This year’s dégustation menu at The Larder is Eat An Elk – a 5 course dinner with elk featuring in every course. The Larder’s chef, Jacob Brown, is known for his “nose to tail” cooking philosophy, so we entered with some trepidation – their other event this year is entitled Tripe, Trotters And Testicles – so we were expecting the possibility of elk tripe, elk liver, elk kidney, maybe elk brains, as well as the more traditional meat.
We needn’t have worried. The scariest thing on the menu was the heart and loin course; everything else was “proper” meat.
We started with a broth with beautifully light and pillowy gnocchi and slices of elk shank, served with a cheese-y roll on the side. On the waitress’s recommendation, I was drinking an Urlar Pinot Noir from Martinborough with the first two courses – quite a light red wine, which complemented the flavour of the meat.
Second course was a tartare of leg. Normally you’d use the fillet for tartare, but in this case the meat was marinaded, and was very tender. The tartare was flavoured with peppercorns, and added unctuousness was provided by a bone marrow butter.
Next up was the heart and loin course – cooked nice and rare, the heart had a more gamey taste than the meat, akin to liver but not as strong. The loins were tender and juicy, and the whole thing served with a beetroot purée and deep-fried curly kale. I switched to a Terrace Edge Syrah from Waipara for the remaining courses, again as advised. I do like it when the wait staff actually know what wines to recommend with the food.
The fourth course had an Eastern Mediterranean flavour – a kibbeh and slow-cooked rib, with roasted chickpeas and a minty yoghurt dressing. This for me was the stand-out course of the evening.
And so to the “dessert” round. How do you make a dessert with meat? Well, consider this: back in the day, the mincemeat that you put in your mince pies was exactly that – spiced and preserved meat with fruits. Jacob’s take on the final course wasn’t quite like that, but wasn’t far off: slow-cooked cheek wrapped in a crêpe and dusted with icing sugar, accompanied by mandarin segments, almonds, and a marron glacé sorbet. It was really good – probably my second-favourite course.
That was our Eat An Elk experience. We will, of course, be back to The Larder in the regular course of events. They’re also dishing up an elk burger, Home Of The Wapiti, as part of the Burger Wellington competition – I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to fit that one into my busy burger schedule, but I’ll try.