Restaurant review: Jack's Raw Bar at Cloudy Bay Vineyards
When it comes to local vineyard dining we often take for granted those that have been around since the beginning, like Cloudy Bay Vineyards with roots going back to 1985.
Hosted by brand experience manager Mario Dussurget, it was good and great to catch up with Cloudy Bay's happenings and sample their new menu while relaxing in the glorious sunshine overlooking vineyards and mountain ranges.
I had arrived much earlier and wandered around their uber stylish vineyard gardens. First impressions were slightly ethereal with people dressed in summer whites cocooned in tree-hanging egg-shaped chair pods. Others are sat on cushioned long sofas, on the lawns or quietly playing petanque. The tasting room can be busy but no matter there is plenty of room out here to simply enjoy the moments. Natural luxury.
Overseas ownership can be a barbed question when it comes to local buy in. As Sarnim Dean our photographer works the scene, I, over a glass of Pelorus NV ask my French host how local they all felt. He said some staff had been there many years and he himself felt very committed and connected to Marlborough. Cloudy Bay supports community fundraising initiatives like Marlborough Hospice, local schools fundraisers and other causes.
We want to be involved, he says.
Anyway, out here and now (Pelorus) Jack's Raw Bar is worked on a very relaxed informal basis. No reservations. Take a seat, read the menu, go to the bar, order and pay upfront.
This may sound abrupt but in a busy sometimes and overcrowded venue it does mean that everyone can then relax. Your food and wine is delivered to the table and if you want extras you repeat the process. You can come and go as you please. Easy.
The menu is headlined 'Forage By Sachie Nomura'. Based in Australasia, she is billed as New Zealand's most admired pan-Asian cuisine chef and is consulting for the first time in New Zealand here at Cloudy Bay. Faithfully adhered to, her creations are simply flavoured but thoughtfully composed using local ingredients, where possible, of the highest quality.
Dining is divided into sections.
Umi – From the Sea
First up a dozen Te Matuku Bay raw oysters with a soy and lime sauce side choice. We all opt for the iodined metallic, luscious au natural state of origin. As he photographs, Sarnim, is of course sampling these delectable morsels and Mario recalls shucking and eating oysters with his dad in Toulouse, France, as an 8 or 9 year-old boy when he is first given a small white wine to complement and excite his young taste buds. Today our oysters are matched with the 2016 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. We follow this course with a beetroot and plum wine-cured Ora King Salmon dish matched with the oak-aged version, Te Koko 2013. Oh my!
Yama - From the Mountain
Paired with the Cloudy Bay Marlborough Pinot Noir 2014, we are presented with roasted nori and rice -crusted venison tataki, which has a Cloudy Bay clam miso cream to lengthen and add dimension.
Riku – From the Land
Roasted duck breast, green tea and buckwheat soba noodles are Sachie's signature dish but it was the delicious broth the Admire duo relished.
Although expertly paired with an alliance of own Calvert and Northburn Central Otago vineyards - the 2014 Te Wahi Pinot Noir, Me and Mr Bean are not fans of Beef Tartare (served with fresh New Zealand wasabi) but there it was set before me with picked ginger, coriander, pickled cucumber, egg custard and lotus chips. Tartare is an acquired taste. I liked their rendering.
As a cheese board with local artisan honey, walnuts and three cheeses – Harnett, Cranky Goat and Kaikoura is delivered, Sarnim mentions the time, yes, we have been here a while …
Kanmi – Sweet things /Dessert
Dessert is on the way we are told and there it is. Homemade melt-in- your mouth crunchy miso walnut brownie drizzled with Putake honey with Kohu Road vanilla ice cream.
The menu suggests wine matches but if you are watching your wine intake it is possible to run a tasting concurrently from the tasting room. They offer three options – Cloudy Bay Experience, Pinot Noir Immersion and Cloudy Bay Indulge. If it's not busy staff there will keep track of where you are so I'm told.
They charge for tastings (flights are $10-$25), which some people don't appreciate but coupled with food and/or you get a discount on bottle purchases, it seems reasonable.
Jack's Raw Bar keeps it simple, they don't serve coffee (probably because it interferes with wine aromas) but regardless, it can get busy when wine tourists are time short or trying to complete their bucket list. Locals definitely have the advantage here. They can come and go as they wish.
Toni Gillan and Sarnim Dean were hosted by Cloudy Bay Vineyards.
Jack's Raw Bar
Cloudy Bay Vineyards
Jacksons Road, Blenheim, 7240
+64 3 520 9140
Open daily 10am to 4pm, until April 18.
- The Marlborough Express