Although Pravda Café has the appearance of grandeur with it vaulted ceilings and hanging crystal chandeliers that recall the exotic excess of the Russian imperial period, it has delivered smart bistro food and top coffee to Wellington CBD workers and dwellers from the start. Its location and reputation made it a must-buy for Richard Sigley and Simon Gault’s Nourish Group empire when it came time to stake a claim in the Wellington scene, and along with sister restaurant Shed 5, they have continued to do what they have always done. www.pravdacafe.co.nz
There are advantages of being part of a larger concern, and one such outcome has been the arrival of Adam Rickett to the position of head chef, and being a Simon Gault protégé, he’s got style and plenty of ideas to try while he develops his already proficient culinary skills. With a successful ‘Game Bird Degustation’ event three months ago, Adam was keen to try his hand at a ‘Seafood Degustation’. My partner Sue Davies put her hand up to put wines from her portfolio (click here to see) to match the planned dinner. It required a meeting with chef Adam, restaurant manager Glen Houston, maître d’ Declan Body and functions manager Antoinette Lathbury-Axford. It was a treat to sit in the discussion and try the wines, not with the complete and finished dishes, but with components, so that Adam could fine tune and cook to suit the wines that were chosen.
The wine: Quite pale in colour, with aromas of soft strawberry fruit and some underlying herbal notes. Some sweetness apparent, quite gentle and subtle, and with a little textural grip from the tannins. Will this be too light?
The food: Plenty of tuna, quite dark in colour, almost jellied in texture. This is quite subtle in flavour, but has more substance and mouthfeel to it than expected. The yuzu plum very citrusy, possibly dominating, and the coriander a little herb and green hit, but otherwise in the background. This dish had an Asian outlook.
The wine: Pale in colour with very restrained aromas and flavours. Delicate pear flavours and a little honeysuckle. On palate medium in sweetness, noticeably so, and quite elegant, with an attractive drive, the alcohol quite in balance, and soft acidity providing sufficient freshness. Would this be overwhelmed by the food?
The food: The tortellini seemed to be the feature, and was in terms of presence and texture. Nicely cooked pasta with good firmness, and the crayfish delicate in flavour and showing sweetness to the fleshy texture. Some prawn flesh too? The crayfish consommé was the flavour driver, with classic reduction of shells and seafood pervading the aromas and flavours. Yet not overbearing, though most prominent in the dish. A dish that builds in flavour and distinctiveness.
The wine: This has developed well over the years since its release. Still youthful looking, and here more primary with citrus fruits, florals and honey, rather than the toastiness I normally see. Distinctly sweeter than the Pinot Gris previous, very gentle with a lusciousness, and bright, racy acidity showing.
The food: The scallops were the highlight, cooked perfectly with a little searing caramelisation and char, just to off-set the sweetness of the flesh. The purees were not overt in flavour, the rocket being a smooth and even. Micro-greens added the cut to the scallops and cauliflower. An excellent contemporary rendition of a classic seafood dish.
The wine: Moderately dark red and not frighteningly so considering salmon to be the match. Surprisingly primary fruited with dark raspberry and cherry flavours, and little secondary dried herbs as has been noted. Quite concentrated, with some tannins showing, but the sweetness of fruit the feature. Looking good as a wine, but could this be too fruity for the fish?
The food: A superb piece of salmon, just-cooked and moist with freshness and oiliness, exceptionall smooth-textured with an understated density. Pure and rich, this was a treat. The tomato emulsion quite soft and matty, with mild flavours and the acidity in the background. Just enough of a cut and acid contrast to the sweet and oily salmon. The potatoes a firm textural counterpoint, the confit richness and fat a bridge to the salmon oiliness. Great dish!
The wine: Some golden hues, this oozes ripe apricots and is dense and solid. Oak, rather than exotic florals and citrus zest. Dry, but with a firmness, but decidedly opulent. Quite packed with presence and flavours, the oaking is an integral components, but noticeable. The suggestion of sweetness will make it an interesting wine to work with food.
The food: What a piece of fish. Perfectly served, still cooking and just about there, and spot-on with moistness as one ate it. Near about as fall-apart as hapuka can be, the salty tang of seafood coming out and a stand-out char from the grilling. The creamy thermidor quite subtle with its seafood and spicy notes. Globe artichokes are one of the recognised enemies of wine, with sulphide notes coming from the mix. How would this fare. As a dish, substantial, but light and moist enough to not overbear in any way, the thermidor setting off the fish, and the artichoke a contrast in texture as well as flavour.
The wine: Bright and light, this is fresh with clear-cut, classical talc, marmalade and honied botrytis on the nose. Immediately one knows this will be sweet. And sweet it is on palate, lush with citrus, florals, honey and an amalgam of fruit and botrytis. Tonight the acidity is a feature. Refreshing a delightful on its own.
The food: Light, but smooth creamy textures with hints of caramel and milk, with a clean and refreshing edge. The apple is subtle and the rhubarb even more so in flavour, maybe providing an acid edge. This had a lovely array of textures from creamy to crunchy with the crumble.