Ginny Fisher from Viva took a walk on the wide side with a foraging couple whose passion for experimentation and creativity will find expression in a new Parnell restaurant.
As published on Aug 3rd 2016
Squelching through muddy bush tracks in Maraetai on a damp July day, it’s hard to believe there is anything remotely edible in this dappled green glade. But chef Ed Verner thinks differently. He’s frantically plucking leaves and offering tastings.
There are kawakawa leaves — hot, green and bitter. Further on in the clearing wild jasmine flowers — sweet and fragrant. Next, wood sorrel — lemony, tart and tasty. Hold on, gorse petals? Yes, that prickly farmers’ nemesis happens to have edible flowers. Bright yellow and snappy tasting, they too may just end up on a salad plate at Ed and his wife Laura’s new pastorally-inspired Parnell restaurant, aptly named, Pasture.
“I’ll bruise, ferment, then air dry them; oxidisation produces interesting new flavours,” he explains. Some he’ll leave fermenting to use in vinegars — he’s already made an aromatic spruce needle vinegar that goes well with mushrooms — while the dried leaves can be used in preserves, juice concoctions or even as fragrant additions to the smoking tray above his kitchen fire. Ed’s also planning to make jasmine lemonades and aperitifs such as elderflower wine, fermented juices, shrub concoctions, kombucha and nut milk combinations.
Experimentation and creativity are big factors in Ed’s cooking. He and Laura had a taste of this approach while working at Kadeau — a Michelin-star restaurant in Copenhagen that spearheaded the new Nordic cuisine movement, which promotes local and seasonal produce. The idea is to transform the tastes and smells of the region into unusual culinary combinations: think fermented flowers and preserved berries suspended in honey.
The idea of genuine service without pretension appeals to this low-key couple, who are determined to give diners not just a mouth-watering meal, but an experience to match.
And what an experience it will be. The custom-built restaurant on a quaint cobbled lane in Parnell is all wood and stone, with a focus on a crackling fire. The intimate dining space, with a capacity of 25, will be centred on three chefs, who will be accessible for conversations with diners — when they’re not wrestling with a roasting beast on a spit. The waiters won’t just be there to hustle plates, they’ll be storytellers, conversing with customers about the provenance of the food and wine, all of which will be local and organic.
At Pasture, six courses will be offered, along with organic wine or juice pairings. The menu will list only ingredients, the dish will be a surprise.
So here they are, bringing Pasture to Parnell, and Clevedon’s bounty to the big smoke. They are terrified and excited to be the first open fire-dining restaurant in Auckland, but don’t want to be labelled just yet.
“I don’t think you can put us in a box,” Ed says. But if you could? Inside you’d find a crackling fire roasting something smoky and delicious, freshly baked bread, homemade preserves, organic wine and perhaps even the odd gorse flower.
Pasture are situated at no 235 Parnell Road, in the alleyway behind hattitude