The Ambeli

Laura: Pete is one of the most difficult people in the world! I had difficulties trying to find him a birthday present, so after much consideration and lots of thinking, I decided to take him to a nice dinner. After doing some research on many restaurants in Wellington, I finally decided on The Ambeli. I’ve read reviews about this restaurant, and none of those reviews were bad, and it made me so curious, I just had to try it myself. Ok..ok..treating Pete to a nice dinner maybe sounds like an excuse now since I was the one who was curious about the restaurant, but hey in the end, Pete and I had a nice evening and my curiosity was satisfied!

Peter: Laura kept me in the dark about where we were going until the last minute, which was good fun and it was a nice surprise to turn up at The Ambeli. I’d not heard of it, or been there, but it looked like a classy joint and Laura had told me it had great reviews. And as for me being difficult!? Never?! I’m the essence of simplicity!

Laura: I made the reservation for 7 pm, and I arrived with high expectations for the restaurant. Not just for the food and wine, but also for the atmosphere and the service. We were greeted by very friendly wait staff who took us upstairs and seated us at a corner table by the window. He dimmed the lighting which made the room feel warm and romantic. The place was very nice, seems like it was an old house turned into a restaurant.

Peter: Yes, the restaurant is very attractively laid out and decorated and the waiter was very friendly and fun. After some chit chat, and overheard conversations, we figured this was “Shay” who, from what we’ve read, owns the place, or manages, or is in someway deeply involved in the running. Anyway, this was pretty clear from the get-go really, he had a real passion for the food and wine and clearly loved his job and serving up top quality food to happy guests!

Laura’s Entree at The AmbeliLaura: After a long browse and much consideration of their menu, (from which I was so tempted to order every single dish listed) I finally decided on the Seared Tuna, Shaved Fennel and Tapenade for my entrée, and since I’m not a wine expert, I asked the waitress to recommend me a suitable wine. The Tuna was sooo delicious, I like how the well cooked part (the seared edge) is very tasty and the Tapenade really complimented it, salty and savoury but not overpowering the Tuna. The waitress brought my wine which was recommended by Shay, and it was very nice, lite, flowery and had very nice smell. Both Peter and I ordered from the “old world” wine list, veering away from our usual Kiwi wine preference.

Peter’s Entree at The AmbeliPeter: I decided on the riccotta with focaccia for the entrée, and it was light and succulent and came with a sweet, minty bean mash thing. At first glance the thin slices of focaccia were rather slim and small looking, but they were just perfectly toasted and complimented the riccotta nicely. The bean mash was surprisingly delicious and added a little zing, complementing the ‘cleanness’ of the chesse and bread perfectly. Considering I had two more courses to go, I was quite happy with the dish. A lovely entrée to a great meal! I can’t remember which wine I ordered but it was an old world Spanish wine with similarities to a Riesling. An excellent suggestion by the wait staff.

Laura’s Main at The AmbeliLaura: For the main I ordered the Pan-Roasted “Sweetbriar” Lamb Shortloin, Eggplant Relish, Onion Chickpea Fritter & Beetroot Tzatziki. Again this dish really impressed me. The presentation was interesting. The fritter was located in between the lamb and the beetroot and eggplant. I didn’t know what “Sweetbriar” meant until the waitress kindly explained that the lamb doesn’t eat lowland grass like any other lambs, but is instead from a high station where herbs and wildflowers are common fodder. Maybe the best way to describe it is that it’s posh lamb! And boy oh boy did those lambs were really well taken after, the meat was so tender and juicy. I’m not really a big fan of lamb, because of the smell and peculiar strong taste. But this lamb was so delicious, it was very well cooked, and althought there was still a slight peculiar taste it wasn’t that strong. The taste was more like it’s just there just to indicate that it’s lamb.

The combination of the lamb, eggplant and beetroot together was just heavenly. Not to mention the fritter was also tasty! I’m a big fan of fried food, but usually what makes me like fried food, apart from the fact that it’s crunchy, is also the spices that they put in the mixture. But this fritter was different, I think whatever spices they put in the fritter was just right. The texture was very nice too, not too crunchy with a little bit of a doughy texture. All in all, I gave this dish a 10! Again for the wine, I asked the waitress to recommend me something nice, and she recommended me a Te Mata Pinot Noir, and I have to say I’m officially in love with this wine. It’s so full of flavour, but delicate and it’s one of the best Pinot I’ve ever tasted, actually I’ll say it’s the best Pinot I’ve ever tasted. I’m not so much of a Pinot lover, but that wine was just so nice.

Peter’s Main at The AmbeliPeter: For my main I ordered the Chargrilled Angus Beef Fillet, Braised Cavolo-Nero, Leek & Parmesan Polenta Cake, Salsa Verde & Jus. The dish looked great when it arrived, there was good sized piece of steak (when one may not expect a lot at a fancy restaurant like this) with a triangle of polenta cake, both smothered with some salsa verde. The steak was delicious, tender, tasty and rich, and well complimented with the polenta and salsa. Very fine! Even better, Laura ordered a side of roast rosemary potatoes for us to share and they were perfect. Crunchy little golden balls of delight is perhaps the better way to describe them and they were perfect for mopping up the delicious jus!

Laura’s Dessert at The AmbeliLaura: Finally, the best and most important dish…yes, it’s the dessert! I’d read some good reviews on the chocolate velvet and the brownies, it was a bit of a dillema for me between these two, because both of them contain chocolate!! And I’m quite a chocoholic. Finally, I made up my mind and decided to go with the chocolate velvet, and I really didn’t regret it. The dish was comprised of three small bowls. One contained the dark chocolate mousse infused with a little bit of coffee, one contained the brandied muscatel raisins and I think this last one was ricotta, or maybe cream (sorry but I was too busy eating I totally forgot to memorise the menu). If you only eat the chocolate mousse alone, you’ll think that it’s way too rich, but combine these three together, oh boy oh boy, it feels like you’ve gone to heaven (or maybe because I’d drank too much wine explained how I felt!). Speaking of which, for this course I had a glass of yummy sweet Lustau Pedro Ximenz sherry. The sherry and the dessert were just a perfect pair!

Peter’s Dessert at The AmbeliPeter: I must admit I was a little bit jealous of Laura’s dessert, not that mine wasn’t good, but I do really love chocolate mousse! Instead of the mousse, I ordered the rhubarb jellly with cream, toasted walnuts and caramel. It was very tasty, with the jelly being light and slightly sweet (but not sickly, which was great) and the whipped cream, nuts and caramel adding the sweetness the jelly needed. Altogether the ingredients came combined to produce a refreshing and tasty dessert! For my drink I ordered the noble pinot noir they were offering. The name of the vineyard escapes me, but it was sweet and succulent as one would hope, and although not a natural partner to this particular desert, was still very enjoyable.

Laura: To sum up the whole thing, the meal, the service, the place, not to forget the wines..I’d give The Ambeli 10/10. I’d definetely come again next time! Although we ended up spending $200 for the meal and wines, I think it was well worth it. I’d definetely recommend this place if you want to splurge and have a nice relaxing, romantic evening, or even just for a good nite out with your friends and family. Well done The Ambeli, you’re officially one of my fave restaurants in Wellington!

Peter: Thanks for a lovely night out and birthday present Laura! I think you might officially be the best girlfriend ever!

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