt the dish fired up the wine's already firm acidity whilst the lemon pretty much cooked what little there was of the wine's fruit. Compared with the Nautilus Albarinho we had had at our lunch earler, this was a poor relation - somehow ordinary and lacking finesse when compared. We were still asking for and getting the Pinot Gris which seemed to get better through the night and down the glass and without the need for food. Would make for a very good aperitif. 

The Grilled Artichoke
The Merlot came out ahead of the food. Surprisingly full bodied, young, black pepper and smoke on the nose, tree bark, forest fruit and chewy boysenberry. Fair finish, quite a silky mouthfeel. But with a slight leaning toward firm in the balance.

The Beef Short Rib
I am starting think that Chef has a heavy hand with the salt shaker because it was all over the beef ribs dish like a rash. In the vegetables, in the jus, in the beef itself - massive salt attack. I managed to scrape some of the outside jus off the ribs to reveal a rib of great tenderness, texture and taste. In this regard, it was excellent, perfectly cooked, melt in the mouth meat. I just could not eat the outside - total gaaaaaack…  I recognise my tolerance for salt is low and no-one on the table made much mention of it. But a few post dinner conversations suggested I was not alone in my concern at the levels of salt. And you can't really send it back - well, not in a hotel anyway - you just have to leave it and hope that chef and maitre 'd get the message when the staff bring all the full plates back to the bin. 

IWFS KL Brian McIntyre receiving the White Medal of Commendation
with IWFS KL President May Peng and APZ Chairman James Lin
I have no note on the match with the wine. Looking back, I don't recall the Merlot being particularly spectacular; whatever, the salt would have killed it. I recall we called for more, though I also seem to recall leaving it in the glass and sticking with the Pinot Gris. I am not a great Merlot fan at the best of times, so I will defer any judgement to others. 

IWFS KL Dr Rajan receiving the Andre Simon Bronze
with IWFS President Yvonne Wallis and
IWFS APZ Chairman James Lin
The Cheese and Petits Fours came out together on a kind of High Tea plate. It all got eaten so I guess it was good. Though I do recall scarfing much of it. Perhaps I needed carbo after the salt assault of the previous dishes. The two dessert wines accompanying were hugely different in tastes and textures. The Brancott is a Late Harvest Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc where (according to the website) "apricot, orange peel and honey aromas abound. Tropical fruit and fresh herbal notes are underpinned by a rich and complex palate with good length and finish." It drank very nicely, and indeed went strangely well with the cheese given its Sauvignon Blanc content. Quite a light dessert wine, if there is such a thing. Not entirely sure it works, but kudos to Brancott for giving it a go. 

The Marzemino I found to be a bit…   weird. Hailing from Italy's Trentino/Alto Adige region, Marzemino is a varietal rarely found elsewhere in the world. But it grows in Hawke’s Bay, where (according to the Church Road website) the varietal "produces deeply coloured, plummy red wines with supple tannins and fragrant floral notes accompanied by a rustic, savoury element lending the wine a distinctly Italian feel that works so well with food. Deep colour, with sweet plum and berry fruit, floral aromas and cardamom notes. Rustic and earthy, the palate is medium bodied with a gentle textured, approachable and slightly savoury tannin structure. The wine matches well with braised meat dishes (Osso Bucco, beef cheeks or lamb shanks) and also works with cheese based pasta dishes, cured meats, olives and some cheeses." 

IWFS Victoria's Amber Dowling receiving the
Andre Simon Bronze
As said, I didn't get it. Perhaps it was because it came out with the Brancott Late Harvest and looking to follow one with the other was never going to work. At least not with the dessert. Cheese is traditionally supposed to help wines that are a bit fierce in the bottle. Didn't help me too much here, sad to say. Will have to try this one in different circumstances - maybe a full bodied pasta ragout with lashings of parmesan cheese. 

There were a couple more speeches during which Auckland's Rowan received the Blue Medal of Recognition and Amber was given a case of wine by Rowan (which I decided to take from her and park it at the table - no way could anyone manage holding a heavy case of booze to get it off the stage without some help). I was asked to give a song or two and then pretty much en masse all the pilgrims made for the exits. It was quite bizarre - one minute they were all sitting enjoying the night and the next 50% of them were gone. I guess I have a gift for clearing a room...   The diehards stayed on to help tuck away any remaining booze for a while, and there was a threat to move on elsewhere to continue the party. I opted against and quietly slunk off to the room after a few good nights on the way. There was to be a 10am AGM on the morrow and I did not feel like drifting through it with too much of a muzzy head. Divested the Tux, climbed into bed, chatted with Mossie about the night and drifted off to sleep. It had been a good day. Hopeful tomorrow would be too.

Yvonne, Rowan and James
IWFS APZ Gala Dinner

House Smoked Waitoa Free Range Chicken, Avocado Puree, Heirloom Tomatoes, Navel Orange and Watercress Salad
2018 Triplebank Pinot Gris, Marlborough NZ

Light Dish
Grilled Artichokes, Preserved Lemon, Roasted Almonds, Manuka Honey Dressing
2017 Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough NZ

Six Hours Braised Awhi Farm Aged Beef Short Rib, Warm Lengil Ragout, Zucchini Ribbons and Horseradish Cream
2016 Church Road McDonald Merlot, Hawkes Bay, NZ

New Zealand Cheese and Petits Fours
Brancott Estate Letter Series Dessert Wine

Church Road Marzemino, Hawkes Bay NZ

IWFS Kuala Lumpur Tze Wan and Hansruedi Frutiger

IWFS Perth - Michael and Grace Tamburri

Newly gonged Amber receiving a Thank You from newly gonged Rowan Moss
This way to Day Three>>>

Back to Day One<<<<

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