47 The Square (Square Edge Community Arts Centre),
Open: Sun to Tues 7am to 4pm, Weds to Sat 7am to 9pm
Mains range up to $32.50
Reviewed by Lisa Durrant
In my dining out experience in Palmerston North, it is not often that the service outshines the food.
At OE Cafe one night recently, the service was at a level not often seen in this city's establishments – it was highly professional, friendly yet efficient, and our Austrian waiter Philipp (who I found out later was one of the cafe's owners) showed a depth of knowledge regarding the wine and food available that was refreshing to see.
His knowledge was demonstrated when talking to us about the only sparkling option on the wine list – an Italian prosecco. He explained the difference between this and French champagnes and New Zealand sparkling wines in a way that was informative rather than patronising, as I have experienced elsewhere.
I had been expecting OE to feel a little carvernous at night, because it's located in a large gallery-style space in Square Edge.
However, I was pleasantly surprised to find a warm, welcoming ambience that felt intimate.
OE, which stands for overseas experience, has an ecletic menu from around the world. We started with choosing a couple of entrees – baked mussels au gratin and arancini spinach and cheese sicilian balls.
The mussels were baked in their half shells with garlic, herbs, breadcrumbs, and then finished with parmesan. The accompanying aioli was the perfect complement.
The arancini risotto balls were filled with parmesan, feta and spinach, but the cheesy flavour I was looking forward to wasn't nearly as strong as expected. The two accompaniments, pesto dipping sauce and a tomato ragu, lifted this dish.
For mains, my friend chose Austrian summer chicken salad – crumbed chicken pieces on roasted pumpkin, cherry tomatoes and a red onion salad. The coating was crunchy and a nice contrast in texture to the moist chicken within.
I chose lamb rack with honey, fig and plum compote, a delicious combination. This was a well-presented, colourful dish, with Urenika heritage potatoes giving a purple tinge to the mash, then baby carrots – purple and orange – alongside green beans, not to mention a minted pea puree. It was just a pity the lamb was overcooked, with not a hint of pink in sight, while the beans were undercooked.
To finish, we decided to share a dessert, French apple tarte tartin. On its arrival we were glad we had taken our waiter's advice to share – it was the size of an entree plate! It was a good rendition of this classic dessert and an excellent way to finish an enjoyable night out.
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