When planning our lunches amongst the Marlborough wineries, we were told, repeatedly, to make reservations at Hans Herzog. Their wines were purportedly legendary, and their food was touted as a must-try.
But unlike the other restaurants we were at, Hans Herzog wasn't as packed. It turned out a foreshadowing of our blah lunch. The food wasn't bad. Or awful. It was just less than outstanding, and largely forgettable, even if the plating was beautiful in that rustic-chic style. Quite simply, the food failed to impress, especially in light of the exquisite meals we'd enjoyed in Marlborough, and I honestly couldn't tell you that I'd
return, either for the food or the wines.
We didn't buy any of the wines at Hans Herzog (which is saying A LOT, because we shipped back a grand total of 40 bottles of wine), and the lunch was the most unremarkable of our meals in Blenheim.
That said, the winery is worth a visit. Its midsummer's night dream-styled rose gardens and charmingly quaint cottages make for a lovely walk-through. Ditto for the winery tour, which informs the history, and detailed tour of the grounds.
The Crispy Canterbury Pork Belly (NZ$22) with a couple of scampi hunks, garnished with a leafy pickled onion salad, and blanketed in a foamy kumara puree, was a New Zealand surf-and-turf of sorts. One of the better starters.
The Cold Smoked House Cured Mt Aoraki Salmon (NZ$18) was countered with pickled beetroot, tart apple, and spicy wasabi cream. Artistically plated, nicely balanced, and delightfully refreshing.
The Herzog Riesling Soup (NZ$16) caught our eye right off the bat, but was woefully cloying and overwhelming with cream. We couldn't make out the riesling in this, and the copious lashings of pistachios and fruits de mer failed to save this disappointing dish.
The Mushroom Risotto (NZ$24), generously flecked with New Zealand field mushrooms and broad beans, was beautified with edible flowers (note to self to copy this when cooking risotto at home). Thick crisps of parmesan lent a salty oomph.
The Pan-Fried Salmon (NZ$30) was perfectly cooked. Paper-crisp skin burnished to a gorgeous hue, and luscious flaky flesh. This was set atop a pearl barley risotto and brightened by a brown butter tomato vinaigrette.
The hefty 60-Day Aged Wakanui Ribeye Steak (NZ$34) was sumptuous, sided by a roasted onion and potato puree, fresh spring vegetables, herbed butter that melted into a puddle of aromatic goo, and velvety jus.
The traditional old-world design of the winery is evocative of classic European wineries.
The small-ish indoor casual dining room off the tasting room.
Which leads to the lush outdoor dining patio for casual lunches.Get a table outdoors if dining for lunch, it's a much prettier view.
The indoor formal dining room is only open for dinner.
A cheeky sign hung above our table, that I can't agree with more.