Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Verte, Avillion Port Dickson

The Verte, Avillion Port Dickson
The Verte, Avillion Port Dickson

The Verte, Avillion Port Dickson


Words by Kirsten Durward
Photos by The Yum List (Monica Tindall)

A brave new venture on the restaurant scene in Port Dickson, a welcome diversion for both residents and weekend visitors, sits nestled in a fragrant garden overlooking the Straits of Malacca. The Verte is fresh and inviting, a heritage house brought up to date in a contemporary open plan design. Naturally leading from the outside in, there are plenty of colourful seating areas to choose from, reminding me somewhat of a rustic Mediterranean style. A simple menu is displayed on a grand chalkboard that encompasses most of one wall as well as table top brown paper copies. Cutlery is arranged casually in small buckets on the table, as are pots of herbs, the ones used quite liberally in the cooking at Verte. The concept is very much fresh and light, with a combination of Asian spices and European flavours, offering what is termed a ‘modern gastronomic experience.’ Chef Mohammed Fahzir hails from Malaysia. Having trained in several big hotels in Kuala Lumpur, he then spent 15 years in Ireland. We spend a few minutes debating the highlights of Kerry (a county in the south-west). Quite a culture shock that must have been for him!

The Verte, Avillion Port Dickson
Tables Outside
The Verte, Avillion Port Dickson
A Private Spot Outside
The Verte, Avillion Port Dickson
Open-Walled Dining
The Verte, Avillion Port Dickson
Pool Table and Bar
Monica and I are not ones to turn down a cocktail so the darkening evening finds us ensconced at a table eagerly awaiting our first drink. It’s a very relaxed outdoor feeling with ‘poppy’ 80’s music in the background. The friendly barman wants to know where we are from so that he can play songs specially for us. Monica is offered ‘Land Down Under…’ This makes us smile.

A quite impressively original cocktail menu tantalises us with choices, on asking what are the most popular signature drinks we are directed to two quite different flavours.

The Verte, Avillion Port Dickson
Bartender shaking us up a cocktail
Pink Panther (RM30 ++) is a sweeter style drink combining Cointreau and Tequila with fresh juices of the watermelon and lime variety together with a little honey and sage. A sweeter style drink, light and refreshing also which we think would be popular amongst the local ladies. 

The Verte, Avillion Port Dickson
Pink Panther 
In Thai Litchi (RM30 ++), vodka blends with lychee liqueur, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and sweet and sour mix.  We can definitely taste the vodka in this one and I love the flavours of lime leaf and lemongrass. It’s still a little sweet for us and if I were drinking it again, I might ask for it without sweet and sour, and with a dash of soda water instead.

The Verte, Avillion Port Dickson
Thai Litchi
Dripping Cocktails (RM30 ++) are not something that I expected to find here, something a little fun and cheeky for Port Dickson and I believe unique in Malaysia. There are five choices, of which we pounce on Jamaica on Ice. Of course we do! It contains, coffee and rum, two of Monica’s favourite flavours. Whisky is also added to the mix, though we tease the food and beverage manager, Mark Peter, that as ladies we might prefer Cointreau in the blend. Any reason you couldn’t choose your own alcohol for ice dripping? Not really! The alcohol is served in an ice cup, with the coffee below, and as it melts, it drips down to blend. Not great if you are in a hurry, but wonderful to play with and sip around the edges. I thought perhaps a double sip was in order, somewhat like a submarine or a bomb shot, but it appears patience is truly in order. We are not known for our patience in waiting for drinks so we put this to the side and continue with a glass of wine to accompany our rapidly arriving meal. Jamaica on Ice does turn out to be worth the wait, the cold ice water has chilled the coffee superbly and the alcohol has melted through. I think the dripping cocktails would be great after dinner drinks, order them with your dessert and they should be ready to sip just in time. 

The Verte, Avillion Port Dickson
Dripping Cocktail
Valdivieso 2012 Merlot (RM 28 ++) proves a pleasant choice, with scents of ripe plum on the nose and quite intense sweet spices on tasting, with undertones of coffee, chocolate and wood smoke. It goes well with our lamb and Thai curry. 

The Verte, Avillion Port Dickson
Valdivieso 2012 Merlot
Our fish dish is well complimented by the Valdivieso 2012 Chardonnay (RM 28 ++). It's a pale yellow wine, with a mild mineral character and slightly fruity finish.

The Verte, Avillion Port Dickson
Valdivieso 2012 Chardonnay 
We ooh and aah over the pretty bowl of Carrot and Pumpkin Soup (RM 20 ++), commenting that the full size must be super generous. Our photograph shows only a half serving. Abundant fresh garlic spreads across whole grain poppy seed toast, making a great dipping tool into this thick smooth soup. The flavour and texture hit the spot for both of us and we eagerly slurp it all up.

The Verte, Avillion Port Dickson
Carrot and Pumpkin Soup
Chef Mohd was eager for us to try some of his Thai style dishes and I joke with him that I haven’t found great Thai food in KL yet so if he can pull it off, we’ll be driving to Port Dickson that little bit more often. Young Papaya Salad is Southern style Thai spicy and completely to my taste but without that particular balance of sweet and spicy that many people desire in a Som Tam. I love the fresh pomelo, sticky tamarind flavours, and particularly the zing of ginger but there are whole pieces of chilli in there so unless you are a hot head eater like me, I’d pick a different dish.  

The Verte, Avillion Port Dickson
Young Papaya Salad
I had my eye from the start on the Pan Roasted Lemongrass Duck Breast (RM 38 ++) served with tomato rice beetroot pickle and caramel orange sauce. On looks it does not disappoint and I find myself waiting impatiently while Monica takes its photograph. The flavours are delicate but true, adding something aromatic without detracting from the duck flavours. We comment that it is still surprisingly tender after its prolonged photo shoot.  My personal preference is for slightly pinker but it is hard to account for all tastes. The tomato rice is nuttily soft, and the caramel orange sauce on the zinger side which pleases us. But the beetroot pickle is a revelation and I selfishly tell Monica that she is only allowed one as I revel in the cinammony taste of my favourite root vegetable.  

The Verte, Avillion Port Dickson
Pan Roasted Lemongrass Duck Breast
The Thai Green Curry (RM 32++) comes with a pleasantly nutty steamed blue pea flower rice. Again watch out for the chilli in this dish although it is several steps down in heat from the Papaya Salad. I love the rustic style serving in a black iron pot. Sizeable chicken chunks have been stewed in a textured sauce that reeks of the original spice; we really feel that everything has been ground by hand, pestle and mortar way. I comment on the size of the portion and Chef says they often recommend this be taken as a sharing dish.

The Verte, Avillion Port Dickson
 Thai Green Curry
Portuguese Baked Seabass with Pesto (RM 30 ++) was another menu item that immediately drew my eye. The lightly spiced pesto topping is very, very moreish atop the thick moist fish. A garnish of okra and red onion adds a little crunch of freshness while a sharp tamarind chilli lime sauce can be added to complement this flavour packed concoction. A yum for me, I would definitely have this again. 

The Verte, Avillion Port Dickson
Portuguese Baked Seabass with Pesto 
Avillion food and beverage manager Mark Peter has been quite insistent that we try some of the party style drinks; Party Tubes are six test tubes of chilled shooter (75 RM ++). We admire a mixed ice bucket of these, and sip on one that is a creme de menthe/blue curaçao mix. The flights of shooters are tauntingly called ‘Dares’ (RM 50 ++): a series of three shots that Mark tells us have been carefully concocted to knock back in a particular order.  There are more ‘hard line’ combos involving Tequila, but consciousness of having work to do tomorrow, we decide to try Simple Sally to Sexy Lucy. It's a combination of three layered drinks: Candy Cane, After Eight and Busted Cherry. We can see how these could be fun for a group of friends having a weekend away or for hen parties and the like. 

The Verte, Avillion Port Dickson
Party Tubes
The Verte, Avillion Port Dickson
Dare
The Verte has impressed on ambience, on food, and on the sheer enthusiasm of everyone involved. The staff here seem so eager for it to go well, that I say to Monica I have to give them an ‘A for effort.’ We think that is worth making the trip from KL to eat here, either staying over or coming early and returning the same day. We are certainly intrigued to return to try the a la carte Sunday Brunch, but are trying to convince Mark to make it a Saturday Brunch with recuperative Spa treatment on Sunday before heading back to the city. Oh one can only put ideas on the table.

Reasons to visit: relaxed garden ambience, fresh and flavourful fusion cooking, friendly and attentive service.

The Verte
Avillion Port Dickson 
3rd Mile, Jalan Pantai 
71000 Port Dickson 
Negeri Sembilan 
Malaysia 
Opening Hours
Tuesday to Thursday 5pm to 11pm
Friday, Saturday and eve of public holidays 3pm to 11pm
Sunday (brunch) 10am to 2pm
Monday (except an eve of a public holiday) closed

13 comments:

  1. Duck looks good, and the green curry too. Definitely nicer than what I had (today's post)! :(

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    Replies
    1. Your meal did look rather lacking today :-(. But, you're right the green curry and duck were great choices at The Verte.

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  2. Looks like a place to favour the younger KL set?
    The duck and the Portuguese Baked Seabass appeal to me.
    What's with those small "shot" glasses and bottles?? Well that is
    what they resemble. Here I have been informed and not before time,
    that the serving of "shots" is being outlawed. The reason being that they
    influence binge drinking by the "idiot brigade".
    The bar tender with the cocktail seems to be really into the swing of things - ha ha.

    Moncia, you forgot to reply on what those "claws" are out into the Malacca - one of the
    busiest sea routes in the World and of strategic importance to that part of the world.
    I suppose the "claws" are for tourist and pleasure craft moorings?

    Interesting blog of the Port Dickson area of Malaysia.
    Cheers
    El Cordobes Colin, the middle triplet.
    PS: Still fantastic weather here for the EKKA show. Tomorrow
    is a public holiday for the Brisbane area. Should be a bumper crowd
    and for me - no way hosa with that crowd - ha ha.

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    Replies
    1. The seabass was one of my favourites. There seems to be quite a bit of street food/ stall type outlets in Port Dickson, but not many of this style of The Verte. I think all ages will be attracted to it for its bungalow setting surrounded by greenery, and also for the fact that there's nothing else quite like it in the area.
      The over water villas spread out over a number of different walkways so that they're built above the ocean. My best guess is that is what the 'claw' on the map is trying to representing - the seven walkways that take you to the villas.
      Not a fan of crowds either. I'm afraid I'd be giving the show a miss too - especially being in a big city. I might still be convinced to visit a country show though.

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  3. Avilion PD is one one of our family vacation spots. Nice to see a new restaurant open, will definitely try. I'm aiming that dripping cocktails. First time hearing about it!

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    Replies
    1. It was a first for me too! Fun idea though.

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  4. The duck breast looks tantalizing! :)

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  5. What an interesting mix!
    No Irish stew? That's popular in Ireland, right? ;)

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  6. What a nice space for a cup of evening drink!

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  7. The decor I like..
    The food, that looks good and nicely presented.
    The wine/cocktails, sound lovely..

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  8. the dishes and drinks look genuinely inventive & delicious :)

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  9. Great to see another restaurant at this favourite weekend getaway. Also love the style, looks like a refreshing change to the usual hotel stuff.

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