For a rather special birthday, my family dined at Arbitrageur Restaurant and Wine room last night.

The atmosphere was casual but still quiet and refined; other diners, men watching the rugby and couples drinking Champagne at the bar. We were seated at a large wooden table, though almost too large for a party of four. I liked the outdoor feel of the table while sinking into high backed, rounded leather loungers.

The menu is not long, featuring only a few dishes for each course. But each dish sounds so delicious it is hard to choose. For the entree I had la poitrine de cochon, a succulent and tender piece of pork belly with a fennel and apple compote. Sprinkled on top, like a pale, crunchy, salty candyfloss, was finely grated, fried potato. We drank Spanish bubbly and toasted my twenty-first birthday.

For Les Mains I ordered the Pork Butcher’s Wife, a roast pork loin with cherry tomatoes, dark wilted spinach, lardons and baby cornichons. This was utterly sublime. Strong flavours but a pleasant contrast between the acidity of the tomatoes and cornichons and the salt of the pork. The meal was homely with the elegance and sophistication of a wonderful restaurant meal.

Pork Butcher's Wife

A simple salad as a shared side.

Dessert I often find the most difficult of menu decisions. There is a lot of pressure on a dessert to balance or compliment the previous course(s). My sister and I both chose the saffron panna cotta with pineapple and orange. Saffron is a tricky flavour to describe, but it makes for a lovely panna cotta regardless. The speckled and dusted red, velvety dessert was light and refreshing on the palate.

Saffron Panna cotta

My sister flew home from uni in Christchurch especially for my birthday, but also for a meal at Arbitrageur. As she walked out of her hostel yesterday afternoon, overnight bag in hand, one of her friends asked her where she was going. She said home; we have dinner reservations. Her friend said, “Gosh, Georgie, you do lead an extravagant life.” “Not really, we just like to celebrate and to eat.”

Isn’t that what life is for?

Thank you for the photos, Georgie.