It all starts with a text message. Outside of the bar that is, you have to text for entry.
Once admitted you’re ushered into a dark space with two large tables and a long buffet against one wall. We were sat on the corner of one of the tables and asked to tuck our bags underneath.
We had chosen a one hour 3 cocktail experience which starts almost the second we sit down.
I chose to visit Boxer to explore other beverages, in this case cocktails, but what I learnt went much deeper than that and touched on a range of the themes I’ve been discovering.
I’ll break it down course by course.
Course 1: Rose with Habanero, Seaweed with Vinegar, Clams with Cucumber & Spruce
It was nice to not have to choose a wine from the list, instead just be given one in the form of our first cocktail. A rosé no less. However this drink was all about the distillation of the habanero which removes the spice but leaves a smoky, sweet aroma on top of the wine. I was glad I’d already learnt to smell wine because that’s truly where the joy was. A ferment came with this course in the form of vinegar on the house roasted seaweed. Finally the clams, which were a sensory delight. Served on ice and cool on the lips, each clam shell contained 3 clams, only the best parts. The clams slid cleanly out of the shell and combined with the cucumber and spruce oil they tasted so fresh and light next to the rose.
Course 2: Distilled Celery with Greens diluted with Celery Water, Elderflower Martini with In House Elderflower Kombucha, Duck Fat Pretzels with Cultured Cream, Ceremonial Matcha and Salmon Roe, Pickled & Smoked Pineapple Rolled in Pineapple Skin Ash
The elderflower martini reminds me of the Noma guide. The elderflower kombucha is the most beautiful colour and the brewing flask is just behind us on the floor. The food to accompany the drinks is a rollercoaster. The duck fat pretzels are perhaps the best thing I’ve ever eaten. The cultured cream with matcha is perfect and the roe, salty and sweet. Then the pineapple happened. It’s the opposite, the worst thing I’ve ever eaten. This isn’t a critique of the food, I’m confident the audience is out there however I’ve never been a fan of smoke or anything in that flavour range so the ash was not for me. Texturally it felt wrong too, dusty and juicy. Perhaps this is one dish the residents of Timor-Leste would prefer.
Course 3: White whisky with Smoked Cacao, Grapefruit & Seaweed, Sherry with Saffron, Tomato & Coriander, Raw Aged Pasture Wagyu with Greens
Our host told us that at Boxer they pride themselves on their lower alcohol beverages, meaning you can try more. I’m so glad that we didn’t get the five course though. By the end of the pineapple debacle we were both giggly and perhaps no longer the ideal gastronome guests. The wagyu in course 3 therefore was welcome whilst we sipped slowly on our 3rd beautiful cocktail. Experience wise, each of our drinks had a perfect sphere of ice and was served in the most delicate glass – perfect for a slow end. For me, I loved that saffron came up again as another thread linking my learning together. The sherry felt like a wonderful pairing.
Bonus Course: Distilled Banana Bread, Young Wine
One of the things I love about a finer dining experience are host gifts. I love trying new things and I would go back to boxer just for the banana bread. I’ve never drank anything that tasted so much like a baked good. The young wine as the name promised was sweet and wild – it reminded me of how much I want to make the plum wine in Noma – no need to carry through to vinegar.
We emerged from Boxer into golden hour in Parnell. We were tipsy, giggly, happy. We hopped on a bus and headed to a ramen joint to fill up. A dark bar with snacks, public transport and a big bowl of ramen, it was like a night in Tokyo without the plane ride.