Rotorua's rocky road

While some would say the pavlova debate is not yet settled, New Zealand has moved on, with a twist on the famous dessert that involves another family favourite – rocky road.

Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Elliott, visits Rotorua and discovers an intriguing variation on a famous dessert.

Rotorua is a town of 70,000 residents but its leading industry is tourism so there are plenty of places to eat out. And one such place is The Regent.

When I step into The Regent the room is decorated in this chic combination of black and white colours. The owners’ aim was to make it a hotel that they wanted to stay in. There is an outdoor area with a pool and even though it isn’t chilly we take a seat indoors.

The Regent Room houses the restaurant and cocktail bar and there are bone china fixtures on the walls, French-style sofas and an indoor/outdoor fireplace.

We’re having problems deciding what to eat. I want to try anything local so after a while Kathy and I choose a few things while keeping an eye out for the rocky road pavlova on the dessert menu. I know that servings in New Zealand tend to be on the generous side but you can’t help but taste a few things can you?

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The crispy fried squid is very lightly coated and deep fried and is tender and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. The salad it is sitting on is made up of coriander, mint and lettuce mix with a chilli and palm sugar dressing that is a little too much on the sweet side for me, although I’m really liking the fact that there is a good punch of spicy chilli.

The mussels are plentiful, not too chewy, and come with a creamy, rich and well-spiced coconut broth that is mild on the heat.

The mushroom and potato croquettes are very soft and barely survive the transport from serving plate to share plate. They are part of the tapas menu which ranges from edamame beans, garlic prawns, braised chickpeas with chorizo and stuffed mussels. The croquettes are quite different to the tapas ones you find in Sydney with the fine breadcrumbs and tightly packed filling. The outside is made up of very crispy panko breadcrumbs and the filling reminds me of mushroom soup with pieces of mushroom and a thick mushroom sauce.

I mentioned they do generous serves, right? The antipasto plate was meant for two people, but I would think could serve four as an appetiser. There are a range of New Zealand cheeses from boutique companies like Pakari Aged Cheddar (a favourite) and Kikorangi Blue Cheese. The latter is a medium blue cheese, not too mild but not enough to send you declaring that you’re not a blue cheese lover. There is also a New Zealand Mainland creamy Camembert which is a supermarket cheese and is served slightly colder than I like.

There is also a range of homemade items like the prosciutto and salami, kawakawa ciabatta, fig jam, chilli jam with a real bite to it, horopito butter and walnut and poppyseed cream crackers and grapes. The fig jam and the chilli jam are standouts and the crackers are excellent. The horopito is a native pepper and the kawakawa is a slightly bitter leaf with useful medicinal properties.

We just have enough time for dessert and what a dessert it is! The rhubarb crumble topping looks thin and at first I think there isn’t enough, but it is so buttery and crunchy that all is forgiven once you take a spoonful. And the ice cream? It’s a pohutukawa honey, which is a mild honey and this ice cream is by Kapiti who are known for their cheeses and ice creams and it is absolutely divine. Is it possible to marry an ice cream? Watch me try.

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Finally, the rocky road pavlova looks nothing like what we had expected. It’s filled with a chocolate centre coated in egg white and crushed nuts and whilst it has all of the rocky road components, it ends up, curiously, reminding us of those sweet cakes that your mum used to buy at the supermarket when you were little.

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