I’d only heard about Pasture around 21 hours before I arrived at their door while searching for a review as I dined at Cazador. I’d not read anything about it other than a mention that it was a bright new thing (from back when it opened in 2016) so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
From the booking process, it was clear that this was a place along similar lines to The Table in Edinburgh with a multi-course menu served at the kitchen bar to an audience of just 6, or in the case of my visit 6 plus me.
I was first to arrive at the appointed hour of precisely 6.15pm and was greeted with “hello, Blythe” which was nice. I’d not met the team before but I was a conspicuous solo diner.
They usually do two sittings per evening – 6pm and 8pm – but this was Labour Day weekend so they offered just one. I was a lucky boy to have bagged a seat. That seat looked directly across to an open fire range on which much of the subsequent cooking took place.
In much the same way as Orphans Kitchen, Pasture had the extreme misfortune to be de-listed from two hats to zero, last week. This news was apparently delivered via a text message to the owners. Cuisine Magazine – the arbiters of the hat guide in New Zealand – really has shat the bed with their 2018 guide as Pasture and Orphans were the two best meals I had in Auckland, if not the whole of New Zealand. What motivated their action is anyone’s guess, but it means that at least for this year it’s a substantially less than definitive source of restaurant recommendations.
Anyhoo, let’s turn our attention to how good Pasture is because that’s a very happy tale to tell.
After the warmest of welcomes and the arrival of my fellow diners, things kicked off with an aperitif of elderflower vermouth martini with pineapple weed. Heavy on the homemade vermouth, this was a splendid livener. It was augmented by an opening snack of fresh peas with orange on whipped ember cream topped with oyster leaf. This was my second fresh pea dish of the week. It again transported me back to youthful days at our country cottage where peas from the pod were a rare treat.
We then moved on to red snapper belly sashimi which was some of the best dishes of its kind I’ve been served anywhere. Lightly brushed with a stock of the fish bones and some preserved lemon, this was the first sighting of the simple elegance matched with fastidious attention to detail that is very much Pasture’s calling card.
Next up was blue abalone cooked in the embers of the fire, then served with a liquor including a reduction of abalone liver. The drinks pairing was a local whisky which allowed the creation of an ultra-fancy pickleback with the shell juices. Abalone is a pain to cook and even elegant slicing couldn’t detract from the meat being just a little bit chewy, but it was a still a flavour-packed, fun and memorable dish.
It was then time for bread and butter. They make their own wheat and rye sourdough on site and have been maturing a cultured butter over several months. This was splendid stuff. I reserved a little bread for mopping up of future courses which proved a smart decision.
Next we had a dish of two types of beetroot topped with walnut oil and sakura flowers. This was more excellent stuff with the nutty oil a great foil for the sweetly earthy beet.
We then moved on to white asparagus served topped with coffee grounds. I wanted a huge dollop of butter on top of this but the delicate flavours probably worked better without it. The drink pairing of house violet vermouth worked extremely well.
Our journey continued with ceviche of rock lobster served with capsicum broth and salted green strawberries. This was a beautifully conceived dish with real pop and zing.
The next course was possibly my favourite. A sourdough crumpet was topped with a crest of prosciutto. It was accompanied by a crunchy pickle. This was the kind of dish I could have eaten all day everyday.
We then returned to the snapper with the loin of the fish cooked on the blazing heat to crisp the skin then served simply with a saffron and egg yolk sauce. This was elegant and deeply satisfying.
The main course was a monstrous wagyu sirloin, again cooked on the fire grate before our eyes. Served with rolled greens and a beef soy sauce, this was as good a piece of beef as you’re likely to find and far higher in quality than the wagyu I sampled at Bentley.
With savoury items concluded, my fellow diners retired to lounge tables while I swivled seats to dine at the dessert prep bar. Four desserts followed, all of which had some helpfully savoury notes for my palate. All showcased the dairy production they’re undertaking on site.
First we had some blackcurrant leaf puree atop kombu and yoghurt. Next was a dish of fromage frais with rice, bee pollen and maple flowers. These were fresh and delicious.
We then had a spoon of cultured cream and kumquat served with a rhubarb filled brandy snap. This was excellent. The cherry on the top was a freshly made doughnut filled with smoked plum jam then rolled in anise hyssop sugar. It was so good I managed to sneak a second one.
With coffee, chat, recommendations for Wellington and Christchurch, and general reflection on a great meal completed, all that was left was to bid a fond farewell to Ed, Laura, Tobias and the team then wander home in a blissfully well-fed haze.
Pasture is comfortably the best place I visited in Auckland. It evoked memories of the Edinburgh Food Studio and The Table, two of my favourite places in Edinburgh, blending elements of both for a truly magical experience. This should be your top Auckland pick when you’re in town. I’m confident you’ll be as impressed as I was by this stellar place.
Blythe scores Pasture
5/5 for food
4.5/5 for presentation
5/5 for service
4.5/5 for setting
giving an overall 19/20
I ate: fresh peas with oyster leaf and whipped cream with embers; red snapper belly sashimi brushed with fish bone stock and preserved lemon; blue abalone with liver reduction liquor; wheat & rye sourdough with cultured butter; beetroot, walnut oil, sakura; white asparagus with coffee grounds; salted green strawberry, rock lobster ceviche, capsicum broth; pig crumpet, pickle; red snapper loin, saffron and egg sauce; 5 month aged wagyu sirloin with greens and beef soy; blackcurrant leaf puree and kombu; fresh Jersey cheese, flowering maple, rice, bee pollen; cultured cream with kumquat; rhubarb brandy snap with thyme; plum jam doughnut in anise hyssop sugar
I drank: elderflower vermouth, gin and pineapple weed martini; New Zealand whisky pickleback; mirin in gin, rhubarb, cherry blossom; violet vermouth; sauv blanc blend; western pathfinder cider; sous voile pinot gris – Bellbird Spring; Little Wing 2016 syrah, Waiheke; fermented quince wine, Tarkaka white rum; whisky and whey; coffee; water
I wore: orange trousers
Total bill: $305
Address: 235 Parnell Road, Auckland 1052