Some years back, Christian McCabe left behind successful restaurant Matterhorn, in Wellington, to try his luck across the Tasman. That first venture was the celebrated, though now closed, Town Mouse in Drummond Street, Carlton. Along with Town Mouse chef and co-owner Dave Verheul (a Matterhorn alumnus), McCabe branched out further, and more boldly, in 2016….
Amongst a happily crowded field that has been redefining the culinary landscape in this country, Mat Lindsay has stood out somewhat since the opening of his ground-breaking restaurant Ester in 2013. Working with the very back-to-basics essential of today’s chef–fire–he has forged (pardon the pun) a singular path of deceptively simple and visually exquisite dishes that have made him somewhat of a beacon for his peers, and his restaurant a perennially busy favourite of the dining public.
Oysters are coaxed open on the grill, then dressed with pepperberry and sake, for example. King prawns roasted in the wood-fired oven with fermented shrimp butter and capers are an immovable menu item, as is the roasted cauliflower with almond sauce and mint.And perhaps the most emblematic of Lindsay’s offerings is the blood sausage sanga, which is about as subtly refined as you can get, while still closely mimicking a backyard snag, diagonally bisecting a slice of ‘white death’.
Underpinning, or rather complementing Lindsay’s insistence on the finest of ingredients in respect to both intrinsic quality and high-welfare and sustainable practices, the wine and beverage list follows a similarly rigorous path. The focus is firmly on organic and biodynamic producers, employing minimal intervention practices in the winery. The relatively tight but ever-changing list is supported by sake, local craft beers, and a house-made kombucha and wild-harvest native tea for those eschewing the hard stuff.