The results are in, and the winners of Wellington on a Plate have all been announced! I would like to shout a massive congratulations to the champions of our city’s culinary scene; Grace Patisserie, Café Medici, Pravda Café! Even though these were the judge’s choice of winners, they’re not necessarily who I would’ve chosen to win the best of Wellington’s burgers, festival dishes, and cocktails. So, who would I have chosen? Well, luckily, I can answer that question down below, with who I thought were the real Wellington on a Plate winners for 2019.
1 .The Brisk Taker by The Botanist: Sticky barbeque seitan brisket with melted vegan cheese, pickles, carrot slaw and American mustard in a blueberry bun, with crispy potatoes and cheese sauce. This, for me, was the burger to beat all burgers. Never has a vegetarian WOAP burger stirred such a scene within Wellington’s food community, but with incredibly innovative flavours this good, it’s easy to see why. Burger Wellington is usually championed by meaty marvels that make all carnivores drool – but even the anti-vegans couldn’t say anything bad about this burger. One bite tasted like everything that makes a classic Texan BBQ so good, but instead of the famous ribs, The Botanist used their skill to turn the vegan protein, seitan, into something with flavours far superior to any brisket. Sides for me is a big thing – yes, the burger is the star of the show, but you’re still paying for the supporting acts. And again, I had no faults with The Botanists crispy roast potatoes, and the matching cheese sauce is the perfect example of f***ing good vegan food. They didn’t win WOAP, but they’ve forever won a place in my heart and stomach.
2. Grace Patisserie egg: Whittaker’s white chocolate coconut mousse, passionfruit curd, mango banana mint coulis served with Zany Zeus lemon creme fraiche, hazelnut dacquoise and kataifi. Grace Patisserie is the new kid on the block, and they were super ambitious by choosing WOAP as the event to showcase just what skills they bring to the Wellington food scene. But after then going through to win the festival dish competition – we can all say their risk paid off. As soon as I saw the first review of this egg on the ‘gram, I knew this deceiving dessert was going to be something special. For me it’s not just the fabulous flavours that make this dessert so inimitable, it’s the drama. Sure, you can make a dessert that has pops of passionfruit, notable nuttiness, cracks of chocolate, and mouthwatering mango flavours, but you’ll be hard done by creating a dessert with a shell that actually cracks to reveal half an egg in a nest. This sweet invention hit the brief bang on, and I remember feeling every single sense come alive with every bite.
3. Prawn to Be Wild by Long Beach : Local catch fish cake with a fried egg, prawn mayo, chilli, tamarind and capsicum jam on a black sesame bun with Furikake seasoned chips. Sometimes some things are worth the journey, and this towering creation definitely ticked that box. I am a firm lover of all thing’s seafood, and this burger shone the light on some of Wellington’s freshest and most flavoursome catches – the line-caught fish patty was packed with that morning-caught clean flavour, and the prawn mayo popped of rich and tangy tastes. These two elements packed together between crunchy slaw, oozy egg, and a bouncy bun that held its own – an almost indescribable burger that I feel myself yearning for even right now. But like I said – a burger can’t take all the glory – the sides need to shine too. And I never thought I’d be quoting Rihanna when I describe the quality of some chips, but boy these fries shone bright like a diamond. They were perfectly seasoned with a chilli-salt which created a small fire on your tongue, which could only be put out with a dunk of their absolutely irreplaceably fabulous prawn dipping sauce. This burger sang all songs of the sea, and one bite washed an absolute wave of burger brilliance to the senses
4. Parrotdog: Tempura smoked eel with pickled vegetables, ginger, wasabi pearls and dashi mayo on a squid ink bun, with lotus root crisps. This seafood burger, whilst not as jam-packed with all the ingredients you could fit between a bun, definitely packed a punch when bitten into. Firstly, I need to sing some praise for Parrotdog, because us locals of Lyall Bay are blessed to have such a cool and acquainting pub-come-brewery right on our doorstep – and right on the beachfront! Secondly, their burger was a Japanese inspired work of art. It was simplistic, with only the bun, an eel patty, wasabi pearls, and some pickled vegetables to deliver the flavours, but this burger is the living proof that sometimes sticking with simple ingredients is the way to go for sensational flavour combinations. And can I just add – the squirt of flavour that hit you tongue when the wasabi balls popped – this is the kind of excitement and surprise food should evoke. This burger took everything amazing about fresh, spicy and clean Japanese flavours, and packed them between a thicc squid ink bun to create a WOAP entry that I personally think was underrated by other food bloggers and WOAP enthusiasts alike. Parrotdog – you and your chefs pulled off an amazing burger, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise
5. The Old Quarter: Ca Cha La Vong Turmeric seasoned Kāpiti line caught fish grilled then fried in oil, heaped with dill, spring onion and coriander, peanuts and shrimp paste. This may be last on my list, but it definitely isn’t least. This was the first festival dish I had ever sunk my spoon into, and after devouring this whole thing – I couldn’t believe I’d been blinded by burgers all these years to what incredible culinary inventions restaurants make just for this competition. This dish didn’t need truffle oil or saffron to be a 5-star dish. Instead it had classic Asian-fusion flavours, and a little bit of drama to take it to the next-level. Sure, stone grills are everybody’s favourite way of cooking their own dinner at a restaurant – but how about a Bunsen burner, a cooking plate and some red-hot fire to get things sizzling? This is a hundred times more exciting than a smoking stone cooking some steak. What I really loved about this dish, was that there wasn’t a set meal they were giving you – YOU create the your own. With the fish, lettuce, noodles, spring onion salad, chilli, peanuts, and fish sauce, you can literally make any culinary creation you want. I opted for a little San Choy Bow situation, which turned out to be an incredibly messy job, but once I perfected my lettuce-cup technique and got the food to my mouth, the flavours fire-worked on my tongue. This dish was the perfect share plate for partners and I honestly urge the team at The Old Quarter to put this on their menu forever!