Beef pesto is a dish I’ve been thinking a lot about in the past few years. It’s a dish I created and put on the menu at the original Sugar Club in Wellington in 1987. It was then on the two subsequent Sugar Clubs in Notting Hill (1995) and Soho (1998). When I opened the newest incarnation of The Sugar Club three years ago, on the fifty-third floor of the Sky Tower in Auckland, I put it back on the menu with a sense of trepidation. I wondered if it would stand the test of time. It certainly has. It became our biggest seller and there were many customers who remembered it from those earlier days and said it was exactly the same – which it should be as I’ve really not changed the recipe (apart from using tamari instead of soy sauce, due to an increasing amount of customers with a gluten intolerance).
We hosted a dinner celebrating The Sugar Club at The Providores two years ago and served this as one of the courses and it went down a storm. So we put it on the menu and it soon became our bestselling meat dish. I loved the fact it had a new audience and people began to speak of it as a classic.
I’ve been asked by my chefs many times how I came up with the idea of it, the combination of beef fillet marinated in soy, garlic, vinegar and a little chilli. Why, they asked, then grill it and sit on a warm salad of raw beetroot julienne (raw – really!), steamed Swiss chard and courgettes, tossed with a grain mustard dressing? Then why oh why dollop pesto on top and serve with black olives and a drizzle of jus? It’s a good question and one that possibly won’t make any sense to anyone but me. But I’ll try.