I hadn’t eaten since 7:30am. When I had eaten, it was a bacon, egg, tomato and rocket Panini thing. The whole day I’d been sat in the same spot (literally, I didn’t stand up once) plugging away at the ins and outs of New Zealand Income Tax. Come 5pm, the part of my brain that recognises hunger still hadn’t had enough time to brush aside the tax cobwebs and start messing with my mood. I could feel it coming though. Mrs P was in town at an after work function, and the 5pm traffic was terrible. I needed food, and it needed to feel like a reward after the day I’d had.
I was going to drop by Sale St to see if they were busy, but the crazy traffic forced me on a serendipitous (thank-you Su Leslie for planting that word into my subconscious) detour that took us past Food Truck Garage. We’ve already been to Sale St a few times, and the chance to try out some stuff that I’ve seen on TV (and haven’t tried yet from the cookbook) sounded like it could be just the reward I was looking for.
The place didn’t disappoint. A perfect respite from rush hour traffic, the joint is laid back and relaxed. If you spent any time in primary (elementary) school in the eighties, you’ll find comforting familiarity in the feel of the tables and chairs. Cutlery is housed in recycled tin cans, the plates enamel, and pictures on the walls hung using bulldog clips. Unfussy, as a food writer might say, without feeling like an affectation.
So how was the food? If you haven’t seen it, the Food Truck TV show has a theme around taking fast/junk food and making healthier, but still tasty substitutes. Today’s contestants were analogues for the Big Mac, Croque-Monsieur, Chips/Fries, and Coca-Cola.
Looking at the photo, if you know your Big Macs, you’ll probably be lamenting the single decker burger, and raising an eyebrow at the tomato. When the burger made its debut on the show, neither inconsistency was present. However, now that the food isn’t being served out of a truck, and has city rents and cooks to pay for, there’s less meat in the burger and more dollars on the price. I didn’t mind though. The patties are bulked out with beetroot and courgette, without losing any savour, and given savour with cumin, coriander, and chilli, that would give any self respecting Hamburglar itchy thieving fingers. The special sauce cunningly adds gherkins, honey and shallots to get a nice balance between the sweet and savoury in the mayonnaise, with the tickle of tomato purée adding the perfect tang to finish the whole caper off. Also, the mixture of seeds instead of the usual sesame seeds added a nice textural element to the whole deal.
At the moment, one of the menu features is the special, which is a food item from the episode of The Food Truck that airs in that corresponding week. This week the special is Croque Monsieur Crêpes, with Serrano ham, Gruyère, and cauliflower purée. Up front the ham storms through with all the Gallic theatre of Gérard Depardieu making a spectacle of (or in some cases on) himself on a plane, then the cauliflower lightly follows through with that delicate je ne sais quoi while the Gruyère and Crêpe hold the whole thing together in a generous embrace of bonhomie. You have to love it when simplicity over delivers to such great effect.
For those who like their chips fried, I’m not sure these baked versions are going to convert you. However, the mixture of potato, swede, and beetroot was a nice way to enjoy some sides. Do make sure you give the lime a good squeeze over them all, I found that the flavours didn’t quite come together with the aioli until each piece got a thorough spritz. With only three or four little chunks of beetroot there could be some disappointed appetites when sharing amongst more than a couple of people.
You’re probably looking at the cola and wondering whether it delivers the flavour well despite not looking the part. Not really, this lifts the experience to another level. There’s a serious bunch of lavender that hits the palate up front, then blossoms into some serious cola coffee, molasses and citrus flavours at the back. I had a lemon, honey and mint concoction that was pretty heavy on the honey, and ill advised after the beer I had (I get very strange stomach aches when the wrong combination of fluids is imbibed). Next time I’ll be trying the ginger.
Also stepping outside the sphere of analogues was Mrs P’s chicken and vege wrap. That was the surprise package of the evening. I had a couple of bites that she generously shared, and for something that looks so healthy, it tasted good enough to warrant a warning label from a surgeon general.
Open 7 days from 11:30, and only a short drive from work, I imagine it won’t be long before I’m back again to claim rewards for many a lesser deed I can find to justify a visit.