Dinner in the Chameleon Restaurant under the direction of Executive Sous Chef Matthias Hoffstaedter is a classy affair. The menu is modern in concept and reflects the hotel's intent to source local product and emphasise New Zealand ingredients. We watched as Matthias kept the food flowing into the dining room, every dish passing under his critical eye.

The kitchen seemed calm and ordered, each member of the team contributing to such dishes as "Wairarapa venison chop and chocolate-scented mini hunter's pie topped with mashed potatoes and green beans and shaved hazelnuts."

Here's the hunter's pie cooked by me using Matthias's recipe but presented in a more homely style. This is a very rich dish.

Serves a hungry 4


1kg venison shoulder, trimmed and diced into 1cm cubes
1 medium carrot
1 medium celeriac (or 2 sticks of celery)
2 medium onions, diced
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 bay leaves 2 garlic cloves, 4 juniper berries and 4 sprigs of thyme, tied together in a piece of muslin
500ml red wine
300ml beef or chicken stock
100g redcurrant jelly
200g 72 per cent cooking chocolate
1 litre of water

1 Heat up 20ml of oil in a large pot and brown the venison, set aside.

2 Put the vegetables and garlic into the pot and saute for a few minutes. Add the venison back to the pot and deglaze with the red wine. Reduce the red wine by half on a steady heat.

3 Add the stock, water and bag of spices and simmer for 1½ hours with the lid on.

4 Remove the spices, stir in the chocolate and redcurrant jelly, season to taste with salt and pepper. The chocolate will thicken the sauce, of which you will have plenty.

5 Place this into a casserole dish and top with mashed potatoes:

500g Agria potatoes peeled and diced
50g butter
2 egg yolks
Fresh nutmeg, salt and pepper

6 Boil the potatoes until soft, strain and thoroughly drain.

7 Mash them, allow to cool a little, then mash in the butter and egg yolks.

8 Season with freshly grated nutmeg and salt and pepper.

9 Place the potato topped pie into a 200C oven and bake for 15 minutes.