It has been a long, long while since my last visit to Taupo. I used to zip up the western bypass route on my rush to get to Auckland. Taupo is a thermal playground for families, and my recollection of its food scene is basic, cheerful and thoroughly forgettable. This time around, I was keen to experience the more refined end of the dining spectrum.
Monday is not a day for dining out, as we quickly discovered that it was rest day for most of the better restaurants. Luckily, The Bistro had recently decided to open on Mondays. A quick peruse of their online menu and we were salivating.
The Bistro’s look and feel is that of a smart, yet cosy space. The wait staff was a delight, she was friendly, a bit intense and totally efficient.
The dining started with our bouches being very amused with a tuna tartare on crostini. And with any fine dining establishment, some homemade bread with olive oil and flaky salt.
The Waikanae crab & pork belly tortellini, apple puree, seaweed caviar, black truffle & manuka honey dressing ($21) has to be the dish of the night. That sweet, delicate crabmeat encased in perfectly al dente pasta, and who knew the sweet tang of apple makes such a great complement. The truffle honey dressing added depth to the flavours.
Our second entree was the Bistro wild rabbit & chicken liver terrine, grain mustard, salsa verde, hazelnut, radish, fennel, pickled red onion ($18). I loved the terrine, it was ridiculously moreish and went so well with the salad of fennel, parsley and pickled vegetables.
For mains, BL had the confit leg of Cambridge duck, truffle potato puree, salsa verde, pistaccio nuts, poached garlic, jerusalem artichoke, bird jus ($32). I typically shy away from duck confit due to the saltiness of the dish, but I was impressed with this (BL loved it). How can anyone not love crispy duck skin, and tender, moist meat?
My pick was the Hawkes Bay fish du jour. Pan-roasted bluefin tuna with parsnip puree, winter vegetables and black pepper foam ($29). This is a substantial dish, and perfect for a winter’s evening.
The meal sizes are generous, but make room for a dessert. We shared the roasted banana pudding, hokey pokey, passionfruit, butterscotch sauce, mascarpone ($12) on advice of the wait staff. I really liked the caramelized banana. We were impressed how quickly this came out of the kitchen, but we realized the middle of the dish was not heated through. A small miss on otherwise a successful dish.
The Bistro’s chef (and co-owner) has a sterling background at exclusive restaurants around the world, and this experience shows. This is the exactly the sort of food you want to eat when you are dining out. Fresh, clever and sublimely delicious. And a very good reason to stop in Taupo.
17 Tamamutu Street, Taupo
Ph: 07-377 3111
Open 7 days, 5pm until late