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East of the Middle 2021

In Tauranga’s south-western corner you’ll find East of the Middle..

Let’s face it, Kiwis love to fly and Covid has clipped our wings. This edition of Kitchen Takeover was a chance to be transported to a tongue-tingling spice trail on the other side of the world – if only for a night. 

Follow the flame and the sound of the ancient stringed instrument the oud…

Push through the curtains and into the Moroccan tent at a secret location. It’s winter down under but with warmth, laughter and vibrant colours we were transported to the Middle East.

Our welcome cocktail was the Smoking Sultan and when the lid of the jar was lifted, the woody scent of manuka smoke filled our noses while the cumin infused rum rolled around our mouths and heated our stomachs.

“Everything about the evening was wonderfully organised. The passion of the hosts in preparing and delivering the food to your table was infectious, loved it all” – Kate Barry-Piceno

The Food

First up, a modern take on the traditional sharing plate or mezze. A crisp pita spiced by za’atar sat on a dob of whipped hummus with preserved lemon beetsand turmeric dukkah. 

Secondly, shish barak – traditional Syrian dumplings – had been given a planet-saving twist by being stuffed with jackfruit rather than the traditional lamb. The dumplings were light and delicate and served with caramelised yoghurt, lemony saffron oil and toasted pine nuts.

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Third course – a humble carrot cut lengthways and described by our host as one of the most delicate and time-consuming courses on the menu to prepare. It’s been sous vide at 88 degrees, then blowtorched for a charred flavour and topped with pops of green tahini, pickled raisins and pistachio tarator.

The main dish was perfectly prepared Baharat lamb neck – or for vegetarians, harissa pumpkin and charred broccolini – with kumara and date freekeh and baba ganoush. The balance of spices was subtle and perfect.

“It was a delightful experience. Each dish was stunningly prepared” – Steve Deeble

Nitro Moroccan Mint Tea was served as the classic Kitchen Takeover liquid nitrogen lollipop. We were warned to “blow until it stops smoking” due to the extreme minus-196C temperature. The delicate mint cleansed the palate for the final course of the night. 

It turns out, they saved the best til last …  

Turkish Delight Awwami – or Palestinian donuts – dusted in cinnamon sugar and drizzled decadently with tahini caramel. It’s an eye-flutteringly aromatic treat with rosewater gel, pearls and Iranian floss known as pashmak perfectly accompanied by Crème de Rose liqueur. Baklava and orange blossom ice cream added the creamy element to this beautiful dish. It’s a conscious effort not to put your head down and lick the plate. This is, after all, one of Tauranga’s classiest establishments.