Dining out: A Taste of Matterhorn
Restaurants – and food trends – may come and go. But nobody could accuse Wellington institution Matterhorn of short term thinking. Chef Sean Marshall first joined the 60-something-year-old institution in 2007 for four years, returning to its kitchens late last year when Mark Keddell bought Matterhorn (along with three others) back from the Pack group. The pair re-branded and redecorated the former Libertine above Victoria Park Market to create the atmosphere of the southern place, but with an Auckland twist. The rich materials, a terrace bar that has the same ‘come one, come all’ vibe as Welly’s courtyard, and – naturally – queen city twists on the famous capital city dishes.
Sean has put the super band back together for Auckland Restaurant Month. He will be joined by current and former chefs Rob Maybach, Dave Verheul, James Pask and Ben Tuhakaraina who will serve the best of past and present, along with famous mixologists Riki Carter, Claire Harlic and Calem Chadwick on drinks. And it wouldn’t be a Matterhorn event without the music.
For the five course menu, Dave’s eschewing the company’s famous fish soup for a raw smoked albacore tuna, Ben plays on the original duck brioche, calling it Duck Wellington; Jimmy works with Roquefort cheese while Rob’s dessert is a 2010 favourite of chocolate, Turkish delight, marshmallow with the simplest milk sorbet (simple, that is, if you have the best ingredients and the right gear).
Sean, naturally, shares his rabbit dish. He says the plate sums up his search for craftsmanship “Things need to have integrity, balance in the flavours, textures, acidity. I wanted to make something with abundant, not exotic, ingredients but work it to create a dish.” He elevates the ordinary whole wild animal, carrots and barley: back legs are cooked in stock that sets in a jelly to create a terrine; the saddle is boned out, rolled around more rabbit mouse, poached slowly like a sausage. Carrots are pureed with spicy cardamom (“my favourite spice”), the barley salad is served with a glass ‘biscuit’ made from dried barley; lightly pickled shiitake mushrooms play off the sweet creamy carrot.
“Pickles and charcuterie are a good way to add acidity to the plate,” he explains. The Matterhorn kitchen aims to be completely self-sufficient – rabbit and fish come in whole, the kitchen cultures its own cream, stocks are made from scratch – which means chefs are learning new skills all the time. Sean points out that building a kitchen routine is the key – produce is put up as preserves for the few weeks each item is in season, other components are made weekly, pickles done every couple of days. Breaking the workload into ‘progressive prep’ achieves the layers and depth of craftsmanship Sean is famous for.
While we may not be boning out rabbit and preparing it multiple ways, try a couple of these components to lift the flavours of your next simple grilled meal.
Carrot and Cardamom puree
Juice of 3 lemons
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground cardamom to taste
- Peel carrots and slice thinly to enable fast cooking. Steam carrots until very soft.
- While still hot, put carrots in a blender with lemon juice and sugar. Blend to a very smooth puree. You may need to add a few drops of water if the mix is too dry to help bring together in the blender. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground cardamom. Put aside to cool.
Pickled shiitake mushrooms
80ml dry Spanish sherry
160ml Jerez vinegar
40g sliced shallots
20g sliced garlic
1 small bunch thyme
3 bay leaves
1 tsp cracked black pepper
Sea salt to taste
200g shiitake mushrooms, cut into halves
- Bring vinegar and sherry up to a boil with shallots, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, pepper, salt and sugar. Poor hot mix over mushrooms and leave to cool. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours before using.
Sean and his team are hosting A Taste of Matterhorn: Past and Present as part of Restaurant Month in the Heart of the City, Wednesday, August 5, 6pm. Tickets, $220, from iticket.co.nz