As part of Winter FAWC!, participating restaurants in Hawke's Bay are offering "FAWC! by 5" menu specials in multiples of $5, totalling no more than $50 per person.

Yesterday I enjoyed a fantastic FAWC! by 5 lunch at Pernel Kitchen, Pakowhai Rd, Hastings.

Candles were burning on all the tables giving the room a lovely warming feeling.

The Sharing Board for 2 for just $40 was excellent.


First it was a visual treat, served on varnished stonefruit box.

David Hodson, who overseas the cafe and fruit sales, said the reason they used the boxes was to keep the orchard theme flowing through into the cafe. Great idea.

There was also a wooden board with bread and cheddar cheese on it.

In the stonefruit box was seafood chowder, harissa prawns, mini corn fritters, Toulouse sausage, PK peach pear and ginger chutney, Origin Earth feta, PK smoked mushroom, semi-dried tomato and caramelised onion while on the board there was Grains of Europe breads and sheep cheddar.

The obvious place to start was the seafood chowder served in teacups. I have never had seafood chowder. For some reason I thought it would be a runny fishy soup.

This was creamy, and chunky and perfect for a winter's day lunch. It warmed me up and changed my mind about seafood chowder.

Then I just didn't know what to try next. So it was a bit of this and a bit of that and then back to the beginning. The prawns were a little bit sassy with a hint of hotness from the harissa, the corn fritters were one of my favourites of the dish. They tasted like homemade fritters, nothing artificial about them, evenly browned and full of corn. The bread was fresh and the dryness of the feta went really well with the sweetness of the PK peach pear and ginger chutney.

This chutney really had the "wow factor" for me. It had chunks of tender sweet fruit. Well done to chef Ben Saunders who made it with fruit from Pernel's orchard. I really would like the recipe.

The Toulouse sausage, smoked mushroom, semi-dried tomato and caramelised onion were all delicious. There wasn't one item on the board I didn't like.

An excellent way to sample some food that you would perhaps never order.

Ben has been working at Pernel Kitchen for nearly a year now. He said the FAWC! by 5 Sharing Board for 2 was a reflection of the main menu while giving thought to the platter as a whole.

"The seafood chowder has a thick body to it. It fills you up and is satisfying. Hopefully after a sample of the food customers will return for the full meal."

Asked what two flavours he thought went the best with each other he replied passionfruit and lime. "I love the freshness of it but of course they lend themselves to more summer dishes.

"I also really like working with harissa. It goes well with prawns and beef. We use the Village Press Harissa."

Ben said the best thing about being a chef was seeing things through. "There aren't many jobs where you start from scratch, make something and see people enjoy the result.

"It's satisfying and rewarding."