Aug 4, 2016 Restaurants
Words by Kate Richards, photos by Josh Griggs.
Pasture is a very small restaurant. There are 25 seats for dinner, and only four in the early afternoon. There is plunger coffee (only plunger), protein dominates in only one course of six and the wine menu does not list a Marlborough sauvignon blanc. Thank god.
From midday there will be sourdough made from New Zealand grains milled on site. You will be able to buy some to take away and happily nibble on the crust while you enjoy a cup of Kokako single-origin coffee at a little breakfast bar, close to the entrance of the main restaurant. From there you’ll be able to watch, through a set of uniquely designed sliding wooden panel doors, as Ed and Laura Verner and their team prep for the evening’s service. This is fine dining, but not as we’ve come to know it.
Two years of pickling and fermenting and preserving and tasting have gone into Pasture, and it hasn’t all been successful. Some things just didn’t work, so there’s been a great deal of trial and error and there will continue to be as the restaurant evolves.
The menu will change with the seasons and with the chef’s ability to get hold of different ingredients. They’ve recently done four soft openings for friends and family, where they served pork loin and hung the belly for pancetta that they’ll use later in the year.
This week their supplier is running low on loin “and I don’t want to push her to provide,” says Verner. She’s offering a lot of neck, he’ll use that instead. Everything is treated with care, from celeriac cooked in beef fat and served with buffalo mozzarella, to a phenomenal dessert of amazake ice cream with last year’s plums and beetroot. It’s topped with a crisp soy milk skin, just kissed by an open flame as with nori in Japan.
When you book, ask to sit at the pass next to the open coal fire – those flames are integral to how everything is made at Pasture. “It’s an unmatched flavour that you get from cooking this way,” says Verner, “so we cook everything we can over coal.”
I would say this is thoughtful food, but it’s more than that because it’s hard for restaurants to challenge what customers expect from them. They’re taking a risk and aren’t afraid of whether the public will like it. Well, of course they will, it’s great.
I like Pasture, and I like that Ed and Laura are part of a movement towards slower-paced restaurants. Places where the focus is on quality and responsibility, where there is an opportunity to educate us on where our food is coming from and why, as the earth’s temperature rises and we start to change the way we’re eating and the way we think about food.
They don’t shout very loud about any of this. They just live and cook in a way they think is right, and quietly show punters there is more to life than perfectly trimmed fillet mignon.
235 Parnell Road