Since its million-dollar makeover in 2010, Foxglove has become a favourite spot for the post-work CBD crowd.
It's easy to see why the wharfside bar and restaurant is so popular: a series of stylishly decorated spaces both indoor and out, a sophisticated lunch and dinner menu, a cocktail bar accessible through a big oak wardrobe.
Foxglove is participating in Visa Wellington on a Plate's Dine Wellington with a $35 set lunch that gives diners a choice of two courses plus a glass of regional Wellington wine. It's excellent value, considering a main alone would normally set you back about $30.
We head there on a blustery weekday towards the beginning of the Wellington on a Plate fortnight. Lunch is being served in the northeast corner of the restaurant, on the ground floor looking out at the harbour. Unlike the more casual lounge-bar areas elsewhere in the restaurant, here the decor is all polished concrete floors, slick black- tiled walls, white tablecloths and fine glassware.
For my first course I've chosen the Waikanae crab tortellini with a smooth carrot-cardamom puree, Prana baby herbs, shellfish jus and hazelnut. The pasta is firm and plump, full of salty-sweet shredded crab meat and I find myself greedily wishing for just a few more tortellini.
The other starter is a beetroot carpaccio topped with grilled Zany Zeus halloumi, brioche, pinot noir gastrique and candied walnuts. It's beautifully presented. The brilliant- hued slivers of beetroot are cooked perfectly and the toasted brioche and halloumi are a crisp and salty contrast.
The pace of service is unhurried, which is fine until we realise it's been half an hour since we finished our entrees and our mains are nowhere in sight. While it's tempting to take a leisurely lunch break, my friend has a prior commitment and is running out of time.
We find it hard to catch anyone's eye, though, until we finally manage to mention the wait to the maitre'd. To his credit, he ensures our food arrives promptly, personally delivering it to our table.
But by this point, we've been at lunch nearly an hour and a half and my friend rushes off. She only has time to finish a couple of bites of her pork belly, and shares the rest with me. The pork is well-seasoned and fork-tender, though perhaps a bit dry. We find the accompaniments more interesting - slices of trotter boudin blanc, truffle, smoked potato and little pools of apple caramel that, when eaten together with the pork, has an almost glaze-like effect.
The best part of the meal is my main: a piece of grilled Yellow Brick Road line-caught fish served over a creamy clam risotto. The fish of the day - tarakihi when we visit - is impeccably cooked, the clams succulent, the risotto subtly redolent of saffron. A smear of kina hollandaise gives the dish a salty hint of the sea. It's truly a pleasure to eat.
A table nearby is sharing the dessert, elegantly presented on a wooden cheeseboard: whipped Kingsmeade Ngawi brie with honey jelly, carrot marmalade and celery cress. I admire the use of carrot and celery here - it's not often you see vegetables on the dessert menu, but it seems to work.
Foxglove is a wonderfully atmospheric place - the decor at once elegant and whimsical, the food expertly cooked and gracefully presented, the view of the harbour delightful. I'd return for another meal - but I'll make sure I'm not in a hurry next time.
33 Queens Wharf, Wellington
Phone: 04 460 9410
Hours: Mon-Fri 11.30am-late, Sat & Sun 10.30am-late
Sounds: Conversation and clinking glass
Mags: None spotted
Clientele: A stylish corporate set
Try this: Grilled Yellow Brick Road line-caught fish with clam risotto, kina hollandaise and saffron from the Dine Wellington set lunch menu, $35 for two courses and a glass of wine.
The Dominion Post