one great meal

The Cult Project is William Cook and Carlo Buenaventura, who are two fine young chefs with impressive CVs – they’ve cooked for Orphans Kitchen, the Matterhorn and the Town Mouse, among other places. Buenaventura is originally from the Phillipines and Cook is from Britain. Together, they’re running a popup dinner twice a week, starting this week, with a menu that changes every time.

A couple of Sundays ago, Delaney Mes and I dropped by Madame George, which is a bar on Karangahape Road in the space that used to be Urge: it’s all plywood tables and school chairs and distressed tongue-and-groove panelling.

Cult hadn’t put menus on their website, so it was hard to know what to expect: turns out, their food is just ruthlessly simple yet somehow smart. The flavours are clean and the produce is impeccable.

We started with half a grilled gem lettuce each: I’ve been doing this all summer with a balsamic dressing, but here it was grilled then chilled, scattered with curry leaves and aromatic herbs, served with sesame seed “sour cream” and a sauce made from herbs and fermented kahawai. As a dish, it was complex and yet still crisp and clean. A lovely start.

There was an exquisite main of flank steak, beautifully tender and served with endive and a cucumber and kombucha vinaigrette: there was also a side of creamed corn, which is one of the best things I’ve eaten so far this year – topped with goat curd and shiso, sweet and creamy.

Dessert was polarising – a dish of a curry vadouvan served with goat milk, verbena and apricots. I loved the interplay between curry and cream, though others found it too savoury. Better to be polarising than bland, I reckon. Simon Farrell-Green

The Cult Project starts this week at Madame George and the Late Night Diner in Auckland and runs for seven weeks. Tickets are $60, available from The Cult Project