Wilson Barbecue, Field & Green and C.G.R. Merchant & Co were the big winners at Visa Wellington On A Plate for 2018, winning the awards for best burger, Festival dish and cocktail last night.
A judging panel of six experts rated five finalists in three categories – Best Burger, Best Festival Dish and Best Cocktail – for taste, presentation, use of local ingredients and beer and tapas matching, with their assessments combined with public votes for the final scores.
Blair and Casey Wilson with their Brewed to the Bone burger
Wilson Barbecue at The Third Eye on Arthur Street won Best Burger for its Brewed to the Bone creation: a smoked beef short rib with candied bacon and Zany Zeus boozy cheese sauce in an Arobake bun, with curly fries, matched with Garage Project Red Eye Gravy.
Casey Wilson of Wilson BBQ said the popularity of their burger surpassed their expectations.
“We sold all the meat we thought we would need for the whole 17 days in first five days. We had to get Prime Star, our supplier, to run around the country and get more meat for us anywhere he could, so it’s safe to say it definitely blew our minds.
“We think we sold close to 3,000 burgers and we had a lot of hype on social media for it. We had lines out the door every day before we even opened. One day we walked down the queue asking everyone how many they wanted and before we got to the end of the queue we’d sold out. That was at ten minutes to 12:00pm.
“It was a 24-hour a day process; I was barbecuing until 4:00am then my husband Blair would get up and go form them, so it was nonstop. “
She and Blair put the meat foremost, as one would expect from a BBQ business.
“We’d never had a burger with a beef short rib before and we thought keeping the bone in would be something different.
“We’ve only been going since January and there aren’t lots of BBQ places so lots of people wouldn’t have tried it, so it’s been good to get lots of new customers in to try.”
The Kung Fu Chicken burger from another Wakefield Street eaterie, Apache, took second place, and Breakfast for Dinner from Courtenay Place takeaway Lucky came third.
Wakefield Street European soul-food restaurant Field & Green was awarded Best Festival Dish for its stuffed confit duck leg, Woody’s Free Range Farm pancetta, duck fat hasselback potato and cabbage, with Ōtaki damson gravy.
Raechal Ferguson of Field & Green said that it was the second time they had entered, making the top five last year.
She said they sold a lot of duck.
“The customers loved the dish, it was very labour intensive. I think because we stuffed it, it made it more special as guests saw how much work went into it.
“We’re over the moon to have won!”
Hot Sauce at QT Museum Hotel took second place for its Boodle Fight dish of chili crab with coconut rice, and the recently reopened Ortega Fish Shack in Majoribanks Street came third, with fish of the day drizzled with cauliflower cream.
Cocktail of the year went to Courtenay Place bar C.G.R. Merchant & Co, for Party In Your Mouth!, a red grapefruit-infused rum, lime juice and sugar concoction.
Justin McKenzie of C.G.R Merchant & Co (above) said that his team “went above and beyond to create, not just a cocktail, but an experience this year”.
They received many accolades from customers after experiencing the two sides of Party In Your Mouth!, including “A true trip to the senses!”, “Amazing” and “That was not the same cocktail!”.
Crumpet in Manners Street took second place for its Rōpū Iti cocktail and Hawthorn Lounge in Tory Street came third with Ritz and Rhino.
Coco at the Roxy, winner of Best Cocktail for the past three years, was a finalist again this year but didn’t make the top three.
The VWOAP judges were:
- Max Olijnyk – writer, editor, publisher, photographer and sour dough enthusiast.
- Jackie Lee Morrison – ex-Londoner and now owner of Lashings Brownies
- Jos Ruffell – co-owner of Garage Project
- Kelly Ryan – international beer judge
- Riki Carter – international cocktail judge
- Sam Dinsdale – Michelin star chef who has worked under Gordon Ramsay