The lower Lambton Quay area has traditionally been a bit of a desert when it comes to amazing eating. That end of the city basically empties out after five, save for the occasional work drinks or business dinner crowd. But Sterling, the new woodfire eatery on Lambton (and accessible from the Terrace too) has cracked the combination, and made hotel eating cool at the same time. The restaurant, part of Wellington's only independent hotel, Park Hotel, comes from the same minds behind Egmont Street Eatery. So you know you're in for a delicious time.
When we arrived, walking up apres-work along the lower Terrace, Sterling was the only spot that was close to brimming. The interior is super-chic, filled with a deep green-tiled central bar that gives the restaurant an established feel — Sterling could be considered one of Wellington's best eating institutions already, and it's only been open since last year.
The menu is interesting and considered. We started with pulled lamb flatbread with cavolo nero, white anchovies and black pepper oil ($12), and a platter of hare dolmades with herbed yoghurt. The dolmades, a traditional Greek dish, was brought perfectly into Sterling's style with the addition of the gamey hare flavours. When it came to the main course, beef was the order of the day. I tried the perfectly rare 200g Angus steak with Pont-Neuf potatoes and bordelaise ($34) while my dining buddy went straight for the grilled wagyu burger with Gruyere, bread and butter pickles and shoestring fries ($24). It was awesome — in a simple brioche-like bun with well-portioned accompaniments, it was basically the perfect fine dining cheeseburger. We supplemented our mains by sharing a green salad with mushroom dressing and hazelnuts, an interesting choice on paper but perfect as a side.
All in all, Sterling is well worth a visit for breakfast, lunch or dinner — the kind of all-round great establishment that end of town needs. Also, if you're staying in Park Hotel, your room service will come straight from Sterling — one of the best room service arrangements in the city, we reckon.