Review: Shepherd, Hannahs Lane, Wellington
A taste of… Shepherd, Hannahs Lane, Wellington
We'd heard… Shepherd Elliott and Sean Golding's new restaurant was proving popular with Boomers. We weren't about to let Gen X have all the fun.
We started with... 8 Wired's Hippy Berliner ($11 for 330ml). Clean, fresh, sour and hoppy, the beer was one of an impressive selection on the drinks list.
The menu, which is frequently updated with new flavours and specials, has small bites and larger plates. The oysters ($4 each) come in three varieties. We were advised the deep-fried, Korean-flavoured morsel on offer that night was a non-threatening introduction to the polarising shellfish. Dusted with umami-packed seasoning and dunked in a kimchi aioli whose nondescript colour belied its pungent piquancy, we'll never fear an oyster again.
The smoked salmon steamed milk pikelets ($8) were two mouthfuls of excruciatingly fresh fish dressed up with citrussy, savoury flavours, encased in a dinky dough dome. We also ordered the steamed custard ($9, that night flavoured with eel), which was topped with decadent bacon vinegarette - imagine a smoky salted caramel that just happens to made out of pig.
The custard was transferred to the mouth with the aid of a crunchy cracker made with molasses and grains. The dish was an absolute pearler.
To finish, we order the hot goat's cheese with ginger bread and grilled golden kiwifruit ($10). The ginger bread's extreme crunch and rich flavour was reminiscent of the aforementioned custard cracker, and paired well with the earthy goat's cheese. The kiwi was best consumed as respite from the full-on goaty and molasses flavours, rather than in the same mouthful. A fondue for the modern era, and not for the faint of heart.
The service was... From a true professional. The bar manager kept our water glasses full (options of still or sparkling) and offered expert advice on food and drinks with genuine warmth and hospitality. Fussy eaters won't have a problem (although that is something I've never been accused of) - dishes can be tweaked to suit your tastes.
The vibe was... That of a super cool dining room - it has the welcoming feel of a local with the energy of a hot spot. The space easily accommodated larger groups as well as couples. Menu items are unapologetically experimental, but the flavours are familiar and the prices are dangerously affordable.
If you go… You don't have to go fancy. There may be oysters on the menu but there were plenty of blue jeans and sneakers in the room.
Try to avoid… Accidentally using the "staff only" loos next to the kitchen. At least two of our party did (whoops).
Rating out of 5: 5