Heading away to Matakana for a few days and escaping the day-to-day, the plan was to slow down – relax, read, write, walk etc. – do as little as possible after a hectic few months. Excited to discover Sawmill Brewing’s head chef Will Michell was hosting a dinner with Yael Shochat from Ima’s Cuisine, and knowing the five course dinner was in collaboration with Leigh Fisheries, a night out was too enticing, even if flying solo.
North of Matakana village, the Sawmill Brewery – independent and New Zealand owned – is set back from the road with the countryside its backdrop. With its relaxed vibe, the Smoko Room and family-friendly external courtyard, where you can enjoy their extensive range of handcrafted beers and shared plates, are housed adjacent to the custom-built brewery, the entrance and bar providing a birds-eye view of the working brewery.
Handed a Vienna Lager on arrival, it matched perfectly with the pan fried snapper in falafel crumb served with tabuleh and labneh in baby cos and the fried oysters with samphire and lime dressing.
Welcomed into the Smoko Room, two long communal tables were set for the night’s festivities. Our place cards the perfect talking point for getting to know fellow guests. One diner will definitely remember that next time he books under “Zephyr & co”, that it is exactly what the card will say, much to the amusement of his wife!
What followed was a delicious pairing of seafood and beers (or wine for the non-beer drinkers) with chefs and producers speaking; the dishes and beers introduced between courses. Convivial company and generous pours (for the non-drivers) meant conversation flowed easily with lots of friendly banter and laughter.
Courses two to four, from left to to right: Smoked kahawai & kawakawa dolmades with mackerel & a pickled clam salsa; Haraimeh with baby Challa; Scorpion (grandaddy hapuka) with vine leaves, apple, capers and fennel.
The evening finished with a delightfully light orange blossom crème caramel topped with sesame crunch and accompanied by a fresh orange salad with orange ricotta Katayif.
When people choose to collaborate to produce something really special and are generous with what they bring to the table, our expectations are always exceeded. We were not disappointed – a fabulously entertaining and hospitable evening all around.
Sawmill’s next collaboration dinner is at the end of July, when a group of culinary students will take over the kitchen and together with local secondary school students running front of house the Smoko Room will become their restaurant for a night.
But if you simply fancy a few beers and shared plates, check out their website for opening hours and menus here – Sawmill Brewery.
ps excuse the grainy photos, the lighting was set for dining and we were all too eager to indulge than capture the plates!