The Ambeli is highly regarded and well-known amongst Wellington’s raconteurs and bon viveurs, and rightly so. Occupying a delightfully converted Victorian villa, the intimate space, tucked just back from the hustle and bustle of Wellington’s Courtenay Place, is the perfect refuge for a romantic dinner or pre-show supper. The décor is smart and unpretentious and the service is second-to-none. Chef Sam Pope’s menu is a mouth watering collection of Mediterranean-inspired dishes, packed full of local and organically-farmed produce.
On my last visit a group of six were seated comfortably in the main dining room and were pleasantly surprised to find that the restaurant’s private dining rooms cater for groups as small as ours – we know for next time. The table setting was stylish and boasted enough luxury to make us feel very well looked after. We chose a Julicher Estate pinot noir from the well-considered, albeit fairly short, wine list, charmingly distinguished as wines of the New and Old worlds.
I skipped the entrée, opting for a main and dessert but the pan-fried haloumi, favoured by the rest of our group, looked delicious. I find it hard to look past the eye fillet in a new restaurant and I was not disappointed. The meat was perfectly cooked and tender with a flavour piqued by the accompanying horseradish celeriac rémoulade. To finish I opted for the organic fig Baklava – a traditional Middle Eastern dessert – which turned out to be one of the best I’ve had. The extreme sweetness of the Baklava was tamed by the slight savoury tang of the almond and Manuka honey Greek Yoghurt.
The most unexpected things on the menu were the prices: mains priced between $29-$34 are incredibly reasonable for a fine dining experience of considerable note. No wonder The Ambeli is so popular with visitors and locals alike.
3 May 2010