While we were down in Christchurch, it was great to be able to visit Roots in Lyttelton. It’s a much-talked about New Zealand foodie destination and the only restaurant outside Auckland to be awarded three hats by Cuisine (and one of only eight to hit this level). There’s no menu: you just get fed. It’s incredibly intricate cooking, full of detail and beautifully constructed layers of flavour. We opted for the eight course menu (five and 12 course options are also available).
Things kicked off with some surprises, including Te Kouma oyster slightly heated with rocket puree, lemon juice and dill, and a little corn cornetto, with corn masa, corn custard, charred corn and rosemary flowers.
Then it was into a succession of beautifully executed dishes, including the following.
Sheep cheese, pear, fennel compressed in saffron, black walnut, pickled fennel pollen
Pan seared squid with carrot and coconut sauce, carrot pieces pickled in coconut vinegar, cooked carrot, coriander. The squid was cut into fine ribbons, a bit like pasta.
Snapper, chicken broth emulsion, crispy chicken skin, scampi garum fermented with koji, puma. This was a cracking dish!
Smoked eel (wild-caught short-finned eel smoked with native woods), shiitake, pickled onion, caramelized onion and eel broth, eel and porcini, parsley. Lots of savoury deliciousness here.
Lamb belly (sous vide 11 h at 72 C), spinach puree and powder, cured lamb fat, lemon segments, lamb jus. Essence of lamb: very rich and flavourful.
Citrus jelly cleanser with citrus and yuzu curd, fresh yuzu zest, citrus nitro drops
Almond sorbet, quince cooked in calcium, quince and broad bean miso paste, toasted almond and dehydrated chocolate mousse, quince skin foam.
We had a few wines. The wine list isn’t huge, consisting exclusively of New Zealand wines. But they are interesting ones and well chosen. We’d have liked the staff to actually have tried more of the wines: after all the list is short. But in New Zealand there doesn’t seem to be a culture of the sommelier tasting the guests’ wines. Black Estate Home Chardonnay 2016 was really good, but our second bottle – the Millton Clos Ste Anne Viognier 2013 was very oxidative and not as good as it should have been. We mentioned this but rather than show a willingness to take the bottle back, they tried to tell us how good it was (we didn’t press…and just drank a rather disappointing wine). Things perked up with the fab Silver Wing Pinot Noir 2014 from Waipara, which was a sommelier recommendation and a very good one. This was deliciously detailed Pinot. And then we finished off with the excellent Brookfields Sun Dried Malbec from Hawke’s Bay, which was fresh and focused.
This was our bill (for five). It’s not a cheap meal, but the level of the cooking here is quite incredible. Aside from the issue with the Millton Viognier, we were really well looked after, and I’d really recommend Roots as a destination experience.