Phone: (09) 366 7766
When you book to eat at Pasture (as you should, soon) ask for a spot at the pass, where you sit within a handshake's distance of the chefs. You can ask them questions - they exult in your interest - as you watch your dinner take shape.
They make an engrossing spectacle: fanning the charcoal pit so sparks billow; extracting the juicy hearts of charred leeks as thick as a ballerina's arm; parcelling up in seaweed, cooked sous vide, tiny wedges of turnip pickled in fermented rice bran. (Those things were on the menu in September, though that may have been supplanted by the time you get there with other extraordinary concoctions.)
Sounds expensive? Considering what goes into making the food here, it's quite cheap, actually, even with the extra for wine or juices (cucumber, sorrel and angelica, for example, or fermented lemon and sage), which make a fine accompaniment. Pass up a couple of $100 meals that you can do better at home and you will have saved up for it.
It is not a statement of the obvious to say that at Pasture it's all about the food and drink. Owners Ed and Laura Verner won't take large groups and they have no desire to become a social hot spot. They wouldn't put it this way, but it's a place to pay attention, because so much attention was paid before you got there.
The food mines the twin traditions of new Nordic and Japanese, both cuisines in which Ed, the head chef, has worked. He's also an alumnus of Sidart and is effusive in his praise of Sid Sahrawat's mentorship.
You can see the Sahrawat influence in the confident, painstaking but entirely unfussy presentations. They start with heartbreakingly pretty amuse-bouches (three little masterpieces won our hearts before the first course arrived) including a caramelised egg yolk, as chewy as new toffee, floating in a wine-dark bouillon made from roasted kumara.
Verner's food uses some foraged stuff but it doesn't do so in the self-consciously tricksy way that, as it seems to me, the Nordic flagship Noma slipped into. The intention is to make you meet ingredients as if for the first time, so pumpkin seeds are not roasted and crunchy, but rather the al dente essence of a sort of risotto, scattered with the petals of onion weed.
With the exception of the sourdough (made from flour milled in-house and served with aged, faintly cheesy butter, it's worth a column in itself), and some superbly rendered rib-eye, there was nothing placed in front of me that did not upend expectations based on previous experience: hapuku skin blistered like pork crackling; smoked crayfish; leek topped with a parmesan mousse the consistency of that decadent Italian dessert, zabaione; almond milk icecream (the ingredients are almond and water).
In a city where most restaurants are tired variations on old themes, this is a true original. In style and in substance, it's an impeccable performance that will will leave you swooning with delight.
$135 a head; wine match $65; juice match $50.
VERDICT A restaurant for food lovers, and a special experience.