Elephant Hill

4102, 86 Clifton Road, Haumoana, Napier, 4172, New Zealand

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Elephant Hill is a Hawke's Bay winery established in 2003. It is situated in the wonderfully named Kidnapper’s Cove, about twelve miles south of Napier. The estate looks out over the Pacific Ocean, and the restaurant dining room has seating both inside and outside, facing the vineyards and the ocean beyond. The dining room is large and airy, with widely spaced, large tables. A terrace outside has tables set around an L shaped decorative pool, looking out over the vines. The head chef is Ashley Jones, who has worked here from 2006 after having trained in Sydney at the restaurants Jaspers and Essence.

The wine list naturally features the wines of the estate, with some additional selections from elsewhere. Sample labels were Elephant Hill Te Awanga Sauvignon Blanc 2012 at NZ$55 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for NZ$27, Elephant Hill Pinot Noir at NZ$60 compared to its retail price of NZ$41, and Elephant Hill Hieronymous 2013 at NZ$155 for a wine that will set you back NZ$126 in a shop.

Sourdough rolls were made from scratch in the kitchen and had good texture, along with the characteristic bite of acidity of sourdough (14/20). Wagyu beef tartare used beef raised in the South Island of New Zealand. It was served with horseradish cream, smoked beetroot and pickled onion and decorated with edible flowers. The meat had good flavour and had a pleasing level of spice from the seasoning (15/20). Cured salmon came with a sauce of buttermilk, dill and lovage oil, with cucumber and some garlic chips and a macadamia nut puff. This was attractively presented, and although the salmon did not have dazzling flavour, the combination of textures and flavours of the garnishes was appealing (14/20). 

For the main course, miso glazed salmon really needed more miso sauce in order to enhance the rather bland flavour of the fish. It came with a rather soggy shiitake fritter though there was some nice pickled cucumber and wakame dressing (12/20). Grouper was nicely cooked, served with large prawns and also a distinctly soggy sweetcorn fritter, along with a sweet corn sauce and good Chardonnay espuma (13/20). We also tried a couple of side dishes. Fried agria potato discs with aioli were very enjoyable, as was a side dish of courgette and farrow, a grain that you often see in Umbria, with sauce vierge and almonds. The combination of the grain texture with the courgette was very effective (14/20 side dishes).

For dessert, hazelnut and caramel terrine had a chocolate mousse with caramel crisp and a slightly chewy chocolate crisp. An accompanying orange sorbet had good flavour, though chocolate soil was a bit dry. There was also a little orange jelly and a trio of caramelised hazelnuts as a garnish (14/20). Citrus Eton mess had little pieces of meringue along with lemon marscapone, lemon curd, vanilla and lemon sorbet and citrus slates. This was refreshing and had a nice balance of textures (14/20). Coffee was Allpress, and very good it was too. The bill, with a few glasses of wine, came to NZ$125 (£66) per head. If you shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per person might be around NZ$120 (£64). Service was very good, our waitresses friendly and competent. Overall I enjoyed my meal here, with capable cooking at a fair price in a truly gorgeous setting.

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