The highlight of National Lamb Week, was of course, National Lamb Day on May 24th and in the upmarket suburb of Parnell, Auckland there was a lot of lamb prepping going on! Our Ambassador Chef Kate Fay of Cibo Parnell, had been planning and prepping for her Ambassador Series dinner which just happened to fall on National Lamb Day, so we knew we were in for a wonderful journey celebrating New Zealand lamb.
Cibo is one of New Zealand’s top eateries with a beautiful elegant décor and a lively upbeat team who, along with the kitchen team led by Kate created a dining experience to remember. Guests were welcomed in from the cold by a warming glass of mulled wine as they took their seats and browsed through the menu designed by the amazing Kate Fay.
The evening kicked off with what can only be heralded as the new ‘Kate Fay iconic dish’ - a dirty lambtini. Guests were presented with an elegant martini glass with a delicate arrangement of shredded lamb shank, enoki mushrooms, a crunchy sweet walnut and smokey cherry tomato. With a small bottle of dirty lamb broth we each had to pour our own martini – shaken not stirred! The deep, rich broth brought to life the combination of salty lamb shank with surprise pops of smokiness from the tomato and a sweet salty crunch of the nut and of course no lambtini would be complete without the olive! This could well be the most fun and engaging lamb dish I have every had!
The second course was visually stunning and comprised of a small arrangement of tender lamb loin tartare with a lamb sweetbread on top and textures of crispy cauliflower, pickled cabbage and dashi. The lamb was so soft and tender with a very mild flavour which allowed the freshness of the pickled cabbage and dashi to take over and the crisp salty cauliflower added a wonderful contrasting texture.
I had been waiting for course three in anticipation as I know Kate is famous for her lamb neck sausage roll and lamb bacon, and this dish was definitely one of the highlights of the evening! Kate uses lamb neck, slowly braised to create a rich deep flavoursome filling for her lamb sausage roll which she rolls with filo pastry adding a delicate, crispy texture. The lamb bacon – which is made from the lamb rib – adds that deliciously fatty, salty lamb flavour which is off-set so well by the freshness of the peas and mint gel. Just divine!
Even though it was National Lamb Day, Kate is a Beef and Lamb Ambassador Chef, so beef had to have its time to shine and Kate choose to showcase one of her favourite steaks – Wagyu bavette, a secondary cut that is becoming more and more popular on chef’s menus. This had a lovely salty crust and was so tender and flavoursome. Kate added a crispy beef tendon on top, with a spicy kick from the kimchi and bulgogi gel which was toned down by the broccoli and smooth purée. This was another visually stunning dish with the beautiful pink bavette contrasting again the bright green broccoli and avocado purée.
It was back to lamb for the main course which featured the star of the show, lamb rack and rump paired with flavours of black garlic, coffee, baby carrots and sheep feta. The lamb rack was so delicate and melted in the mouth, with the subtle coffee undertones enhancing the beautiful lamb flavour. The rump was robust and meaty and went so well with the bold flavour of the black garlic glaze. The dish was toned down by the sweetness of baby carrot – served pickled, puréed and whole – along with the soft, creamy saltiness of the sheep feta. This dish truly showcased two prime cuts of lamb and just how different their flavours are.
Before the final course, we brought Kate out of the kitchen to acknowledge not only the amazing dishes she had produced, but to announce to everyone her newly acquired accolade as a Beef + Lamb NZ Platinum Ambassador Chef. Kate’s talent was clearly evident during the evening, but she has held her own in the hospitality industry for many years and as one of New Zealand’s top chefs it is an honour to have her join our Platinum family.
The evening was finished off with a beautiful dessert with flavours and textures of autumn Granny Smiths with sheep yoghurt mousse, white chocolate and lamb oats. Kate says she wanted to add lamb into the dessert and had prepared the lamb oat crumble using lamb fat which added a salty crunchy topping to the tart flavours of the apple.
I couldn’t think of a better way to have celebrated National Lamb Day, and whether you’re a regular follower of Cibo’s cuisine or planning a visit to Auckland, I can highly recommend visiting Cibo and discovering firsthand the cuisine and warm hospitality which exudes from the award-winning Cibo Parnell. cibo.co.nz