Te Whau vineyard and restaurant, a perfect excuse to make a pop culture reference to 80s *icon* Carol Decker.
As a visitor, to get to Te Whau, it depends where you have to come from. From a randomly selected point, say, Kennedy Point, you just jump in your boat across the inlet to Te Whau Bay and climb up the cliff. If you don’t have a boat and are not shod for a rocky ascent, you go the long way round, past St Mark’s church, past Surrey County Cricket Club, get the tube to Heathrow, fly to New Zealand, get the boat to Waiheke and take the bus to Rocky Bay, past the sports park, round the dirt track, up the hill and then walk out across the ridge to the point at Te Whau. Ahhh, the tyranny of distance, as Split Enz once noted of New Zealand’s location relative to all the other places. By then, you’ll have quite the appetite.
And then the view, looking back across Te Whau Bay to exactly where you were if you didn’t have to fly from England. You soak up the view, ponder the dreams you still have, the boat you might one day lovingly pour money into, which may one day take you to the rocks you might even still be young enough to climb.
Te Whau are very proud of their awards, as you would be (like, say, one would be of a NOPA award) and their entrance hall is covered in them. They’ve had a few … a lot, actually.
You’ll also need some rudimentary Maori pronunciation to ask directions to it if you get lost. The ‘wh’ in the Maori tongue is a sort of buzzy ‘f’, though not quite as much as a ‘v’, so kind of ‘Te Fvow’
For an allegedly swanky gaff it’s respectfully humble, which is no doubt to ‘let the food do the talking’, or to ‘not compete with the stunning view’? It’s part newly refurbed National Trust tea room, part trendy seaside resort but what a view and the food is very foodie.
Oysters. Marmite, aren’t they? Vomit inducing snot balls to some, svelte and sophisticated aphrodining* to others. As a couple, we fall into both camps. The aphrodiner in us likes the local Te Matuku oysters, though he obviously doesn’t really know what separates them from others. But, his enjoyment is down to this chef’s decision to leave these creamy beauts au naturelle, not sodomised by vinegar and shallots but deftly sprinked with tiny cucumber and apple cubes that look like they were cut by firing them through a piece of school graph paper made from finely cut steel.
Some Americans came in, they sat furtively, mumbling to each other for five minutes then put their coats back on. Apparently they’d looked at the menu and considered their dollar had been Trumped by the Kiwi one. When they booked this trip it was a mid-range lunch, now they may as well have been dining at Shouty McRamsay’s Over-Priced Pretentious Food Room.
For no other reason than to illustrate a childish anecdote, we “paired” the crustaceans with a Kennedy Point sauvignon blanc. “Do you know where Kennedy Point is?”, asked the sommelier, pouring a glass and readying herself to gesture across the bay to the booze’s origin. “Yes, we live there”. To rosy-cheeked chuckles and vague but not really tangible embarrassment we could have added “but, you know, Kennedy import their white grapes from Marlborough, so, technically this wine isn’t from ‘over there'” but that would have been churlish in the face of generous and graceful bonhomie.
The other starter, Spanner crab, danced around the plate atop a festival of garden greenery. One of those pretty dishes you see that have things sprinkled over it with the sort of gay abandon that Mark E festoons his guttural suffixes. Deep down you know there was much less abandon. Festooned with radishah and peashootahs, it looked good enough to eat. But, the cream-cheesy base swamped the crab when it could and should have been lighter and foamier. Imagine striving for ‘Dub Be Good To Me’ but griming the bass up so much that Lindy Layton’s vocals drown in sub-woof fuzz.
Duck. Amazing. Lots of ducks roam freely on this wetland-heavy island, you wonder which one this was, where did you see it last, is a street missing its sentry? There’s no point lingering on this when it melts its way down your gullet. Really, very good, except for the oxtail dumplings that were like eating a small leather purse. Tasty ox, though.
The other main. New Zealand lamb. New Zealand lamb baffles. The isles are famous for sheep but where do they all go? The supermarket meat aisles are laden with chicken, beef and pork but lamb is very thin on the ground. Do they export it all? Is it really THAT seasonal? Are there really no sheep in Aoteroa? It is spring, so where is it all, working it’s way to China, no doubt, along with the milk powder?
Not being big dessert eaters the end of all of these posts may come a little abruptly but the orange ooze from mandarin mixing with parfait is ace, as is the dessert wine. Oh yeah, we had some delicious cheese and did the wine tasting as well. Let it be noted that we are not wine experts. But, the wine was suitably winey and was not offensive, particularly the robust ‘The Point’ and the saucy Syrah.
Contrary to some artistic licence granted above, which is a theme we’ll have in this scheme we have, Te Whau is impressive, even in these financially difficult times. It has the gravitas to put it near the top of the eateries on the island but doesn’t do the pretentiousness or wallet-abuse that you’ll find abundantly in some others. Basically, it’s enjoyable, can’t wait until the sun shines enough for them to open the patio. Overall 8/10, some minor quibbles but a great way to spend a couple of hours.
Te Whau Vineyard & Restaurant, Te Whau Point, Waiheke – website.
*Aphrodining, to dine on alleged aphrodisiacs. I’ve just invented it, stick it in the urban dictionary now, I’m claiming it.