Te Motu - The Shed
A shed that has quite literally been transformed into a five-star restaurant.
Away from the tourist trap wineries of Waiheke Island, you'll find Te Motu.
Up the lengthly driveway and past big brother winery Stonyridge, you'll be presented with a shed that has quite literally been transformed into a five-star restaurant, hence its name - The Shed. Instead of creaseless white tablecloths and enough utensils to start a shop, the innards are simple and relaxed; corrugated iron walls surround the floorspace which hosts fancy bare wooden tables. It also has to be one of the only first-rate restaurants allowing a patron's dog to sleep on the ground.
The no frills environment allows the kitchen to do most of the talking.
With an extremely good reputation, prices are at the upper end of the spectrum, particularly in the wine department. Expect to be struck with figures like $35 for a glass of the winery's flagship Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Te Motu is a predominantly red vineyard, bordeaux blends being their main cut of jib. The 2008 Dunleavy (Cabernet Merlot), named after winemaker and owner Paul Dunleavy, was the outright favourite and also happened to be one of the cheapest at $16 a glass. Make it a bottle.
The menu, created by fellow proprietor Bronwen Laight, is made up of a selection of small and large plates which are both great for sharing. You'll come across things you've never heard of before, but rest in mind, the wait staff are well versed and will provide more entertainment than your old pal Google. In fact, their impeccable charisma will have you yearning for a friend request in real life beyond the meal. We were told of favourite dishes, kitchen techniques, and things like freekeh and nigella - not a tabloid about a wild celebrity chef - but young green wheat and a spice that packs a punch similar to black pepper and fennel.
The chicken liver parfait ($14) was extremely creamy thanks to an extra dollop of butter in the mixing process. The panelle ($14), a fried chickpea fritter hailing from Sicily, was well worth the explanation. It came as four and was topped with a salty combination of olives, capers and pecorino. The mushroom pierogy ($16), Eastern European dumplings, had the perfect balance of dough and filling and came alongside incredibly tender pork cheek. And we're only just at the entrees.
The large seafood option ($36) was described as a mix between a paella and stew, which was apt with the mouth-watering combination of trevally, cockles, prawns, rice, saffron and almond aioli. Ample bread and extra salted butter is provided to soak up the remaining sauce. The lamb shoulder ($32) and the aforementioned accompaniments of freekeh and nigella was fragrant and, with the addition of cauliflower and yogurt, had the makings of a Middle Eastern dish.
Sweet tooth's won't bypass the dessert menu. We couldn't overlook the kefir (fermented milk) cheesecake with local figs and berries, and the crazily sweet dulce de leche ice-cream with caramelised banana sweet macadamia brittle.
With a sugar high, it's time to traverse the driveway and head back to the real world. If you're lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the workers hauling in a load of grapes on the way, or someone may even give you a ride to the bus stop on the main road. Thanks Mark.