Rita (89 Aro Street)
Visiting the Aro Valley always leaves me pleasantly surprised. There are a number of cute little shops there, ranging from the video shop to the bakery, to the Garage Project Brewery and now to Rita. Rita is brought to us by the lovelies from Nikau Café, and so naturally I went there with quite high expectations.
If you know when you plan to go, I would definitely recommend booking as the villa is quite small and intimate (think Jano or Boulcott Street Bistro). There are a few tables reserved each night for walk-ins though, so bookings are not essential.
It is a set menu for $65, excluding drinks and sides. The menu changes regularly, depending on what is seasonal and what the chef feels like making. If you have dietary requirements they appreciate you telling them in advance, but if your only requirement is that you are vegetarian, there is always a vegetarian option as well.
The tables are super cute, with drawers that pull out containing all of your cutlery, napkins and pepper. We noted the absence of salt, an indicator that we should trust the chef to accurately season the food. The service was great; very attentive staff who were well informed about the food and drink they were serving. Portion sizes were decent; I think ordering sides with the main is probably essential though, so expect to pay for that. I enjoy having a set menu – it means I get to try things that I wouldn’t normally order, and at a nice restaurant you can put faith in the food to be delicious no matter what.
We kicked the night off with some deep-fried zucchini chips. As I expected, I was a big fan of these.The entrée was mussel soup (hohum). For someone who likes seafood, but not seafood flavoured things (ie. The broth) I was very tempted to order the vegetarian option. However I thought I would be brave and gave it a go. I am glad I tried it, but I can still confirm that I don’t like fishy flavoured things. The mussels themselves were tasty, as were the other solid parts of the meal, but I was less of a fan of the broth (everyone else really enjoyed it though).
Our main was outstanding. The entire table said that if we were on My Kitchen Rules we would all be voting 10/10. It was two different styles of lamb (kofta and sliced) with a delicious greens mixed with walnuts, a tasty jus and some of the tastiest bread I think I’ve ever had. It was potato and whey bread – it was so puffy but so, so light, perfect for mopping the leftover sauce. We also ordered a side of green beans with aioli. It was not how I expected – but more delicious than I had hoped. The green beans were sliced in half and actually tossed through the aioli, so that they were essentially coated in sauce.
Lastly, dessert was a surprise, in that they wouldn’t tell us what it was until it was served. I was hoping for something chocolate, but I was about to be disappointed in the best possible way. For dessert we were served a blackberry, lemon and rose trifle. It was a trifle like no other. I am not normally a trifle fan, as I think of it as mushy, soft, creamy flavours, but this trifle was just the opposite. There was a very dense lemon cream, which cut through the sweetness of everything out. This was complemented by the blackberries who had a similar effect, but were fresh and juicy. There were dense pieces of sponge throughout the cream, but they had held their shape and form, rather than becoming mush. There were also little orange jellies which were super tasty and fun to eat! Dessert was large enough that it made us all suddenly feel very full. I finished my dessert, but the same cannot be said for the rest of our table.
The bill comes to you; portable EFTPOS means we didn’t even need to leave our seats. The total bill came to about $80 each, which for a fine dining, beautiful experience was a cost well worth spending. Rita is a great place to go for nice catch-ups, or celebratory meals.