Hippopotamus has long been one of Wellington’s best fine-dining restaurants, and that’s largely thanks to the man in charge of the kitchen.
Combining his classical French training with Italian, Asian and German influences, Laurent Loudeac’s menu sings a classical tune, with high notes coming from nuances that reflect his life – and his open attitude to food.
This year’s Visa Wellington on a Plate was a chance for the chef to show those influences to diners with a six-course degustation. Laurent “wrote”, or cooked, his CV for people to taste: France, Switzerland, Sydney and here, New Zealand. “It was a fun night,” he says.
Loudeac, who has been at Hippopotamus, part of the newly renamed QT Museum Wellington, for about eight years, has a playful and innovative approach to food, and he took that playfulness to the next level with the “Sweet As” burger, made for the WOAP Burger Wellington challenge.
Comprising a macaron bun, panna cotta cheese and chocolate parfait patty, it was a hit with diners, with Hippopotamus selling about 500 over the two-week period.
Laurent says his cooking philosophy is based on cutting back on ingredients and making fresh produce sing.
“I like the connection between food and nature, he says. “[It’s important to] tell a bit of a story.”
“The dish is served with broccolini shoots and pikopiko fern shoots to represent the bush and mountain environment,” he explains. Accompanying it is a white bean puree that symbolises the snowy peaks, plus a freezedried berry jus. It’s finished with shiitake and oyster mushrooms with a chocolate crumble to represent the soil.
Laurent thinks the success of WOAP is a reflection of how alive the scene is at the moment. “I’ve been here almost 20 years now and I can see the change and the innovation,”he says.
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