Photographs: David Straight
The Cult Project is Carlo Buenaventura and William Cook, two fine young chefs with impressive CVs who between them have cooked at the Matterhorn in Wellington, the Town Mouse in Melbourne and Orphans Kitchen. Now, they’ve started The Cult Project, a series of popup dinners at Madame George and The Late Night Diner. Starting tomorrow night, they’ll be serving multi-course dinners twice a week until March. Tickets are available online and cost $60 for three courses.
Ambitious, but we reckon they’re up to it. At a recent tasting at Madame George recently, they served up the menu for their first two dinners. There was an entree of gem lettuce, grilled and then chilled and served with sunflower seed “sour cream”, a fish sauce dressing made from kahawai – kahawai! – and aromatic herbs including curry leaves. It was an inspired dish, by turns crunchy and cold, with a faintly grilled flavour that wasn’t overpowering. We also ate perfectly grilled beef flank, served with crunchy endive and a cucumber and kombucha vinaigrette which was also served with roasted avocado: normally we run a mile from warm avocado but somehow, it just worked, adding texture and flavour to a beautifully restrained dish. On the side, creamed corn with goat curd and shiso, which was one of the best things I’ve eaten this year. To finish, a curry vadouvan with goat milk and verbena, which was by turns savoury and sweet, and which I liked a lot.
Buenaventura originally hails from the Phillipines, while Cook grew up in England. The food they make draws on those influences – as with the fish sauce dressing on the gem lettuce (Buenaventura) and the curry vadouvan, which Cook created in a homage to his childhood. Which is lovely, but the bottom line for us? This is carefully composed, technically accomplished food – there’s a crisp, clean sort of feeling to it, with distinctive flavours. Make sure you support them. SFG
HOURS Dinner Tuesday and Friday until March, further dates TBC.
ADDRESS Madame George, 490 Karangahape Road; Late Night Diner, 152B Ponsonby Road. thecultproject.co.nz
IMPORTANT DETAILS Tickets don’t include booze – there’s a cash bar on the night.