Well hello there, and welcome to another installment of Fancy Plans and Pants to Match, where I’m all, “hey pals, sometimes nice things happen to me because I’m a cool food blogger but in my defense I’m going to be juuust self-deprecating enough about it to make you feel comfortable and relaxed”.
I used to avoid talking about it in case I came across as an unrelatable prig who was excited by nothing and filled with ennui by everything, but it turns out that while I can never be that unexcited person I probably should worry about pushing people away by using the word “prig”. Anyway! The name Fancy Plans and Pants to Match is a quote from the wondrous Jimmy James, a character in the woefully slept-on 90s sitcom NewsRadio. And in case all this wasn’t quite enough of a thrilling ride for you, I have a giveaway, whaaaat (imagine me sounding an airhorn right now, if you would be so kind) for a $100 voucher for The Library. You could scroll right to the end for the instructions on how to enter and ignore this post, but just know that I’ll know. Oh, I’ll know. I always know. But also there’s nothing I can do about it, so yeah, really, scroll by merrily if you wish!
so here’s the thing: I was invited to eat and drink up large at The Library, a baller bar and live music venue in town. This kind of sybaritic activity is exactly how I’d like to live my life but so rarely get to, so it was some kind of wonderful to have this opportunity.
the pitch: The Library has long been known for their excellent cocktails and desserts, but they have very recently updated their food menu, and so there’s no better time to do some investigating into these developments with one’s mouth.
what happened: In the interests of clutching at any brief opportunity to look cool and like a hell of a swell about town, being all rakish and debonaire and decadent, I brought my girlfriend along as my plus one. We were given a number of options for seating, and decided upon the secret dining room, a pleasingly sneaky nook hidden behind a curtain, with a window looking over Courtenay Place, The Library’s signature ceiling-high shelves piled with books, and, the most important thing: perfect light for taking selfies.
The new menu is positively rippling with flavours and playful, interesting takes on established combinations. For the indecisive amongst us (hi!) this could be fraught-making, but the size of the plates lends them well to ordering many and sharing amongst a few. We started with a cocktail each – the Mrs Peacock (blueberries, raspberry gin, sparkling wine) and Roses Are Red (rose wine, raspberries, cranberry juice, rosewater, rose petals), both the colour of velvety theatre curtains and both a glorious way to start the meal. I believe my words to the impressively mellow person serving us were “I would like to take a bath in this stuff”. After much deliberation, we chose the following:
Prawn Cocktail Salad, with prawns, smoked salmon, bloody mary mayonnaise (verdict: punchy, crunchy, retro-fun…chy)
Honey Marinated Salmon, with cauliflower puree, avocado mousse, and pickled vegetables (verdict: how’d they get the salmon so utterly tender and pink, how, also the pickled vegetables were the perfect textural contrast to all that satiny puree)
Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella with basil gremolata, 12 hour tomatoes and olive oil caviar (verdict: milky soft cheese, basil and slowly-cooked tomatoes made sweet and intense will always be an ideal combination. The olive oil caviar was very cute, but maybe didn’t add much other than cool visuals – this may be my heathenish self being unappreciative of subtlety, though.)
Beef Carpaccio, with wine barrel smoked mushrooms, shaved parmesan and micro greens (verdict: Wow. How dare you. This is frankly too, too good. I’m outraged.)
Tempura Tuna, with soba noodle salad and wasabi mayonnaise (verdict: the feather-light tempura, super-rich rare tuna, and cold, slippery, sesame-tinged noodles were wonderful together.)
Smoked Brioche Bruschetta, with wild mushrooms and sage butter (Verdict: okay, how did something so simple, which we almost overlooked, taste like wandering through the forest after the rain, like jumping into a pile of autumn leaves, like…sturdy boots – oh wait that last one is kind of insulting. This was just really, really excellent.)
We finished with two mighty fine Old Fashioned cocktails (that’s one each, but I do like the thought of clutching one in each hand and not leaving till the Angostura bitter end) and we shared Organic Pineapple and Raspberry Sorbets which were so damn fresh and smooth and the only way they could’ve been bursting with more real fruit flavour would’ve been if they were one of those suspiciously fake-tasting fruit lollies which tend to insist in their advertising campaigns that they are, in fact, bursting with real fruit flavour. If that makes sense.
the best bit: Everything was straight up brilliant. Service, the place itself, the food, the drinks, everything. However, the standout dishes were the beef carpaccio and the smoked brioche. Carpaccio is one of those dishes I only want to pay for, because, like hair cuts, it’s better done by other people. If I tried to do it myself there would just be roughly-hewn chunks of steak everywhere (same goes for trying to do haircuts to be honest.) This was silky layer upon silky layer of cool, rich beef, with thin slivers of parmesan and juicy mushrooms and every time I think about it I feel like I’m clenching my fists and standing in the rain in a dramatic music video, that’s how good it was. Perfect ingredients, presented very simply. Perfect. The brioche arrived in a smoke filled dome, which I loved, and despite being something we picked offhand from the menu it was indubitably a favourite. Buttery bread, buttery actual butter, lushly savoury mushrooms tumbled over, everything kissed with smoke. You know a meal is good when you find yourself shouting metaphors and richly detailed imagery at it to illustrate how it makes you feel, rather than just eating it.
on a scale of one to is this the real life, is this just fantasy: While The Library is somewhere I’d happily wander into for a drink and a snack of an evening, this particular all-bets-are-off evening was like an actual don’t-pinch-yourself-because-you-don’t-want-to-wake-up lucid dream. I give it a nine.
would I do it for not-free: Okay, so I literally cannot afford to recreate the exact quantities that we ate and drank anytime soon, but I am so enamoured with the food that I will most definitely be back to revisit some of the brilliant things we had and to try some more. The coconut coated smoked halloumi, hand-cut potato skins with pecorino and proscuitto, and rare beef fillet with parsnip whip, beetroot tartar and kumara crisps could not be calling my name any harder right now.
earnest thanks for making me feel fancy to: The Library, upstairs at 53 Courtenay Place, Wellington. 04 382 8593 / firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheers the the wondrous team there for finding us such a fun table, for being so knowledgeable about everything, and for being entirely chill about catching us taking selfies pretty much every time they walked in.
so you want to win a $100 voucher: Well done, you made it to the end of this long post so I’m gonna finally tell you how. The extremely good people at The Library have given me a voucher for one hundred damn dollars to give away to one of you.
All you have to do is the following.
1) Be in New Zealand (better yet, Wellington, for obvious reasons, but as long as you can feasibly get to Wellington at some point I guess you’re all good)
2) Leave a comment on this blog post recommending me a song you’ve been loving lately. It doesn’t have to be anything brand new, just something that has been making you feel some things in your heart whenever you play it. Seriously, whatever song you like (there are three acts that I truly detest in this life: Fleetwood Mac, Dire Straits and Phil Collins, but like, in the interest of “fairness” and “ethics” I won’t discount you if you mention something by any of them.)
3) Around midday Sunday February 22 I will select a winner at random, and will announce it on my blog’s Facebook Page. I’ll attempt to get in touch with you via email or whatever if I can work out how, but otherwise you’ve got around 24 hours or so to get back to me, otherwise I’ll have to pick someone else, okay?
PS: The Fancy Plans and Pants to Match archive is here, and feel free to get in touch with me anytime if you’re a haver of fanciness out there who wants me to check out your goods.