20 Alma Street, Hamilton
I last visited Palate about 18 months ago. If memory serves me right, I was part of their final official function evening, before they moved from their old Victoria Street location into the Alma Street building. So, I was interested to see what their new venue had in store for Hamilton’s fine diners.
Perched above the mighty Waikato River, the main dining area is elegant and sophisticated. There is much more space than their previous premise; with a casual bar area for pre-dinner drinks and a cellar dining room for intimate groups.
Award winning chef, and owner, Mat McLean, does a fantastic job with the menu and wine list. He should also be proud of his front of house staff, who are professional, yet friendly, and really know their stuff (both wine and food).
I’m in love with haloumi (squeaky cheese) at the moment. So, there was never any doubt what my main course would be – the beautifully presented fried haloumi. atop of the most exquisite melt-in-your-mouth mushroom ravioli I’ve ever experienced ($34). This wasn’t your stock standard cheesy pasta, not in the slightest. The ravioli was served with beetroot puree, perfectly cooked zucchini and a blood orange salad. Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum.
The hubby enjoyed a Hereford prime eye fillet, served with smoked mushrooms, celariac puree, potatoes, bacon and onion jus. And so as not to get pasta envy over my main, his dish also included oxtail ravioli (that was lucky, because I sure wasn’t sharing any of mine).
Even the side order of green beans with lemon and cashew dukkah was out of this world, with the hubby and I having ‘words’ about who got to eat the final bean. We were even treated to a sample mini course of sourdough bread with Simunovich olive oil and the most gorgeous smoky flavoured butter.
The portion sizes are what you expect from fine dining, I was satisfied though not full to the brim (which was great, since I still had an evening ‘on the town’ to enjoy), and definitely not hungry.
The wine list mainly focuses on New Zealand and Australian wines. Having been out of the ‘wine’ loop for the past 18 months, I talked the hubby into choosing wines by the glass, so that we could try something new and taste new vintages of old favourites. I loved the way the menu helpfully matched each dish with a wine, even though I went off on my own tangent. To start, we compared two Gewurztraminers; Pasquale 2011 (Waitaki) and Villa Maria’s Ihumatoa Vineyard 2010 (Auckland). Both wonderfully aromatic, but if I had to choose, I’d say I preferred the sweeter style of Villa Maria.
With our mains we ordered 2010 big reds for a shiraz vs syrah debate. In the NZ camp was a Moana Park Gimblett Gravels Reserve, while the Aussie contender was an Aramis McLaren Vale Shiraz. There was no clear winner, as they were both gorgeous.
Overall it was a fabulous dining experience. The food was absolutely stunning, and has to be included with my top five meals ever.
Top Tip: Use their internet booking service to reserve your table. Palate also features in the Entertainment Book.
In a Nutshell: Perfect!