We were in possession of ‘Grabone’ vouchers: Deluxe lunch or dinner with a glass of wine for two for $85 at Plume – one of the winery restaurants in Matakana, a 60 min drive north of Auckland. Along with Waiheke and Kumeu, Matakana is one of the boutique wine-producing areas around Auckland abundant with excellent winery restaurants. A glorious sunny Saturday in Auckland seemed to be the ideal time to take a drive up North and have lunch and we had arranged to go with our friends and their adorable 3-month old baby girl. Embarrassingly, the parents managed to arrive well ahead of schedule while we were running a few minutes late having had nothing to get ready apart from ourselves that morning. I had mistimed the amount of time it takes to drive to Matakana (for future reference: 1hr 5 mins door to door – after speeding over the SH1 toll road).
I had booked the table the day before, initially asking for the 12:30 time slot. However, I had been told that the 12:30 time slot was unavailable but they were able to confirm for 12:45. This 15 min time difference seemed a little petty especially since the well-organised new parents told us they had actually arrived at 12:30 and were greeted (‘Nice to see you again…’ it wasn’t the first time they had taken advantage of the regular Grabone offers) and promptly shown to a table.
The table was outside on Plume’s patio – overlooking the Runner Duck Estate vineyard: perfect on this sunny October day. We were efficiently informed of the vouchers conditions – any main and a dessert from the menu with a choice of the Runner Duck red (a Cabernet Franc/Merlot blend) or white (Pinot Gris) wine. We ordered two of each type of wine between the four of us, along with our choice of main and dessert (a condition of the voucher was this had to be chosen at the same time).
Plume describes its restaurant as ‘fusing the flavours of global kitchens with New Zealand’s own traditional heritage’. I’m not quite sure what this means, but the menu has some tendency towards Asian-style dishes.
We then sat back and enjoyed the company, the wine, the vineyard views and the sunny weather while waiting for our choices to be prepared. The pinot gris was good: light and crisp with delicate fruit flavours, while my husband, not being a big fan of Cabernet Merlot blends finished his glass and ordered the Runner Duck ‘Passion’, a full-bodied Syrah for his next glass.
The mains arrived about an hour later and we were all getting pretty hungry by this point. The new dad had ordered the pork belly – his regular order at Plume and he is a big fan. Not surprising as it looked fantastic – served with rice and wok-tossed vegetables on a banana leaf. He described it simply as ‘stunning’. The new mum had ordered chicken breast – advertised to come with Brussel sprouts but as they were currently out of season, they had been replaced with green beans, and served with mushroom and porcini cream sauce and truffle mash. After dealing with her disappointment at being told there would be no Brussel sprouts when ordering, everything else was good although she thought the truffle element to the mash was not very apparent.
The tempura was nicely presented in a Chinese style takeaway box with a pipette of soy sauce and a bamboo steamer containing noodles. It also came with a single Atlantic grilled scallop and wasabi mayonnaise. The tempura consisted of sweet potato and spiced salt tiger prawns. The saltiness was definitely apparent in the tiger prawns, so much so, that I wasn’t sure there was any spice. The wasabi mayonnaise could have also done with more wasabi. The single scallop was grilled to perfection and delicious.
The husband’s pork belly food envy wasn’t satisfied by the arrival of his roasted briouat of duck breast served with cannellini beans cassoulet, potato gratin and orange sweet and sour sauce. The duck, although tasty enough, didn’t have crispy enough skin for his tastes. However, it was saved by the excellent sweet and sour sauce and the tasty bean cassoulet.
The deserts were churros for the girls – always decadently delicious and served with rich Mexican chocolate sauce. The boys had chocolate fondant (served with an excellent blood orange sorbet and pieces of praline) and a sticky date pudding served with butterscotch sauce (containing unadvertised pecans, unfortunately for the recipient with a mild nut allergy).
Service: Friendly and knowledgeable. Water glasses were kept constantly topped up and orders taken efficiently. Food service was a little slow but not really a complaint since we were able to spend 2.5 glorious hours enjoying the sunshine and vineyard views, and at no point were we made to feel rushed. However, this made the request to delay my booking by 15mins seem a little unnecessary.
Food: Good choice of mains – all well presented. Some of the advertised flavours (other than the salt) could have been a bit more pronounced. No complaints with the pork belly! Plume also serve a selection of small bites and a vineyard platter for sharing.
Prices: We were on a special voucher deal which is good value but, ordinarily, mains are in the $29-$40 range (the pork belly being the cheapest and the duck breast the most expensive) and deserts all at $16.
Wine: Didn’t disappoint, but wine always tastes good in the sunshine at the winery.Plume, the vineyard restaurant 49a Sharp Road Matakana New Zealand Phone 09 422 7915