Restaurant review: Roots, Lyttelton
Winner: Cuisine Restaurant of the Year & Ora King Salmon Innovation Award
Cuisine rating: 17/20 (two chef's hats)
Chef-owner Giulio Sturla (above) is the real deal when it comes to eating local. At his small restaurant, which he established with partner Christy Martin, he serves food he has grown, foraged or sourced locally from artisan producers and sustainable farms. Humble ingredients are transformed into dishes that make you pause to wonder and contemplate, as in a plate of delicate house-made ricotta, superbly smoky, smooth eggplant puree and small coloured brassicas.
Exquisite flavours are found in slivers of black foot paua with flavoursome fish broth, celeriac puree and salty garlic crisps. And the unexpected makes you smile, such as the pre-dessert board with a soft disc of lavender marshmallow, a warm madeleine and yarrow tea. Service is warm, attentive and capable, and wine offerings – chosen for their personal connections to the owners – are intriguing. Roots is very clever, but whole experience still manages to feel down-to-earth and friendly.