Dubbed the number one restaurant in Nelson, New Zealand it is not hard to see why Hopgood's holds the crown. The restaurant, situated on Trafalgar Street (the main street of the town) occupies a long space that's interior is bound together by light and dark wood tones. The interior comes alight with simplistic bulb lighting hanging high from the ceiling among a backdrop of crisp white-painted roofing. The wooden theme that runs through the venue also is central to the formal seating. It is surprising though, Hopgood's, although formal in initial viewing is mellowed out by the choice of relaxed music and rustic pieces such as the specials chalkboard detailing specials along with BYO nights, to create a more chilled atmosphere.
Hopgood's is a busy venue and it is easy to see why. A friend and I decided to head there on a Thursday night and bookings are definitely essential. We had managed to Google the menu beforehand (the ravenous foodies that we are) and were pleased not only with the options but also the specials that were kindly dictated to us by our waitress for the evening.
The menu, in short, is comprised of six entrees and five mains, all of which I am told is from local Nelson suppliers, right down to the herbs and seasoning. The chef is owner Kevin Hopgood, who places a strong emphasis on seasonal produce, this philosophy is carried through to the beverages with the likes of local wines and beers. After scanning the menu and gazing up to see imaginative artistic dishes leave the kitchen and land on tables, it was safe to say I was pretty excited about this dining experience.
The time between ordering and waiting for food was not long, which is always a plus in any foodies book. The first dish to arrive at the table was the appetiser of Cured Ōra King salmon / scallops, blood orange & fennel. As this was my friends dish, I only managed to nick a scallop which was cooked perfectly. The first entree was closely followed by Pulled pork croquette / piccalilli & black bean aioli. You know you have flavoursome pulled pork, when it has been cooking for over ten hours and I believe this was the case with these croquettes, teamed with the unique aioli was the perfect start to the evening.
The mains were next, and making a decision from the six listed items proved to be challenging, especially when so many varied and mouthwatering land and sea options were available. After some deliberation both my friend and I opted for the Pure Angus fillet / mushroom crumble, bacon hash & caramelised onion. We decided a delicious piece of prime Angus is not complete without some popular sides, so along with our mains came a serving of Fried zucchini flower / goat's cheese stuffing & tapenade and Crispy fried potato / garlic & sage.
With Hopgood (the chef) in the kitchen serving up expertly prepared food at his urban eatery it is no wonder the venue is busy almost every day of the week. Without too much time to take a few sips of wine and appreciate the interiors for a second time, our Angus beef mains arrived. Cooked medium for myself and medium rare for my colleague, both came out looking appetising with all the elements strategically placed on the plate to really enhance our senses. Such a simple meat that has been dressed seductively for the plate with a perfect bacon hash, the star of the dish, the Angus fillet and topped with delicious mushroom crumble with a hint of truffle. Absolute perfection.
Working our way through the crunchy zucchini flowers, crisp potatoes and the succulent meat was a gastronomical experience. Every flavour had a purpose on the plate and it is safe to see this European inspired menu is working its favours for the unpretentious award winning restaurant.
The best thing about finishing a main of that quality is having kept some room for dessert and does Hopgood's deliver on this sweet affair? Of course.
With items ranging from cheesecakes to mouses it does make it difficult to choose one. As a sucker for chocolate I went for the Dark chocolate mousse / pistachio crumble, plum & malted milk ice cream whilst my friend went for the Baked cheesecake / lemon meringue ice cream & strawberries.
Both dishes came out and looked pleasing to the eye. The detail to both sweet treats could easily be mistaken for desserts that came out of a michelin star restaurant. My chocolate mousse was utterly melt-in-your-mouth perfect without being too sickly sweet. The combination of mousse, chocolate and rich plum created a more hearty texture to what would usually be on the side of a mousse dessert (i.e. raspberries or berry jus). Overall a fantastic dessert. The same can be said about the baked cheesecake with adorable mini lemon meringues adorned on the top.
With winter fast approaching and many restaurants in Nelson usually suffering, Hopgood's has managed to stay steady and this is a big thanks to local diners, local support and the tourists who are enjoying the city known for its locally sourced produce and craft beer. A definite must on the dining agenda for any visitor or resident of Nelson.