G04/1 Clyde Quay Wharf,, Te Aro, Wellington, 6001, New Zealand

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Owner and executive chef Paul Hoather opened Whitebait in 2014 in Clyde Quay. He had previously established the restaurant The White House in Wellington in 1992, and a nearby bistro called Charley Noble. He is no longer able to work behind the stoves due to health issues, and the kitchen is run by his head chef James Pask, who worked at Club Gascon in London amongst other places. As the name suggests, the restaurant specialises in seafood. There were tasting menus at NZ$90 and NZ$130, but we opted for a la carte.

The restaurant has high ceilings and a light, airy feel, with a few outside tables. The room is carpeted, so noise levels are pleasingly low. The wine list featured labels such as Folium Sauvignon Blanc 2016 at NZ$56 for a bottle that will set you back NZ$46 in the high street, Churton Viognier 2015 at NZ$78 compared to its retail price of NZ$48, and Millton Clos de St. Anne the Crucible Syrah 2015 at NZ$155 for a wine that will set you back NZ$74 in a shop. We enjoyed the lovely Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay 2016, priced at NZ$92 compared to its shop price of NZ$54. Ata Rangi is known mainly for its top class Pinot Noir, but this Chardonnay was gorgeous, rich and buttery and reminiscent of Burgundy rather than the big, oaky style that New World producers tend to be associated with. Those with the means could splurge on bottles such as Pyramid Valley Vineyards Fields of Fire Chardonnay 2010 at NZ$295 compared to its retail price of NZ$118, or Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Blanc 2011 at NZ$700 for a bottle whose current market value is NZ$374. 

The sourdough bread is made for the restaurant daily by Catherine Adams, the sister of the owner, who now has a bakery called Starta in the shopping arcade off Cuba Street. The bread was superb, with gorgeous, airy texture and the characteristic tang of sourdough (easily 17/20). Alpine salmon from Mount Cook was cured in Sauvignon Blanc and served with pickled heritage carrots, radish, dill and cultured oyster cream. The salmon is farmed and had limited flavour, but the carrots were good (13/20). A pair of scallops were caught locally and served in their shells. They were lightly cooked though had nice rather than superb flavour, served with seaweed butter (13/20).

Line caught snapper was served with sun dried tomatoes, fennel, fennel pollen and a yoghurt based sauce. The fish was accurately cooked and the sauce was refreshing (14/20). Loin of swordfish arrived as a huge steak, with caponata (a Sicilian salad of aubergine, celery and capers with vinegar), ricotta and basil. The fish was also carefully cooked and had enjoyable, meaty flavour, while the caponata had been cooked over wood and had a pleasing smoky flavour note (14/20). On the side, potatoes were buttery and carefully cooked, while heritage tomatoes had good flavour and a nicely balanced dressing (14/20 for the side dishes).  

A raspberry dessert came as a little pastry ring filled with crunchy hazelnuts and raspberries topped with vanilla cream, with raspberry sorbet with more crushed hazelnuts. The fruit had excellent flavour and the pastry had good texture (15/20). Lemon posset was made with Meyer lemons and came with blueberries, and a sorbet of elderflower and blueberry. This was refreshing and enjoyable (14/20).

Service, led by the thoughtful and knowledgable manager Jonathon Brookes, was superb. The bill came to NZ$171 (£90) a head. If you shared a modest bottle of wine then a three-course meal with coffee might typically come to a dish around £70 a head. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Whitebait, with its relaxed atmosphere, charming service and enjoyable food.


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