Cold night, warm service
The Cooperage Cafe and Tapas Bar
723 Main St, Palmerston North
Phone: 354 5124
Open: Mon-Tues 7.30am-4pm;
Wed-Sat 8am-late; Sun 8am-4pm
Mains range up to $29
Reviewed by Lisa Durrant
Maybe it was the cold night that kept other diners away, as recently a friend and I were well outnumbered by staff at The Cooperage Cafe and Tapas Bar.
While the temperature was down to 7 degrees Celsius outside, it was warm and welcoming inside the cafe. A gas fire at one end added ambience, and the armchairs strategically placed in front were a good spot for an after-dinner drink.
With no-one else in sight, we got to choose our table – of course, we went for the one closest to the fire.
Once I was seated, the waitress took time to find out if I'd dined there before, then proceeded to explain the menu and the business's concept of tapas. She recommended that if we went for tapas that four options would be ideal for two people. Tapas (or entrees) are priced around $13 each.
The menu also offers four mains and a similar number of pastas and salads.
We started with a couple of tapas – smoked eggplant and capsicum jam with toasted flatbreads, and tempura prawns and inari sushi.
Starting with the not so good, the "jam" was nothing like any savoury jam I've ever had. The eggplant and capsicum lacked any kind of thickened "sauce" to give it some sticky cohesion, which meant it was difficult to spread on the flatbreads. The toasted flatbreads were warm, but this couldn't disguise the fact they were stale.
Our other choice was more successful. The dish was nicely presented, with the prawns well cooked with a lovely tempura coating with lemon zest sea salt. The inari sushi – tofu skin formed in a pouch and filled with sushi rice – had a slightly sweet flavour, and was a good complement to the prawn.
The accompanying dashi dipping sauce also partnered well, as its mild flavour wasn't overwhelming.
For my main I chose dukkah-crusted lamb rump on cheesy kumara bake topped with Italian ratatouille and seeded mustard jus.
This dish had an abundance of herb flavours, and the cheesy kumara was a tasty combination. However, there were only two slices of 1cm-thick lamb rump, one cooked perfectly, one slightly overdone, which I don't think would have satisfied a big appetite.
My friend chose chicken stuffed with camembert, rolled in prosciutto, served on spring onion and potato mash, with grilled courgette and cherry tomato salsa.
The chicken, with its prosciutto wrap, tasted overly salty, with only a smidgen of camembert to be seen.
The dish was attractively presented, but the salsa was only three cherry tomatoes cut in half and placed on top with a few herbs sprinkled over this.
On to dessert. We ordered chocolate stack, which was chocolate shells (like a scallop) sandwiched with icecream and berry coulis. The icecream was also berry flavoured, which was refreshing. The thick shells of chocolate presented some difficulty when trying to cut them up with just a spoon.
My choice of churros, Spanish-style donuts dusted with cinnamon and sugar, was served with cream and chocolate sauce. While there wasn't any sign of the promised dusting, they did have a subtle cinnamon flavour.