Review: Annam Restaurant, Wellington
A taste of… Annam Restaurant, 125 Featherston St, Wellington.
We'd heard… That the curry-bread combos at this French-Vietnamese eatery were outstanding. Situated in the CBD just off Lambton Quay, it's considered something of a city secret, frequented mainly by those who work nearby.
We ordered… the Hanoi calamari ($14) to start and share. The squid was coconut-marinated, to ensure the morsels were tender, with just a hint of salt and pepper in the flavourful, non-greasy batter. Sweetened with a chilli-garnished dipping sauce, the well-balanced dish was an indication of the equally cleverly constructed plates to follow. The duck curry ($26), carried slices of skin-on breast swimming in a tangy, aromatic pineapple and peanut butter sauce. Served with rice and french bread, this combination of fats, game meat, fruit and grains was not only filling, but also offered an exciting mix of flavours and textures. The pork skewer with crispy spring rolls ($22) was surprisingly light, topped with crisp, fresh Vietnamese mint; fragrant marinated beef; crispy rolls; and a helping of soft vermicelli noodles. This faithful, yet carefully-executed interpretation gives the traditional (and usually quite heavy) bun cha a refreshing new lease of life.
The service… Perfect. Friendly and intuitive, we didn't have to wait too long before being offered a top up of our Quartz Reef Rosé ($13). Our waitress also had an impressive knowledge of the dishes and was happy to share some recommendations with us (here's hoping after a few visits, we can piece together a recipe or two).
The vibe… French elegance meets Vietnamese vibrancy. Iconic, bright red paper lanterns and grand chandeliers hang from sky-high ceilings fitted with subtle, opaque square skylights. White walls, hints of wood cladding make for a modern, relaxed but also lively setting. Perfect for a mid-week treat, date night, or a leisurely one-on-one catch up.
If you go… Get one of the curries, resist doughy temptation and save the bread to mop up that delicious sauce right at the end. If you're around during lunchtime take advantage of their express menu (which we're assured is super speedy) of chicken curry or braised beef with a choice either summer rolls or those moreish calamari bites, with a bargain $30 price tag.
Rating out of 5: 4.5