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From the outside looking in, there's something unusually intimidating about the old National Bank building which houses the award-winning Logan Brown behind its secretive frost tinted glass windows.
But eating at Logan Brown isn't as daunting as you might think, I promise. A visit to Logan Brown feels like having a five star meal at your best friend's place - if it looked like an stately bank. Yes sir, Logan Brown is a high-class down-to-earth restaurant - a juxtaposition which carries with it plenty of surprises.
For one, Logan Brown is completely committed to eco-friendly practices: sending practically none of their rubbish to landfill, and being committed to fair trade, free range and organic produce as well as responsibly caught fish. They also use seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients as much as possible.
Instead of Jeeves-like butlers which quietly lurk around (something you may expect from a fine dining experience), the staff at Logan Brown are incredibly hospitable, warm and passionate. Our waitress keenly joked around with us throughout the meal, making us feel like old friends before dessert had even been served.
And here's another little thing I love about Logan Brown: the place's decor is a little bit off-kilter. A sage-looking stag head with eyes half-closed overlooks patrons from its perch on top of the drinks shelves, while strange little artworks are dotted around the room - including what looked like a weird guppy-like creature gallantly riding a crayfish. Not that the restaurant is all quirk and no luxury - the fancy little rolled up personal towels in the bathroom, the neoclassical architecture and a chic olive green and mahogany colour palette would argue otherwise; it's just that they don't take themselves seriously to the point of pretension.
The food at Logan Brown is flawless. To start my friend and I both had the paua ravioli ($6 per raviolo) taster. With just a perfect lemony counterpoint to the paua taste, each little raviolo sunk down my throat faster than I could've helped. If there's one thing you have to order at Logan Brown it's the paua raviolo. It was pure bliss.
For my starter I tried the spiced baked carrots with goat's feta, potato wafer and hazelnuts ($25) while my friend had the seared hare with mission fig, shiitake, gingerbread and raspberry ($27). Both dishes were incredible, but we were still swooning over the perfection of the raviolo to completely enjoy our starters.
Once the mains arrived we regained our lustre and I tackled the pumpkin lasagna with oyster mushroom, leeks, truffle fondue and lemon puree ($42), and my friend the lamb rack with Parmesan sweet breads, veal ragu, butterted tomatoes and kale gratin ($48). Now, "the best" isn't a phrase either myself or my friend like to throw around too enthusiastically - it loses meaning quite quickly if you do - but with wide sparkling eyes and jaw ajar my friend bestowed her lamb rack with the title of "the best lamb [she has] ever tried". Being from New Zealand and an avid lamb-eater, the girl has tried quite a few lambs in her day, so this title carries some weight. Although I was not quite as eager to bestow any titles on my lasagna, I will say that it was an amazing little dish with plenty of interesting little taste features and was served in a quite innovative deconstructed way which added a lot to its appeal.
For dessert, I had the Sweet Taste of Logan Brown ($26), which featured a selection of miniature versions of other desserts like the lychee brulee amd the dark choclate delice. My friend was a little bit more decisive and dedicated than me and chose just the dark chocolate delice -which was served with orange ice cream, ruby grapefruit and caramel cornflakes ($18). Now, the dark chocolate delice was wonderful (almost all chocolate desserts always are), but there was something tangibly magical about the lychee brulee. The texture and the flavour was 10/10. It outshone every other dessert I tried on that platter by a long shot. It was the best brulee I have ever tasted (there, I said it too), and the perfect end to the night.
Three hours after we nervously pawed our way through those looming doors, we floated out of Logan Brown, eyes glazed over, content and filled with speechless awe. Eating at Logan Brown is a really special experience which everyone living in Wellington should have at least once.