Riwaka chef's hare is game for awards

Harvest at the Riwaka Hotel has been named a finalist in the Monteith's Wild Food Challenge for the second year in a row.

The restaurant is one of only two repeat finalists in the revamped competition, which this year has 12 finalists compared with last year's six.

Head judge Kerry Tyack dined at Harvest yesterday and declared the hare dish "just beautiful".

Chef Brian Turley had created a dish he called Hare of the Dog, which was a smoked and beer poached leg of hare en croute with pan fried loin of hare, served with blue cheese and beer polenta, and a walnut and herb crusted rack with a cherry sauce and kale.

Tyack said some big city restaurants could be "a bit up themselves" but the dish that came out of the Riwaka kitchen "wouldn't be out of place on any menu in a big city".

Tyack said he was impressed by the level of thought and work that went into Turley's dish that involved a lot of different cooking techniques, overnight marinating of the hare leg and 17 ingredients on the plate.

"Look at the work, the mise en place, the various techniques - it's very tricky.

"I always say to the guys, winning is a feather in your cap, no doubt, but getting to one of 12 out of 122 entrants is a remarkable achievement because we have some tough, hard-nosed judges on our panels."

Turley said he decided to use hare because he used to cook it a lot when he worked in London and it was one of his favourite meats.

"It's got that strong game flavour which I thought would go well with the strong dark beer, which has chocolaty and coffee notes that I like."

Tyack said the key to the competition was that "the food's got to make the beer taste better" and Turley said he played off the beer's notes by including 72 per cent cocoa chocolate in the sauce.

The owner of the Riwaka Hotel, Justin Scott, said making the finals last year had resulted in a "huge spike and this year we've sold three times as many meals as last year".

Scott said Hare of the Dog will be back on the menu from Wednesday, August 20, until they have sold out of their order of hares.

The winner of the Monteith's Wild Food Challenge will be announced on September 11.

The Nelson Mail