I'll have to start this review with a disclaimer: I worked at Postmaster's for a few months, occasionally, sometimes once, sometimes twice a week. That being said, I certainly have a bias. But what I've found working in this industry for close to seven years now, and what other industry folks might recognize, is that this bias doesn't bode well for the restaurant. A restaurant that might seem perfect to a patron often has faults that only the staff can see. A chef or manager that seems friendly on the surface can turn into a monster under stress. I had never once left a restaurant I'd worked at for any period of time with a good impression. Not once.
That is, until my experience at Postmasters. Every single aspect of this place is as close to perfect as possible. I will write from the perspective of a patron (I dined there several times).
First, the atmosphere. It just doesn't get any better. Small, but not cramped. Two fire places. Plenty of windows, plenty of light. Clean, private toilets. Wrap around patio glowing with candlelight even in the winter months. Even with the small floor plan, they can accommodate a large table for up to 18 people, which actually gives a private dining feel as it takes up one of the three "rooms".
Second, the service. It is so nice to work in a place where I am not the best server. I think I'm pretty good, but there is no reason that a 24 year old should be the most proficient as was the case at the last 3 jobs I've worked. Their other servers are impeccable. I dined one night at 7pm, and was assured that it was not going to be too busy. The Mrs. and I walked in to a full restaurant besides our table and one other with a booking sign on it. We almost left, to take some of the stress of Fynn, the sole waiter of all 12 tables that night. He assured us to stay and I am so glad we did. We did cocktails, wine, entrees and mains, and dessert/champagne (try their 2002 Blanc de Blancs!), and our service felt as if we were the only ones in there. Not only was our service perfect, but from our position in the middle of the room, I watched him deliver equally perfect service to every table in eye sight. Just brilliant.
Third, the food. Sam will not let you down. I will always remember the venison Carpaccio as being the best Carpaccio I've ever had (and I just had a $30 Carpaccio at the nicest restaurant in my town which paled in comparison), the poached pear salad the most crisp, the venison main as the single most delicious meat dish I've ever had (think ultra-smokey potato puree, contrasting with sweet beetroot jam and honey roasted parsnips, providing the backbone for his always-perfectly grilled medium-rare venison steak). It just doesn't get any better. Couple that perfection with his humble nature, his desire to always improve, and a positive attitude and a love of his craft that translates smoothly to the dining room (which is really the key ingredient that you don't get most places), and you get the best dining experience in Central Otago, period. [and that's competing with Flame, Rata, etc . . ]
In a world where the whole foodie movement is growing both in New Zealand and in my home town in the States, it is a wonder that places like Postmasters are not more common. It is sad that something that is such an important part of our culture as humans has been simplified to a necessity; eating for fuel, working for money. But Sam and Maria at Postmaster's are bringing back the restaurant as an art, as a fixture of our culture, as something they love to do and that they do well. I would implore you to give them a shot whenever you are in the area, and they just might restore your faith in restaurants as they did mine.
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