Amisfield has introduced a new lunchtime à la carte dining, a notable move away from its set tasting menu which the restaurant has been known for.
The new lunch menu (which runs in addition to its set menu dinner) will give diners a bit of theatre as chefs prepare and serve dishes at the table. The menu focuses on cooking over a new fire pit in the courtyard, with spring dishes such as whole crayfish, new season asparagus and old favourites like Paua Pie with blackfoot paua, manuka smoked potato, and brisée pastry.
We sat down with Amisfield Executive Chef, Vaughan Mabee to hear more about the restaurant’s exciting new offering.
This is a shift from the set menu style Amisfield is known for. What spurred the decision behind the new lunch offering?
Mainly the ability to incorporate another technique and flavour profile to our food. We also thought through a way we could reinterpret à la carte dining and believed our courtyard was perfect for outdoor cooking which adds an element of theatre. It’s very visual and we’ve had fantastic feedback from our diners. We’ve had some guests come for an a la carte lunch and then turn up a few days later for the dinner (tasting menu) experience; the two experiences are very different.
Does it reflect a shift in your interests as a chef? New techniques to explore?
Yes, it’s really just a continuation of a team constantly pushing, constantly improving and giving Amisfield another point of difference.
What flavours and textures can you achieve cooking over an outdoor fire that are different to the conventional kitchen?
Fire gives off unique flavours that only smoke and flame can impart on meat, fish and vegetables. For example our Royalburn lamb sees the whole lamb cooked over coals relative to the cut of the meat. It’s a completely unique thought-through process for us which allows us to offer unique flavour profiles and texture using the whole animal.
As a chef, do you enjoy this opportunity to connect with guests in a more interactive way?
Absolutely, I have very much focused on this at Amisfield and one of my favourite parts of the day or evening is venturing out from the kitchen to talk to our guests.
What local ingredients are you excited to use this summer?
To be honest, anything that I can get in daily without having to refrigerate. Right now it’s asparagus. When I recall asparagus as a kid, and eating it growing up it was always the forgotten ingredient on the family BBQ. It was usually there to make mum or my aunts happy, often overcooked and very much lacking in inspiration.
This dish reminds me fondly of those days but I treat it very differently! We pick it daily then gently poach it in fig leaf fat, tie with chicken wire into a log, then completely cover it in coals and wood until blackened. We BBQ it to a point where the outside blisters and the inside cooks al dente. We wrap wild thyme around it in the coals, giving a wild smoky umami flavour. Our asparagus dish is served with French sorrel and asparagus juice tinted with wild thyme. It’s carved table-side on top of wild thyme bushes. We pick every day to add a sense of place and smell to the guest.
As a chef, how do you work with the Amisfield wine team to match each dish?
We have a great Sommelier and management team that have a shared passion for food as well as wine. Amisfield’s depth of varieties as well as our wine cellar/library make it very exciting.
If you only had five ingredients from Central Otago to choose to take to a desert island, what would they be?
Does home churned butter count? Venison, Royalburn Lamb, stone fruit and birch water. Survival in spades.
To view the lunch and dinner menus, visit amisfield.co.nz.