An establishment absolutely worthy of an encore.
With a location less than three minutes' walk from most of the city's theatrical and cinematic houses, Hummingbird Eatery & Bar on Courtenay fills the criteria for a spectacular pre or post-show establishment. Enjoy a raft of small or main plates for dinner before the show, or some cocktails after your cultural fix. The eatery and bar treads the boards of fresh, interesting twists on classic fare, while retaining a rich sense of the theatrical.
Stepping in from the saturated street outside, my companion and I were immediately greeted and seated at a table set within a spectacular circular bay window. Visiting on a Monday meant it wasn't overly busy, but the place would become an absolute hive on weekends.
The interior's velvety banquettes and wooden candlelit tables give an antiquarian flavour. The double-edged bar is central to the space, with its glass-bottled divide hinting at a spectacular drinks selection. Our waitress tells us the space used to be a butchery-creamy, tiled pillars still remain from this incarnation. Accents of taxidermy and a bookshelf of old literature (complete with a cigar shelf, no less) are presided over by a spectacular soundtrack of old jazz, swing and Broadway showtunes. My dining sidekick deemed it good enough to ask if there was a Spotify playlist he could subscribe to.
To start, we headed straight for the small plates. Between the two of us, and over two glasses of Dog Point sauvignon blanc ($12 glass) and Marisco 'the Bastard' chardonnay ($12.50 glass), we shared a beef wellington ($17) and the goat ravioli with celeriac and tamarind ($16). With a little persuasion, we added a truffled mushroom pate with pickled onion ($12). Particularly of note was the goat ravioli, a fortuitous choice which I would 10/10 partake in again. The meat, encased in soft folds of ravioli with the celeriac mash, delicately carried the sweetness of the honey-tinged tamarind. The beef wellington, too was sublimely tender at its pastry-wrapped centre. We questioned at first why we hadn't been supplied with steak knives for the beef, but they would have been surplus to requirement.
Moving on to mains, I selected the mustard crumbed chicken with miso, kumara and savoy cabbage ($32). The crumb, complemented by the mouthwatering chicken and light creamy kumara mash was accented perfectly by the miso, mustardy cabbage. My companion opted for the fish of the day (tarakihi) with cauliflower, confit garlic and chicken crackling ($30). The crackling's brazen saltiness added interesting texture to the fish's creamy fragility. After this stage, I was battling a full stomach, but we pressed on to dessert. Between us, we shared doughboys with lemon curd and blueberry sauce ($2 each) (considering going back tomorrow to order twelve) and an apple tarte tatin with hazelnut praline ($15). To finish, I sampled a lush cocktail from the extensive list - a Hummingbird Oriental with Absolut vanilla, passionfruit, basil and lemon chi ($17). The third act of our meal was just as beautiful as everything that preceded it.
I usually incur teasing from friends for giving too much consideration to atmosphere and not enough to food. However, Hummingbird strikes a fine balance between the two, making it impossible to ignore (however unintentionally) one for the other. A true performance, and one absolutely worthy of an encore.
Published on July 30, 2015 by Lauren Harrigan