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We waited with bated breath for the opening of Paul Hoather's new establishment, Charley Noble. He's been commandeering the highly successful fine dining restaurant The White House on Oriental Bay for the last 20 years,so Wellingtonians were buzzing with excitement at the prospect of Hoather's latest venture.
Situated in the well-appointed Huddart Parker Building on Jervois Quay, the establishment is named for the shipping company's nautical history. Referencing the smoke stack on a ship's galley, Charley Noble's namesake was a British captain who had ordered that the copper stack of his ship's galley be kept bright.
Walk into the premises and you will immediately notice the large open kitchen at the back of the establishment. Occupying a third of Charley Noble, it boasts of a woodfire chargrill and rotisserie, stainless steel flues and recycled Matai wood benches. Sit at the counter and you can watch chefs in a flurry of activity, focused on delivering quality food. The wood flooring, tiled wainscoting, maritime-inspired lampshades and high ceilings create a spacious and warm ambience. We love the woodfire's smokiness emanating from the kitchen.
Charley Noble's menu boasts simple, casual but high-quality food. Woodfire cooking takes pride of place on the menu, with a selection of woodfired, grass-fed, Prime Angus Hawkes Bay beef on offer ($38-$48). These are served simply, with your choice of condiments, ranging from bearnaise to classic Cafe de Paris butter. The plating is modern and minimalist, which lets the woodfired steak sing. Wash it down with a smooth drop of Te Mata Estate Syrah ($53 botttle) while you admire the tortoiseshell effect on the handle of their Laguiole steak knife.
The menu also boasts of lamb shoulder with a Mediterranean twist, as well as pork loin from the woodfired rotisserie. A classy finish of gruyere cheese complements the house beef burger ($24) and if you are in the mood for something a little different, try the woodfired free range spatchcock with panzanella salad ($28). We're certain you won't be disappointed.
If you are a fan of raw bars, you have come to the right place. The menu offers freshly shucked Mahurangi and Stewart Island oysters ($4.50 – $6.50 each). These bivalves are shucked fewer than 12 hours after they have left the water. Go on. Indulge.
Salads are modern and unconventional. Think grilled octopus with Jerusalem artichokes ($16) and pig's tail, served with walnuts, pomegranate, currants and faro ($16). We think it is about time the ol' salad got a bit of a makeover, too.
As for dessert, we highly recommend the ice creams inspired by apple pie. The cinnamon, apple sorbet and vanilla flavours blend to give you the comforting taste of homemade apple pie. The palate dances with this cheeky play on a traditional dessert. It is also not too rich, which is a welcome sensation after all that woodfired goodness. We approve.
A shout-out to our waitress, Danielle, is in order. Service was excellent, and she went out of her way to accommodate our rambunctious crew. Five stars.
Overall Hoather has done a brilliant job with Charley Noble. It certainly continues to be popular, and is often packed out in the evenings. The restaurant seats about 80 people so if you are looking to secure a table, we recommend making a booking beforehand.