Fancy

Published on January 7th, 2013 | by Ultimate OmNoms

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Tasting Shed

Aucklanders are notorious for being lazy commuters. We mutter and shake our heads at the petrol prices then complain about our public transport system. But even with all this new dining sparkle in Auckland CBD, The Tasting Shed in Kumeu has always had a firm reign in the foodie household since opening in 2011.

We set out nice and early at 4.30pm for an early dinner in case we were to meet traffic along the way. Heading into Kumeu and beyond always promises an adventure and a smug wave to the congested Auckland life. Instead of moaning about how far it was and how much the car was licking up petrol, we relished the drive into the “countryside” of Auckland.

Formerly a 1945 pear cider shed, it was converted into The Tasting Shed by TV professionals turned restauranteurs Jo and Ganesh Raj. Just across from Coopers Creek Vineyward, the Tasting Shed lives on one simple philosophy – “where wine craves food”.

Wheels crunching up the gravel, the Tasting Shed looked sophisticated in black. Dining tables that spilled out into the outdoor area are wrapped by the wind + rain proof outdoor gazebo.

Everything about it oozed warm comfort and rustic charm. You wouldn't hear the quiet clinking of cutlery on plates and humble conversation here. It was a strict “no-tablecloths” restaurant. And these beautiful wooden tables probably take 5 times more work to maintain.

It was hard not to imagine that you had just walked into your friend's home. Laughter and screams from kids playing outside with their dog…table ornamented with lavenders plucked straight from the garden outside. It was beautiful.

This is an idea of what the menu looks like. My after-work brain probably took more time than necessary to figure out what the bobbles meant on the Savory to Sweet scale. With 25 items on the menu (including dessert), it was difficult to nail down what to order. We were advised to order 4 to 5 dishes because they were all entree sizes.

Clams – smoked corn, miso, seven-spice popcorn

Seven-spice popcorn was the main call to action. Think about it, every time you eat popcorn it's because you're about to have a good time. So it makes to order something with the feeling of knowing it can't go wrong!

Watermelon – smoked olive, goats cheese, baby ganoush

This was one surprising combination. I've always been one to systematically eat my way through my plate because I didn't like mixing things together. Give me a fruit and cheese platter, I'd eat each individually. But this is something you'd want to pile a bit of each onto your fork. The watermelon and goats cheese blend beautifully into a creamy smoothie in your mouth. Rich and cooling at the same time – it's a weird sensation.

Venison – carpaccio, mushrooms, beets, juniper, walnuts

R's favourite.  This is a great well-thought out dish with plenty to leave you taste testing, tilting your head and thinking. It was called the Venison dish, and with so much going on, the venison was the solid foundation to bring out the flavours of each ingredient. The sweet tang and slick texture of the mushrooms was paired with the crunch of the walnut and hokey-pokey chunks. We had fun melting the walnut powder on our tongues and poking at the different elements on the dish. The hokey pokey was not your average golden syrup variety but was made with beetroot juice – so even with this explosion of textures, everything blends together.

Kingfish – sweet & sour grapefruit, fennel, fennel, fennel

C's favourite: You did not read wrong – fennel, fennel, fennel. The orange zestiness and icy fennel was paired with beautiful kingfish sashimi. Most of the dish was made by fennel – into different styles and textures. If you're a fan, you would have loved the scent. There were generous slices of kingfish and I found myself magnetised by the fresh and icy sensation that made my fork go back and forth from the dish to my mouth.

Pigs head – pickled onion puree, carrot, cumin, coriander

I wasn't quite sure what to expect. My first impression when seeing 'pigs head' is something with ears, nose and a mouth – but this was more like a minced up version that's been concentrated into a patty – though not so much that you can't taste the texture of the meat at all. The texture was quite slippery with tendons and fat wrapped up inside the crispy shell. The carrot was soaked in cumin, giving it that distinct punch with the onion puree.

Rabbit – pancetta, carrot, mustard, pea shoot, quinoa

Coming all the way to out here, rabbit is a must-try – especially because it's not an everyday meat, and knowing it's a bit of a pest for farmers as well. The meat was not as lean as I was expecting. Being tightly hugged by pancetta, you'll know at once that this dish won't be short on seasoning. The ring gave it a salty and stringy texture and you'll find beads of quinoa seeds nested inside.

Rosewater – strawberry parfait, pistachio, saffron, baklava

After a mini degustation, one shared sweet dessert was enough! The rosewater was not an understatement – the scent was clear, and sweet, followed by an even sweeter strawberry parfait. It had a subtle summer breeze to this dish and the strawverry parfait an excellent substitute for your average ice cream. The saffron leaves a distinct after taste and cures the dish from being too sweet.

Cutie dog wanting to join us. He even walked us to our car and made us feel doubly bad for leaving!

With the popularity of restaurants that let you put elbows on tables, tablecloths are stripped away to make way for our laid-back Kiwi culture. If you're looking for a sweet candle-lit dinner, there's other fine-dining restaurants in Auckland CBD. But I'm loving this fusion of casual and fine at The Tasting Shed. The service doesn't make you feel like you're a VIP but more like your host that invited you to their house for dinner. So if you're looking for an excuse out of the city, make this your first stop!

The Tasting Shed

Ph: 09 412 6454

State Highway 16, Kumeu,

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New Zealand

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