We’re both still in the glow of what was achieved with The Ballet Banquet. There’s so much to say about this one night but I’ve chosen three highlights. It started as brilliantly as it continued: I watched people stop suddenly, aghast on the staircase, and pull out cameras to capture the spotlit tables in a delicate haze as The Blackbird Ensemble lured them down into the dining room with balletic melody. I also loved hearing that the stunning haunted forest centrepieces Ed and I designed for Giselle even made someone cry. Lastly, for my chef to receive a standing ovation alongside Brian Campbell; I couldn’t have been prouder to see what he produced under incredible pressure for fifty people. Seeing Ed’s creativity, prowess and skill as a chef applauded and appreciated had to be the ultimate highlight for me.

We have so many people to thank that another post will have to be made for our colleagues, the team at gather & hunt (but especially Courteney, Alice and Rebecca Smidt of Cazador fame), Nautilus Estate and Antipodes Water, the chefs in the kitchen, the front of house, Claire Cowan, Brough Johnson and the list of thank you’s to suppliers and our supporters will continue…

I couldn’t wait any longer to update the website with descriptions of Ed’s dishes and there will be many more photos to come.

Romeo and Juliet

Innocence. Brawling. Devastation.

Scampi. Pork. Black garlic.

I wanted the dish to be a blanket of white and flowers to symbolise the innocence and love of Romeo & Juliet. People have to break through the innocence, and underneath find unexpected dark shades representing destruction. I combined the textures of ingredients so that the lasting visual on the plate would be total devastation.

The white consisted of horseradish, coconut and squid with garnishes of rose, radish flowers and sliced turnips.

Laura Forest Ballet Banquet LR-265


Innocence. Brawling. Devastation.

Winter Vegetables. Sour cream. Pear

Turning a story consisting of so much sweetness into a savoury starter was probably my hardest challenge. I focused on the colour and playfulness I imagined from the story while pushing the sweet thematic elements as far as I could.

Chestnuts and hazelnuts, beetroot, leek, carrot and jerusalem artichokes, gingerbread, Dandelion and wild plum blossom.

Laura Forest Ballet Banquet LR-136

Sleeping Beauty

Spell. Fairies. Vines. Sleep. Lilac.

Monkfish. Sea Urchin. Licorice

Lilac, sleep and fairies were up next with the most magical story of them all for me. I wanted lots of purple and green ‘vines’ with a black plate to symbolise night and sleep. I knew I needed to create a fantastical fairy dust somehow.

Red cabbage and licorice fairy dust. Celery hearts, parsnip and violets.

Laura Forest Ballet Banquet LR-9


Forest. Mist. Haunting.

Forest Mushrooms. Celeriac. Duck

This was the easiest course for me because it invoked forest and nature: some of my favourite ingredients are natural earthy flavours. During my research I saw many images of mist covered woodland, which inspired me to bring that to the table through aromatics, taste and visuals.

Mushrooms, blackened celeriac, manuka smoked duck prosciutto, muesli. Leaves and flowers.

The broth was made using kilos of dried mushrooms Laura and I had foraged back in autumn and dried. The forest box was made from woodland elements Laura and I collected from around Auckland to give the mist and aroma I wanted.

Ed Verener Giselle Ballet Banquet

La Sylphide

Cauldron. Illusion. Glade. Evil.

Wagyu beef. Yolk. Onions. Lettuce

Witches, cauldrons and the part where the glowing cauldron reveals an illusion of a “lovely glade” instantly stood out for me. This was the simplest dish in terms of flavours and I wanted to finish in this way, after taking diners on a journey of some complex and unusual combinations. This is a dish about a countryside created with wild herbs and flowers shrouded in darkness. Thank you Firstlight for the Wagyu beef.

Laura Forest Ballet Banquet LR-14

This isn’t the last you’ll see or hear of The Ballet Banquet… Trust me.