Dining out in Tauranga never ceases to amaze me. In November a special building in Tauranga's history opened after many months of complete refurbishment.
The 100-plus-year-old Post Office building on the corner of Harrington and Willow streets has seen many changes since it first opened as a post office in 1902.
The latest reincarnation is Clarence Hotel & Bistro, providing fine accommodation with 10 individually designed suites upstairs, and downstairs the beautifully laid out, relaxed space of the bistro.
Our dinner appointment was on Waitangi evening.
Walking up to Clarence Hotel & Bistro was impressive. The transformation from offices to a bar bistro blew me away. The fitout has retained many of the original features including the wooden floors, high ceilings, and eye-catching features like the coffee machine sitting at the end of the bar.
We enjoyed a pre-dinner drink at the Iki bar before we were taken through to the restaurant. We were given the choice to eat inside or outside and chose inside.
Seated in a side booth, we were able to take in the ambience and sophisticated yet relaxed interior. The mix of textures, velvet leather and wood, gave the bistro a real European feel.
The drinks menu is comprehensive and offers a wide range of wines that aren't often seen on menus. I chose a pinot noir to sip while I read the menu.
In keeping with the bistro style, the menu offers modern fare and classic bistro dishes. It was broken into snacks, starters and the mains with six options per section.
I tossed up between the seared venison and the salmon, in the end opting for the Ora King Salmon, with cucumber, dill, fermented gooseberries and buttermilk, $20. This was a perfect start to my culinary adventure.
The first dish of the mains caught my eye. A 55 Day Aged Eye Fillet Boulangère, Oxtail crubeen, leek, steak ketchup, and red wine sauce, $40.
I asked for my steak medium rare. When it arrived and I cut into it, it didn't disappoint — the steak just melted in my mouth. It was one of the nicest, most tender steaks I have ever eaten. The various elements of the main were delicious and I really liked the Steak Ketchup paired with the red wine sauce.
We decided to share a dessert and I was pleasantly surprised to have a tiramisu with 70 per cent Valrhona mousse, chocolate tuile, coffee creameux, coffee air, and espresso icecream, $18, delivered to me courtesy of the Clarence Bistro chef. Presentation is everything when dining out. This would have looked great on MasterChef and would have got the judges' full approval.
There were a couple of clear contenders for a starter and she settled on the Beetroot Cannellini, with walnut feta, coconut horseradish, and Life Bread, $18. Beautifully plated, she loved the combination of flavours and the crunchiness of the Life Bread completed the dish.
For her main she chose the Summer Vegetable Risotto, with Clevedon ricotta, soft herbs, aged parmesan, EVO, $29. Risotto is a firm favourite and this risotto was delicious. The subtle flavours combined with the Clevedon Ricotta helped lift the risotto to one of the best she has eaten.
The dessert choice was a little harder. Finally selecting the Piña Colada, Coconut Panna Cotta Salt Baked Pineapple, Cherry, Rum Roast Pineapple Ice Cream, $17, we decided to share the serving. I loved this dessert — the freshness of the pineapple combined with the cherry and icecream was excellent and adding in the most delectable panna cotta was a triumph.
Before dessert, we were invited to view the boutique hotel. We were taken with the attention to detail in each room. The use of colour and the clever use of artwork combined with interior design elements really enhanced the building's qualities.
Clarence Hotel & Bistro offers European style in the heart of the city. The service, ambience and food is superb! Whether it's for an after work drink in the bar or an evening out, Clarence Hotel & Bistro is a must visit.
Clarence Hotel & Bistro
51 Willow St, Tauranga
Ph: 07 574 8200
Open seven days, 11.30am-11pm.