When Ortolana were brainstorming their "garden to fork" philosophy they forgot to add in the important middle pitstop of 'kitchen'. The plated wonders that come from the engine room of this conservatory cum restaurant result in electric flavour shocks that leave you wide-eyed and questioning your own destiny in both the vege patch and in front of the oven.
The restaurant can be found in the centre of the Britomart precinct. The flowing space was designed by well-lauded architect Nat Cheshire, and features several comfortable seating options to take in full view of the open kitchen and elaborate lighting feature that pops from the ceiling like bubbles out of a glass.
The menu is laid out in a straightforward fashion with no 'entree' or 'main' headers; instead the core ingredients of each dish and their tightly bracketed prices ($16 - $28) listed. In any other situation this may prove confusing, however the five-star floor staff managed to inform us of everything we needed to know, and more, without hesitation. Before getting down to the business of ordering we were told of ingredient origin, how the meat was bred, and the process of how several of the dishes are made. With a newfound connection to a wagyu-raised cow from the outskirts of Tauranga, we went with that; alongside the tube-shaped pasta Casareccia, cured pork, and the traditional Latin breakfast dish Escabeche - served with poached trevally.
Following the philosophy and the translation of the restaurant's name ("market gardener"), produce is supplied by Hip Group's Matua Road Farm and comes out incredibly fresh. The Escabeche had a tang that would wake up the sleepiest of taste buds, and was served with crisp radishes, an overdose of onions and some ciabatta to soak up all the sauce. Presentation of the beef was faultless, accompanied by both green and red tomatoes with a delicate crust and a gazpacho. The cured pork matched well with the creamy feta and micro herbs, while the Casareccia contained the least wow factor alongside the rest; its deconstructed Puttanesca-style sauce is made up of tomatoes, anchovies, and olives.
A drop from their handsome wine list and room for dessert should be worked into your meal plan from the outset. Sweet delights are supplied by the Milse next door - the dessert bar deserving each accolade it has ever received. A night at Ortolana will leave you giddy as you trail out the door into the fairy-lit courtyard.