Review: Fortune Favours, Wellington
Beginning with The Loaded Hog 30 years ago, Wellington's brewbars grew quietly with The Fork and Brewer, Black Dog, Third Eye and latterly Husk.
But now, with the opening of Fortune Favours in Leeds St and the imminent arrival of both Heyday and Whistling Sisters, Te Aro Flat is truly becoming Brewbar Central.
In view of the deleterious effect of alcohol upon my innards, I'd probably rather not be reminded that Fortune Favours brewery was previously a dip strippers. But the point of leaving the old signwriting on the building façade is presumably to underline its sensitive renovation: heritage features such as wooden ceiling rafters and brick walls have been retained, but obviously the fun multi-coloured pipes that make up the steampunk bar are new. Alongside ghostly, tattoo-like murals, long communal tables are arranged as precisely as the design of a can of sardines would permit. As an alternative to barstools, there's comfortable seating out on the upstairs terrace.
This being a bar, food must be ordered at the counter, so service suffers when things get busy. However, I did appreciate our bartender taking the time to point out how we could save $10 on our order by opting for a set meat and cheese platter.
The brewery is mostly hidden away, except for two large tanks beside the front entrance.
Recently, a customer was heard to deride these tanks as being purely for show. To prove that they were empty, she pulled the plug on one of them, whereupon the full 600 litres of beer gushed out on to the bar room floor while she ran for the door.
I loved the whimsical Meat and Cheese Bar, which resembles an over-sized woodfire oven. At the tiny hatch stands chef Arun, cutting sausages and assembling tasting paddles.
Obviously the cured meats and cheeses are all bought in, so the exercise here is not so much about cooking as curating. Our prosciutto was the best quality San Daniele, while our unpasteurised Brie de Meaux and Roquefort were both at optimum ripeness. Later, Arun revealed that the pork rillettes come from The Churchill.
Rather generously, Fortune Favours offers guest taps even to their direct competitors, plus a wine list large enough to cover most food-matching bases. However, knowing the menu was designed around the beer, I fell into the spirit of things.
For the pork rillettes, correctly fatty and very French, I chose The Naturalist, an easy-drinking pale ale (unfiltered) which – head brewer Dale Cooper and I concurred – packed less hoppy punch on the palate than it had threatened on the nose, but cut the grease nevertheless. Then I stole a sip of my partner's sauvignon blanc, the stabbing acidity of which did the job even better.
The house APA (The Columbus), lemony and resinous, offered rather more hops for the pulled pork, served with good pickled house slaw inside a soft textured brioche from the nearby Leeds Street Bakery.
The most food-friendly beer appeared to be their house porter (The Gatekeeper), the toasted, malted flavours of which nicely complemented the caramelised edges of the Roasted Brisket.
Knowing this porter included cacao nibs in the mix, I saved a little to drink with a selection of chocolates (ganache, caramel, peanut brittle) from the Wellington Chocolate Factory, but there was a fundamental clash of savoury with sweet. Much better was a pairing of this Gatekeeper with the Roquefort. But even so, as matches for Roquefort go, I think I'd still have swapped an entire brewery's worth of porter for just one small glass of sticky riesling, imbued with noble rot.
7 Leeds St
Ph: (04) 595 4092
Open Sun-Thur 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat 11am-midnight
Price range of share boards: $15-$45
Cost: $72 for two (excluding drinks)
Beer list: ★★★★★
- Dominion Post