Awarded by Kerry Tyack, Food and dining expert & advisor
Growing up in the Waikato I recall tripe night - and dreading it. Every so often it would announce itself as ‘dish of the day’ by projecting its unique vomit-like odour all the way down the street, just in time to make me gag as I walked home from school. Part of me wanted to cut and run knowing that I was about to be served a bowl of milky, slimy, honeycombed beef belly lining laced with lashings of onions. The other half thought about how hungry I would be if I didn’t make it to the dinner table. Thankfully the tripe cooked by the super clever Tony Astle, Chef/Patron for 47 years at Antoine’s is a far cry from those schoolboy days. It’s been on his Nostalgia Menu for years, clear evidence it still has a fan club. Antoine’s tripe is soft and pillow-like, nuanced, tasty, delicately seasoned and utterly delicious, particularly when Astle’s bolshie peppercorn sauce kicks in. I don’t know why my elders enjoyed tripe so much. Back then it was a cheap cut of meat but I know that wasn’t the reason. Given my own, unhappy associations with tripe, I don’t know why I chose it off the Antoine’s menu when there are so many wonderful, less challenging options. What I do know is that Tony Astle’s treatment of this classic dish is unique and his success at getting me to enjoy a once despised dish is a testament to his genius.