Saturday night, a family dinner to Vista Café in Oriental Bay. A casual dining experience where all the elements of a wonderful night came together beautifully.

The service was exceptional, the food simply delicious, the wine a perfect match.

We ordered a bottle of Spanish bubbles to start and were presented with a complimentary dish of warmed olives with dukkah crumbed feta.

The set menu for Wellington on a Plate was well thought out with interesting flavours and ingredients. The entree was a slither of hapuka confit on top of a crayfish bisque sauce with a panko crumbed egg. The egg was quite mysterious: a creamy, almost custardy yolk and a soft white, crusted in a toastey crumb. The entree was served with a glass of Alana Estate 2010 Riesling from Martinborough. A lovely choice to serve with the hapuka; slightly sweet on the palate with citrus undertones.

The main course was a slow cooked beef short rib with a potato and swede gratin, a fennel remoulade and jus. The short rib, cooked for 3 days, was still a pinkish medium-rare. It sat squarely on its little plate of a bone, falling at the touch of a fork. The fennel remoulade, with soft green curls of fennel, was fresh and complimented the richness of the short rib. For this course, the wine was a full bodied Pinot Noir, also from Alana Estate.

When my family was in Paris for a holiday a few years ago, we had a few rules about dining out. To sample all that French fare had too offer we tried very hard to not order the same dish. Here at Vista I really enjoyed everyone eating from the same menu. Instead of passing our plates and fork-fulls of food over the table, watching out for sleeves in candle flame, we could simply wax lyrical together.

Dessert was not included in the Wellington on a Plate menu but the blackboard selection at Vista is really very good. The chocolate fondant is light and not too sweet, with a fudgey centre and whole berries dropped around the edges. From my family’s plates I can also say the pear tarte tatin with honey ice cream is quite divine, as is the crumble…

Throughout the evening the service was impeccable. Our waiter was knowledgeable of not only the composition of the dish but how the ingredients were prepared; he gave high praise to his kitchen. At the end of our meal he poured us each a tasting of beautiful 12 year old sherry. Always a nice gesture.

For Wellington on a Plate or not, I will definitely be returning to Vista Café.