Last night, my friend Miss A and I attended Project Botanicals as guests of Bombay Sapphire. Coincidentally, this event coincided with my birthday (week) and I am not one to turn down birthday cocktails. The pop-up is at James, an unassuming venue at the bottom of Parnell which you might have driven past but not noticed before. I’d been there for dinner with The Koala before years ago but it’s not somewhere that gets much foot traffic. It’s a shame because it’s a great venue. The space was beautifully transformed with flowers, cloth and blue lighting…an event planner’s wet dream.
Gin is enjoying a revival these days and if you thought you didn’t like gin (as I once did) I urge you to rethink it. With so many flavours and ways to prepare drinks these days, gin cocktails have come a long, loooong way. Bombay Sapphire is made from 10 botanicals and each botanical was celebrated and translated into a cocktail and food pairing.
A $40 ticket buys you a two hour session with two cocktails and two paired dishes. You can purchase extra cocktails or dishes for $12 each. Bartenders from around Auckland city and chef Mark Southon (O’Connell Street Bistro) have devised a cocktail and food pairing which is both decadent and playful. There are dairy free and gluten free options and vegetarian options are available for most dishes.
We arrived at the 6.30pm session, catching the late afternoon sunlight filtering through the floor to ceiling curtained windows. It was exquisite. A feast for the eyes that the ladies will love but men will get major brownie points for suggesting.
We enjoyed a range of dishes, I’ve summarised the matches below.
THE NORTH WIND with snapper ceviche
This was a savoury cocktail with clarified tomato water, worchester, Kaitaia fire hot sauce, celery bitters and a garnish of cherry tomatoes, basil leaf and balsamic. Very tasty and went beautifully with the very delicate snapper ceviche, white balsamic, citrus oil and ricotta. I can’t say I’ve had many savoury cocktails but this one was an umami hit. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU… with roast scampi and gnocchi
This was an awesome match. The cocktail was an explosion of lemony goodness, with fresh lemon juice, sugar syrup and dehydrated lemon and this cut through the rich roast scampi, lard, pecorino gnocchi. I could eat this pairing for days.
SMOOTH MOVES with smoked duck breast on rye
Cassia comes from the same family as cinnamon and isn’t well known to the kiwi palate. I’m not a huge cinnamon fan, but I picked this pairing because of the duck dish. I have a thing for duck. The slice of smoked duck was great, but the chicken and duck parfait underneath was all sorts of fatty, creamy, rich gluttony. This cinnamon and bitters cocktail was delightful paired with smoked and creamy duck. Easily my favourite food dish.
THE MUMBAI VIOLET with pork belly and squid
This was our least favourite pairing as the cocktail was very floral, perhaps too floral for our tastes. It looked beautiful though. The pork belly was divine and actually paired well with the cinnamon cocktail due to the apple syrup with the pork.
SATURN’S GIFT with Raspberry and marscapone eton mess
We decided to go one more dish and cocktail combo, Miss A had her eye on the eton mess and I liked the sound of it’s paired cocktail, so we decided to get this to share. She was driving so I enjoyed the bulk of the cocktails, as any good birthday girl should. This pairing was excellent and the Saturn’s Gift with lemon, passionfruit, bitters, flowers and mint was my favourite cocktail of the night.
This is a great event for foodie cocktail lovers. Bring a food and cocktail loving friend (or several) so you can taste more food and drink combinations. Food and wine/beer pairings are very much a part of kiwi culture now so it’s great to see flavourful cocktails getting a look in too.
This event runs for 2 weeks until 22nd November 2015. For more info or to purchase tickets, visit their website www.projectbotanicals.co.nz.
THIS EVENT IS CURRENTLY SOLD OUT.