Noble Rot: Wine Bar or Wine Fungus?

To some people, noble rot is a type of fungus that infests crops of grapes, damaging their properties. To us Wellingtonians, Noble Rot is the prestigious wine bar tucked away on the corner of Swan Lane. But these two things have something in common – when harvested at the right time, grapes infested by this noble rot fungus can make uniquely exceptional sweet concentrated wine, and well, Noble Rot is an establishment that serves these unique and exceptional wines – so exceptional that its earned them a plethora or awards, including Chefs hats for 2017 & 2018, and also Best Wine Experience at the Felix Awards for both years.

So, knowing there was a place in Wellington that had been so publicly praised for their food and wine, I of course needed to scope it out. Luckily, my sister was turning 25 and also had a taste for fine dining and wine, so my family and I all got dolled up and headed out for a night that promised to be something special.

Once we got opened the door we were greeted by a tall and dark person donning an eyepatch, whom I now know to be the Wellington wine famous Maciej Zimny, who graciously took our coats and to our table. Upon sitting down we were greeted again by another person, Josh Pointon, who talked us through what our night was going to look like, and a brief summary of how they like to do things at Noble Rot.

After much excitement and anticipation over what the first course was going to be, we soon found it placed under our noses: a small Kanji filled to the brim of what I can only call a sumptuous pile of cubed sweet melon-like fruit, with a light dollop of a nutty vegan cream, and with a beautiful edible flower to garnish. This wasn’t an appetiser to pick at, it was all or nothing. And after getting it all down the hatch in one, the flavours then started to pop. Sweet, fruity, mellow, nutty – I couldn’t put my finger on what the individual ingredients were, but my god did they create a tantalising taste on my tongue. I knew that if every subsequent meal was going to be of this standard, I was in for a treat of an evening.

After a short interval, our man Josh came to greet us again, but this time he came carrying the favoured wine! For our starting course of Denzien gin marinated Ora king salmon, rock melon,  cherry tomatoes, pickled cucumber and blobs of mellow whipped coconut creme – with yet more edible flowers – we were given a very light and fruity wine, with a pinot noir-shaped glass to capture the full flavours of the mellow wine. Both paired together perfectly, with the fruitiness bringing out the freshness of the seafood and pickled fruits.

After we’d demolished our starter, it was time to move onto something a little heavier with some deeper and smokey flavours – a char-roasted celeriac placed upon a dollop of dark potato puree, with picked walnut, capers, apple, pear and a drizzle of herb oil. This dish clouded my palette with a deep earthiness, whose flavours got even richer with every sip of the deep red velvety wine that was paired with it.

2 wines down, and now it was time for the fish course. For this pairing we were given another light white wine, which I remember being a Gewürztraminer as it was my very favourite, which added a wonderfully sweet and fruity note to the dish – a smoked catch kedgeree, fresh green peas, crunchy wasabi peas, crispy shallots, radish, and daikon. This dish was by far my favourite, its slight spiciness with the wasabi and the freshness of the fish created a  rather addicting flavour combination, and the wine gave the ingredients that little bit of sweetness it needed to round off the perfect mouthful.

If we weren’t full enough, it was then time to get onto the fourth course and the fourth wine (we were feeling very merry at this point!). This dish was a celebration of the humble Heirloom carrot, paired with pickled dates, avocado miso, enoki, and okra. This dish resembled the earthiness of our second course, but it also gave me far-east Asian vibes with the added pops if the miso, enoki and okra. This dish was paired with yet another red wine – which I am terrible for not remembering the name of – but what I do remember, is that it had the most silky texture that gelled with the Asian flavours of the dish beautifully – a very well thought match!

If you thought the feast ended there, you’d be wrong. What’s a degustation without a little dessert? So last, but definitely not least, we had their 72% Whittaker’s chocolate mousse, with pineapple crisps, coconut, star anise, carta Blanca, and a sprinkle of chilli. This dish was pleasant to eat, the pineapple and chocolate wasn’t my favourite pairing (I wasn’t brought up in NZ, so never a fan of pineapple lumps), but can I please raise some attention for the dessert wine that was matched with this. Holy moly. I already knew I loved dessert wines, but I didn’t know I was going to become obsessed after one sip of the one Josh poured for us – even with it being a red wine too! It was so sweet and mellow, but not too sickly sweet that it overpowered the rich chocolate and spices. You only need a thimbleful of this wine with dessert, but believe me, I could easily drink a bottle it was that good!

Phew – you’ve made it to the end! Go and get yourself a ginormous of wine – you deserve it! My experience of Noble Rot is definitely something to behold – partly because of the food, but mostly because of the wines. I don’t even really like wine usually, but after spending an evening tasting wine that these boys have scoured high and low for just to share with the public, I’ve definitely become accustomed to good wine and could point one out from your $7 Clearskin  any day! The team at Noble Rot put all of their effort into making sure each and every person is catered for, comfortable, and not thirsty – and for this, I thank each and every team member! A decent 8/10 on the café crawler scale. The food was good, but I don’t think I needed a degustation to see the skill of the chef – however their wines and pairing skills were absolutely second to none, and I urge you if you go there to spend your money on the wine more than the food – you won’t be underwhelmed!

Check out the Food & Drink menu for Noble Rot here.

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