Inspired by the culinary diversity of the Med, a Wellington chef devises a cross-over style all of his own.


As we discovered back in the nineties, in the wrong hands fusion food jangles like a car crash. In the right hands, however, cross-cultural food advances the art of gastronomy, producing thrilling new flavour combinations nobody thought of previously. For decades now, Peter Gordon has been our reigning master of this style, but at the new Rosella wine bar/restaurant, chef Johnon MacDonald promises to be next in line.


Each and every dish is studiously inauthentic: caramelised miso madeleines accompany the chicken liver parfait; black bean-dressed pickled mussels rest on a bed of wasabi aioli. The miraculously smooth texture of the whipped almond appetiser is achieved with the aid of a high-speed blender, white bread and Jerez vinegar. It’s Andalusia’s ajo blanco (white gazpacho), cleverly reimagined as a thick, creamy dip and presented as a dam around a limpid pool of green parsley oil. The Latin American empanada yields its blandness to a molten, fiery onslaught of ‘nduja and taleggio, a garnish of braised fennel and a drizzle of agave syrup. Lamb belly is laboriously marinated, slow cooked, portioned into unctuous cubes, char-grilled over a hibachi to crisp the outsides, and finally dressed with a syrupy mixture of black garlic and Chinese black vinegar. A lot of fuss, a lot of texture and a heap of big punchy flavour.


At Koji – instantly popular upon opening 17 months ago – Masterton-born Johnon presented Wellingtonians with the fruits of long, hard graft born under the three founders of Australia’s eclectic Modern Asian style: Neil Perry, Christine Manfield and Teage Ezard. But now at Rosella, just two doors up from Koji on Majoribanks Street’s restaurant row, Johnon deftly flips Modern Asian upside down and brings us Modern Mediterranean: European, North African and Middle Eastern, spiked with a soupçon of Asian.


Although Johnon creates the repertoire, he bounces each new idea off head chef Jack Connor, who has been with Johnon ever since he began as a 17-year-old apprentice in Canberra. “Jack has an influence on every dish,” says Johnon. “If something’s missing, Jack has the answer.” Beverage manager Oliver Middleton’s 12-page wine list appeals to a broad demographic, with orange wines for those who want to be pushed and classics for those who don’t. Restaurant manager Tim Ippel and assistant restaurant manager Henry Thompson bring impressive credentials of innate amiability and charm.


Rosella’s sophisticated yet relaxed decor was designed by co-owner Kat Strand, who notes that Rosella was so- named as the little sister to Koji, “but now Rosella feels more like the big sister!”.

ADDRESS: 18 Majoribanks St, Mt Victoria, Wellington
Check website for opening hours
CONTACT: 04 333 057