A Rad Grad Night At Jardin Grill & Bistro

A few weeks ago, ya’ cafecrawler girl here graduated! Only $46,000 for a sheet of paper, bargain, right?? One thing that comes along with graduation other than an overpriced piece of paper is food. Everybody knows that when you graduate, it’s a family affair, and when your parents come to town, they shout dinner. It’s a perfect scenario for the still-poor ex-student looking for blog content! Now with about 2,500 people graduating plus all their families, you gotta’ get in months earlier to seal a seat at a restaurant. After days and days of trawling the gram and analyzing menu’s, I secured a table at Sofitel’s Jardin Grill.

Even after living 4 years in Wellington, I hadn’t heard of this place, and after stalking their ‘gram and Facebook, I don’t think a lot of people have either. This made me even more curious to try their food, and when my grad’ night came around, my tummy was filled with excitement and hunger. When we first arrived, all I can say is that the place was beautiful. Jardin’s dining room has incredibly inviting and grand atmosphere, which is created by their elegant and semi-avantgarde rustic interior. We were sat right next to their open grill kitchen, that as a former chef, I absolutely love, and it filled the room with the most amazing aromas that tantalized the senses. Since I hadn’t eaten since lunch and I had just sat through a stupidly long ceremony, you bet this girl was hungry. But before I even looked at the menu, we were happily surprised with some little devilled-egg bruschetta amuse bouches to tickle our appetite. Service was off to an incredible start, and I couldn’t wait for my main course!

As I pondered over the menu, I noticed that they had heaps of vegetarian and pescatarian options, which is something I really appreciate. There’s nothing worse than only having one vegetarian option (which is ALWAYS a mushroom risotto). That being said I actually opted for their Milanese risotto, WHICH in my defense, had two super bougie types of mushrooms, and a whole lot of other ingredients that took it from a bog-standard dish to something god-like. One bite of the risotto, mushrooms, goats cheese curd, crunchy baked walnuts, Parmigiano Reggiano, and kale chips altogether in one mouthful was enough to send me to flavour paradise. The balance of all those rich and umami flavours was incredible, and it was by far the best dish in the dining room – I didn’t want it to end!

After this palatable plate of food, I thought I’d be full, but heck a graduation ceremony really sucks the energy out of you, and I knew dessert was a mandatory requirement if I was going to hit town after.  We of course chose their signature Jardin Grill Autumn Garden Dessert, which consisted of a beautiful maple layer cake, with white chocolate mousse, macadamia caramel, macadamia nut brittle, and a crème fraiche ice cream. I love a dish with a small pool of ingredients made into different textures, and this dessert definitely ticked my ideal dish boxes. The crunch complimented the mousse, which complemented the cake, which complemented the crumb, and so on, until all the flavours made a full circle of bliss on your tongue.

But that’s not everything, apart from some cheeky tequila shots and a few bottles of wine, our incredible waiter surprised me with a beautiful complimentary coffee cake as a little extra graduation celebration. How amazing is that? Places that go the extra mile to show they care are my favourite. It’s never all about the food, it’s the whole dining experience – and Jardin Grill definitely made sure our night was nothing but superb. After summing up all of the fabulous food, delicious drinks, tongue-burning tequila, and second-to-none service, I can definitely say it was a wonderful place to dine. An 8/10 for me on the ol’ CCL scale. The whole evening was wonderful, however it’s a little further out of the CBD, and pretty heavy on the wallet for the dishes. Apart from that, a hidden gem that you need to check out if you’re ever in need of a good meal and a class Instagram pic (the wallpaper is EVERYTHING).

Food As Good As Gold(ie)?

If you live in Wellington, then you know there has been a huge stir in the Asian food market within our streets – with Hey Bread, Bubble tea, and even more Asian food stalls opening where our beloved overpriced dairies used to sit. But there is one Asian-American fusion food hub that has sparked attention from Wellingtonians far and wide by its Kawaii culture, bountiful bubble teas, and freakishly long fries – that place being Goldie’s.

Now, I’m not a massive fan of bubble fad – whether it be tea of waffles – BUT If I said I didn’t dribble a little at the sight of their hotdogs and ‘longest chips in town’ on my Insta feed, I’d be lying. After seeing foodie upon foodie taste test this place out and rave about its new and edgy but cute take on Asian-American cuisine, I knew I had to unbuckle my belt and head there to see what the food-fuss was really all about. What my experience at Goldie’s was, you ask? Let’s just say I left with some opinions and an uncomfortably full tummy.

I arrived here with my hopes-and-hunger levels high, and basically ran with excitement right up to the counter to place my order of 2 hotdogs, a portion of ‘the longest chips in town’, and a few 6 Barrell Sodas to wash it all down. The interior is wicked – with a light and airy composition that’s been levelled up with pops of colour from neon signs, bubble lights, and crazy feature walls. While waiting for our food we were serenaded with a fire selection of Frank Oceans finest tunes – making me even more excited and anxious to snack on their famous snags. After no time at all, our food was placed in front of us and mirrored that of every single Instagram image I’d seen – It was the perfect picture of a hearty cheat meal. But then we took a bite, and all that hype went down like a fart in a spacesuit.  

Let’s start on ‘longest chips in town’. We ordered them with kewpie mayo and seaweed salt, which I think is an awesome take on regular chip seasoning. Were they long? Yes. Were they tasty? Yes. Were they also pretty damn greasy and under sauced? Unfortunately – yes again. The top chips were perfectly sauced and tasted awesome, but when that layer was eaten, it revealed semi-soggy chips with zero sauce. And when THAT layer was eaten, it revealed the pattern on the table as the amount of grease had turned the paper see-through.

Next, the famous Goldie hotdogs. We ordered their Kimchi Dog and Ebi dog. I didn’t really feel like cheating on my pescatarian diet, so got that sausage veganized, but of course insisted the shrimp stay, because tempura shrimp is the best darn deep-fried crustacean. With a hotdog, you need a good long dog to fill that bun so at no point will you get a bite of just bread – however the veggie sausages were too short and too slim, so every bite was about 75% bread and only 25% sausage, making every mouthful a little stodgy.

Finally – I gotta’ touch on their serving of the soda. I’m a big fan of mason jars, so seeing it served in that with paper straws got my inner Pinterest fangirl going – but where was the flavour?? I was expecting a punch of citrus from my orange and dandelion concoction, but instead I got the equivalent of a washed down soda stream.

So, all in all, a pretty average dining experience at Goldie’s – for what they have in killer kawaii style, they lack in flavour and substance. I have to hand it to Goldie’s for their success in back-packing off the bubble food trend – but my question is, how long will that food fad last? And will they then serve mediocre hot dogs and chips, competing against the likes of Lucky’s and Burger Fuel? Even though Goldie is blessed by nearly every bubble tea/waffle lover I know – I’m afraid I’m going to have to give them a below-par CCL score of 4/10. I really hope they up the flavour consistency of their food, as if their hotdogs and chips were as good as what I’ve heard their waffles and tea are – then Wellington’s got themselves a banger (pun intended) of a hotdog hub.