Wellington restaurant, Boulcott Street Bistro, has been serving great food and arguably the best steak in town for almost 25 years. Tucked away in a cosy Victorian-Gothic cottage on Boulcott Street, it’s hard to believe you are in the heart of New Zealand’s capital when dining at this award-winning modern bistro.
Head chef and partner, Rex Morgan, serves up over 60 kilos of AngusPure beef fillet a week. We caught up to find out what makes this little restaurant so great and the steak so darn popular.
The restaurant nears its quarter century in October, and is widely considered a Wellington institution, although Morgan and his team don’t rest on their laurels. Constantly making subtle changes, they strive to keep the restaurant fresh and friendly to all. The bistro doesn’t take dinner bookings so you have to take a chance, but their cool little bar and talented bartenders provide banter and cocktails for those obliged to wait.
“At the end of the day, the whole institution thing is not just about the food. We try to create quality and service, food and beverage, and atmosphere... that's how you run a great restaurant. Get all those right, without one overpowering the other, and then maintain consistency,” Morgan says.
And how about that famous steak? The restaurant ran a competition asking guests to name their favourite dish. An overwhelming two out of three named the steak.
“Beef and béarnaise has always been here. We do it the same way, we just tweak little things here and there – maybe the béarnaise, maybe the jus. But the hard thing about that is there's nowhere to hide: it's steak, sauce and béarnaise…”
With good quality beef, there's no need to hide. Under his watchful eye, Morgan’s staff learn to prepare the jus and béarnaise and to cook a steak to perfection. And, of course, there’s always someone on potato duty, preparing the 20kg of double-cooked, hand-cut fries that they go through every day.
“We have other dishes that are more involved – pork dishes with smokey butter and cabbage, pancetta – the chefs learn to do the other stuff too. But they learn to cook steaks really, really well, because that’s our biggest mover.”
Morgan has been using AngusPure since the late nineties when it first came on the market. Regularly taking the time to compare it to other products on the market, he strives to keep the product honest. Compared to other products in the same price range, he says AngusPure defines itself as consistent and flavoursome, and has staked its claim on the menu.
“It’s already 21 day aged, and that’s another thing: the traceability. I know how the meat has been looked after; I know they age it to settle it; I know it's cold boned. I know the history of the stuff and where it comes from. The supplier is important; a good supplier understanding is important. At the end of the day you know the supplier but, in a way, you also know the farmer.”
The pathway from farm to table is an important one. Boulcott Street Bistro's AngusPure comes all the way from Wanganui supplier, Chef's Choice. If there's ever a problem, says Morgan, it's taken care of, remembering an incident when the meat almost didn't make it.
"One time a courier had an accident – it wasn't their fault but I needed the meat! You have to work two days ahead with ordering. So they rang a wholesaler here and had it replaced straight away... they went to a lot of effort, which means a lot to me. The relationship is really good. It's just a mutual respect. My AngusPure product turns up in a nice box, it's consistent, it's chilled. That's what it's about.”
With the constant pressure of a fantastic reputation to maintain, consistency and simplicity are both key at Boulcott Street Bistro. The team works hard to create the perfect balance of superior service and beautiful food.
"It's just a simple modern bistro. We like eating here too."
At home the chef claims his wife does the cooking – but he does love a good old-fashioned kiwi barbeque. No tomato sauce in sight.
Here are a couple of hints for preparing your steak at home:
* Bring the steak to room temperature. It shouldn’t come straight out of the fridge.
* Make sure the temperature of the pan is just right. It should be singing.
* Don’t dive in straight away, rest the meat before serving.
* If you’ve got a great piece of meat, don’t muck around with it. Let it speak for itself.