As part of Winter F.A.W.C!, participating restaurants in Hawke's Bay are offering "F.A.W.C! by 5" menu specials in multiples of $5, totalling no more than $50 per person.
On Saturday night I went to St Georges Restaurant in St Georges Rd, Havelock North.
The air temperature outside was dropping steadily but inside the fire was roaring and the room was lovely and warm.
Our waitress, Katherine, seated us and explained the "F.A.W.C! by 5" test kitchen winter sampler menu to us. She told us the food was "little tasters" of a different style.
"For instance, one of the items is a pork toastie, not something you would expect to find on the menu here."
She said the sampler had been really popular as an entree and they had had some great feedback.
The test kitchen sampler comprised:
Pumpkin soup with pumpkin seeds and vincotto
Beef shin croquette.
The dish was presented on a wooden board and looked fantastic.
The pumpkin soup was creamy and smooth - absolutely delicious. Katherine told us it was made from pumpkins grown in the restaurant's garden, "which is bigger than a basketball court". They also have their own greenhouse. Next I ate the pork toastie. I've never had a toastie like it. It was just toasted, yet crunchy and fresh, and the taste of pork was delicate but definite.
The salmon fell apart as soon as I put my fork into it, the oily texture perfect after the bread.
The beef shin croquette was rich and hearty and I thought the best so far. But then I had the chicken lollipop, which I picked up and ate.
It was crunchy on the outside but tender inside, with a cheesy taste that surprised me. I loved it and it was the pick of the dish for me.
Then came the sweet temptations classic desserts - apple crumble, sticky date pudding and lemon meringue lollipops, which we shared.
The sticky date pudding was just that: sticky, rich and sweet. The apple crumble was more apple than crumble, which was really nice.
However, the lemon meringue lollipops just knocked my socks off. The first taste of it was of gooey, sweet meringue and then the next spoonful was a delicious creamy lemon flavour that was outstanding. What a way to end the night.
Wonderful service, perfect food and a cosy room.
Chef Francky Godinho said he wanted to make the dishes good value for money and also give diners the chance to experience different flavours.
"I want people to go away thinking 'I had this and I had that and it was worth paying for'."
I asked him what he thought was the perfect food combination.
"Salmon and citrus are perfect and you can't go wrong with vanilla and vanilla or raspberry and lemon."
He said they used local and organic produce: "In the summer 90 per cent of what we use is grown in the restaurant's garden."
The menu changes every four to five weeks, and next month the interior is having a makeover.