Eating out: Gustav's Wine Bar
Open now. Opening soon. Hot new wine bar. Gustav's Kitchen. Gustav's Wine Bar. Aga the focus of Cassell & Sons new venture. Richard Till consulting on new restaurant.
So exactly what is going on in Woolston?
Cassels Brewery with its beers, pizza oven and all-round good food we know about. Gustav's, though, for all that it has been in PR overload, is not an open envelope as yet, despite knowing, as we do about the installation of an Aga, its decor, the size of the bar, and - it's opening soon. Make that very soon. Soon, anyway. The wine bar is open, but not the Aga kitchen. The wine bar and kitchen are open. The wine bar is open for lunch.
Time to drive down Garlands Rd and find out exactly what is up and open.
Cassels Brewery has been a landmark since it opened. The Tannery next to, but not wall to wall, is making an even bolder statement. From outside, its zig-zag saw-tooth factory roof line and long stretch of brick wall is impressive. Push open the heavy doors and enter a tiled and decorated space that is a dead ringer for the arcade that once upon a time featured in Cole's Wonder books - light, airy and lovely - and there to the left is another set of impressive doors - Gustav's.
This wine bar has a different look. It is more sensibly English and heavily oakish rather than European, and casually disordered.
A enormous mirrored and glass-backed bar runs almost the length of one wall. Nicely squared small cafe tables for two or three line the opposite wall and there are banquettes, then down the midline is a long row of tables and oak chairs that are so classy Gustav's might have to take orders. It is warm and comfortable with a touch of formality - witness the waistcoated staff all tucked in and tidy.
We choose our own table and immediately a bottle of iced water and glasses appear, along with a wine list that, because of the pale type on brown paper, remains a mystery. We do manage to find a Spanish bubbly by the glass which, as a lunchtime aperitif, is perfect - dry but not too dry, bready but not yeasty, served in exquisite flutes. I want a set.
We listen carefully as the small luncheon list is recited, but we get the "sharing list" to read. It is small and interesting.
"It's tapas-style," we're told, "so order two or three, or four and share between the two of you."
The thing about eating in a new restaurant is that there is no way to know how they present the food, or even exactly what it is, given the current menu thing of listing ingredients rather than cooking style. Aranchini (sic) with zucca? Oh, that's risotto rolled around pumpkin and crumbed. Ah so. We'll have that one please. And the salmon cured with beetroot, and the mussel fritter too.
Other tempters include the Japanese chicken karage and a Mexican-influenced pork gordita.
A quick glance at a neighbouring table featuring a large, blue-rimmed bowl of crisp "fries aioli" causes a moment of regret but, too late, here's our lunch, so quick and, as is the way of tapas served in Christchurch, all at once: three small serving plates of food, a small eating plate each and a knife and fork each, but no serving implement. What would the food police say about dipping your eating utensil into the serving plate? Let me say we were careful not to dribble.
The food? Very good presentation, very good flavours, everything cooked to perfection and only one bossy note: "Our condiments are balsamic vinegar and chilli oil. Should you want salt and pepper, we will bring it." But salt brings out flavours. Vinegar, especially sweet balsamic vinegar, and chilli-flavoured oil add flavours. Fish, shellfish, farmed fish, any kind of fish need salt.
There may well be dessert, but it it had taken longer than we planned to negotiate the big-truck stretch of Garland Rd and make our way through the traffic to the Tannery's car park. Time to go.
The Aga is installed, but it's not yet ready. In the meantime, the chef and his staff in the kitchen visible through the hatch were flat out.
All bodes well for Gustav's success.
Gustav's Kitchen & Wine Bar
The Tannery, 3 Garlands Rd
11am till late Go again: Yes
Who: Corporates (suits, in a rush) and retirees (small cars, no rush)
Cost: $9 - $14 a plate
Downside: Invisible-inked wine list