Pescatore, Christchurch, New Zealand

Pescatore, at the swish George Hotel, is one of New Zealand's top restaurants. The innovative restaurant is slick and buzzy, and brimming with fabulous upscale types. 

That being said, Pescatore's food isn't outstandingly soulful, nor comfortingly familiar. You'd be disappointed if you expected Pescatore to conform like many other regular restaurants. Here at the 1 hat laureate of the 2015 Cuisine NZ Good Food Awards, you get inventive cuisine that's playful, refreshing, and surprising, sans the contrived pretentiousness.

The aforementioned adulations were largely attributed to the life-changing wine pairing experienced at Pescatore; the sommelier here is an Einstein-level genius. The food, on its own, was already excellent, but when paired with each matching wines, the cuisine transformed...and it was pure magic. Like Merlin-level magic. I've had wine pairings with degustation meals before, but never like this. If you're like me, and ever thought, "what's the big fat deal about pairing wine with food?", Pescatore will absolutely change the way you think about wine pairings. The gestalt of the wine-matched degustation dinner made Pescatore THE PLACE to bring to similar skeptics; for sure it'll turn them around to pairing food with wine. 

We started off the Degustation (NZ$145 + NZ$60 for wine pairing per pax) with an amuse bouche, a block of citrus-cured salmon with hay, micro greens and a dollop of cream fraiche. Lively and refreshing.

From the garden, cool potato jelly was set on a layer of smoked eggplant puree, and sprinkled with pickled marigold. The Peregrine 2011 Dry Riesling 2011 pairing brought out the garden florals with its elderflower accents, while the minerally citrusy notes enlivened the delicate plain jelly.

The heady spice of the Smoked Freshwater Eel with crispy duck shavings and fermented lichen, was heightened by the white pepper notes of the 2011 Penfolds Bin 128 Syrah.

At first blush, I was wondering where the scallops were hiding amongst the Scallop Fettucine with peas and fresh herbs. Then I realized, with a jolt, that the fettucine itself was made of scallops. This was like fish glue noodles, western style, at its most exquisite. The pairing of the McArthur Ridge South Tor Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010 further enhanced the subtle nuance of the pasta, with the summer warmth of berries.

The Poached Little River Angus Beef Fillet, with peppered oxtail, morels, and sourdough puree, was gussied up by the rich full-bodied Te Mata Awatea Cabernet Merlot 2013 blend from Hawke's Bay.

With a plush Central Otago Wooing Tree Tickled Pink Rose 2012, was the first of 2 desserts, a Liquorice Orb, sweetened by basil ice-cream, and crushed strawberry ice and green tea dust

Up next was the spacey Golden Sphere, a veil of sugar-spun sweetness, with caramelized banana, creme brulee mousse

 The finisher was a trio of hibiscus, basil, and buckwheat honey papers. I liked the basil one best.

Pescatore serves their bread in a paper bag, with an addictive poppy seed & fennel mini baguette and the softest fluffiest butter roll, sided by softened butter and Akaroa olive oil. So amazing, we had four helpings of these!

Bollinger champagne

New Zealand

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