Reviews from the last few weeks...
"Food trends come and go but there is some increasingly hard evidence showing the benefits of a plant-based diet on all areas of your physical and mental health. If you’re interested in this stuff, check out the website of Deakin University’s Food and Mood centre, where they’re taking a science-led approach to nutrition."
"They recently published the world’s first diet-depression randomised control trial and found that eating the right things (vegetables, fish, a bit of red meat) had a significant effect on treating depression. This isn’t some wellness blogger pseudo-science but hard research that mirrors efforts around the world to discover the effect microbiome health has on everything else." Read the full review here. - Viva, Jesse Mulligan, 23 May 2018
Karavan Delicatessen (Devonport) 4/5
"Tucked away from the main hubbub of Devonport is Karavan Delicatessen, an inviting, modern cafe with seating both inside and out. The outside area, bordered by a low white-picket fence, has tables and chairs set on a mat of fake grass. This will save customers getting their shoes muddy. There is an area for children to entertain themselves — though on our visit it was child-free." Full review here - Canvas, Sue Baxalle, 20 May 2018
Restaurant Review: Le Bistro des Gourmets, Parnell
"Or you could eat at Le Bistro des Gourmets in Parnell, a beautifully authentic French restaurant run by beautifully authentic French people, where the star dish on the night I visited was an entire roast kidney, and yet the maitre d’ was looking around his half-empty restaurant with a confused look on his face, like “why aren’t we as busy as McDonald’s?”.
I should add quickly that you don’t have to order the kidney (or the salad of gizzards and duck liver), as there is plenty for the less adventurous too. Next time (if it’s on, they change the menu very regularly) I will order the flank steak, which is safe enough to keep most people happy but will delight and surprise with its extra flavour." Read the full review here. - Viva, Jesse Mulligan, 16 May 2018
Garnet Station (Westmere) 4/5
"Housed in a semi-converted bungalow next to Westmere Primary (yes, it does get busy at drop-off and pick-up time), Garnet Station has none of the sleek lines of neighbourhood competitor Seabreeze down the road, instead it has a retro/mismatched cutlery/ "have I just walked into someone's living room?" vibe. Once you make your way past the entry to the cafe, with its appetising counter food (everything from teeny cupcakes to house-made pies and salads), the cafe gradually unfolds with a series of small rooms with old-school tables and chairs. The main room has a comfy window seat and sofa and a box of kids' toys (though co-owner Verity George, will remind your children, very politely but directly, to pack them away after playing if they don't do it off their own bat — and good on her)." Full review here - Canvas, Michelle Hurley, 12 May 2018
The Grove (Auckland) 5/5
"There was no apple tree in the Garden of Eden. This startling news comes courtesy of a BBC Radio 4 podcast interview with Pete Brown, author of The Apple Orchard. Last week, on the bus to work, everything I thought I knew about the Old Testament (spoiler: not much) was turned on its head. According to Brown, the only fruit mentioned by name in the Book of Genesis, is the fig." Full review here or Book Now. - Canvas, Kim Knight, 12 May 2018
Review: Terrace Tavern's early misfire forgiveable
"Expectations are high when new bars are opened by experienced operators.That's the case for Terrace Tavern – the latest addition to the Dux family of bars and restaurants established by Christchurch hospitality kingpin Richard Sinke. The clue to the location is in the name. It's nestled on the ground floor of The Terrace development in central Christchurch, looking out to the Avon River. With three Terrace establishments now open and three others in the neighbouring building, the area is, once again, a hive of activity." Read the full review here. - Stuff, Marc Greenhill, 30 April 2018
Top of the Drops: The Viva Team's Favourite Bars
"They do amazing cocktails at Azabu on Ponsonby Road, plus the Japanese snacks make the perfect accompaniment. It’s really dark inside (usually a good thing), super stylish, the manager Ken is really friendly and the cocktail menu changes regularly. My recent favourite was a ginger margarita. Apparently, the days to go for an early evening drink are Tuesday and Wednesday when the bar atmosphere is the most lively." Read the full review here. - Viva, 17 April 2018
Richmond and Domain Kitchen (Auckland) 3/5
"Richmond and Domain Kitchen has taken over the spot near the corner of Richmond Rd where another cafe, Jafa, used to be. I can't tell you how the new outfit compares to Jafa because I never went, even though I used to live five minutes down the road, because I am not a Jafa but rather a snobby Wellingtonian who disapproved of the former site's bad graphic design. However those credentials mean I can report that R and D ticks the box in terms of set-up: the floors are concrete, the ceiling is high, the beams are exposed and the many plants are hanging. There is also a fire, which in theory should have meant the space was cosy on the exceptionally wet and windy weekend morning we popped in, but a window had inexplicably been left open, making the cafe quite drafty." Read the full review here. - NZ Herald, Tess Nichol, 5 May 2018
Apero (Auckland) 16/20
"Apero would be a great place to take your mum this Mother’s Day, though the gentleman running the restaurant is so smooth you might want to think twice about bringing your dad.
Charming, confident, cosmopolitan — he’s everything your classic Kiwi bloke generally isn’t. While mum might enjoy being guided towards a Sicilian red when she asks for a pinot noir, your dad may well wonder why he came all the way to Karangahape Rd just to see his wife wondering what might have been if she’d succumbed to that flirtatious Contiki tour guide in ‘72" Read the full review here. - Viva, Jesse Mulligan, 3 May 2018
&Sushi (Auckland) 16/20
"They make it sound like an afterthought. An optional extra. But the sushi at &Sushi is no postscript.
"It's like being in a Christmas shop," said the man in the queue in front of us.
He was talking about the exquisitely beautiful piles of exquisitely tasty food that had caused a human traffic jam all the way back to the asphalt entranceway.
Top tip: If you want to guarantee a table, go early." Full review here. - Canvas, Kim Knight, 21 April 2018
Hayes Common (Hamilton) 4.5/5
"It used to be at least three things, said the friendly guy at the counter. "A butcher ... maybe a grocer?" Whatever it used to be, what it is now is a terrific suburban cafe. The stripped and polished brick bones of those former neighbourhood shops gleam against a polished concrete floor. Outside, the tables are large and shared; inside you get your own seat (or bar stool) in "rooms" loosely demarcated by stylish dividers. There is plenty of car parking and you're just across the road from the Waikato River walk — meander off those miso potatoes along the prettiest city path in the country." Full review here or Book Now. - Canvas, Kim Knight, 22 April 2018
The Fermentery (Wellington)
"We'd heard… The new restaurant at the Whistling Sisters brewery is already packed nightly. Headed up by award-winning chef John Allred (Osteria del Toro), the menu is inspired by fermentation and beer byproducts.
We ordered… The eggplant and pomegranate dip ($16) is a rough take on the classic baba ganoush - and the best thing I've found even close to the real thing in Welly. Packed with enough garlic to repel a vampire (we were warned and regret nothing) it is as smokey as it gets." Read the full review here. - Stuff, Janan Jay, 18 April 2018
The Grove (Auckland) 19/20
"Adjacent to the Sky Tower, the Fed Deli is right in the heart of Auckland's CBD. A small selection of wooden tables outside offer perfect viewing of those mad enough to jump from the top of the Southern Hemisphere's tallest tower. Inside, there's a deep row of booths, small tables, high tables or a counter seat, catering for solo diners up to groups of four, or six at a real squeeze. The fit-out is cosy in a way that is familiar while being technically foreign — the food and the vibe of the place is based on what you'd find on offer at a New York diner. Next door is sister store Depot, also owned by celebrity chef Al Brown — the two are so close they share a set of toilets." Read the full review here. - Viva, Jesse Mulligan, 18 April 2018
Fed Deli (Auckland) 4/5
"Adjacent to the Sky Tower, the Fed Deli is right in the heart of Auckland's CBD. A small selection of wooden tables outside offer perfect viewing of those mad enough to jump from the top of the Southern Hemisphere's tallest tower. Inside, there's a deep row of booths, small tables, high tables or a counter seat, catering for solo diners up to groups of four, or six at a real squeeze. The fit-out is cosy in a way that is familiar while being technically foreign — the food and the vibe of the place is based on what you'd find on offer at a New York diner. Next door is sister store Depot, also owned by celebrity chef Al Brown — the two are so close they share a set of toilets." Read the full review here. - NZH, Tess Nichol, 15 April 2018
Palate (Hamilton) 18/20
"At Palate, on Easter Saturday just gone, the cow was tequila coffee-cured reserve beef eye fillet. It was served with fried okra, celeriac, jalapeno, and crisp tendons ($19.50). There was no slideshow, but I wouldn't have minded extra guidance — there was a lot of information on my plate.
The meat was thinly sliced, but texturally dense. Almost-waxen discs of protein were laden with bubbly, puffy blobs of tendon that shattered like a fatty rice bubble. I thought the okra was superfluous, but mostly I loved this rich dish, whacked back into balance with that hot-cold pile of jalapeno-infused shredded celeriac." Read the full review here. - Canvas, Kim Knight, 15 April 2018
"The garden at Samara Thomas' Cambridge home is fully edible and most of the lawn has made way for vegetables as well.
It is the source of all the fragrant herbs, native spinach, kale and flowers you'll find on the plates at The Bikery, Thomas' friendly eatery tucked into the Avantidrome cycling complex, just north of Cambridge.
Thomas confirms, over coffee at her cafe, that the spunky herb salsa I'd had with my poached eggs for breakfast a few days earlier would have come via her garden. "It would have been parsley, Vietnamese mint for a bit of bite, spring onions and handfuls of other herbs blitzed with olive oil and some vinegar."" Read the full review here. - Stuff, Denise Irvine, 5 April 2018
Super (Auckland) - New Opening!
"New cafe Super has just taken over from Oaken in Britomart, serving classic brunches such as omelettes, shakshuka, eggs bene and banana bread.
It’s bound to be popular with those who like to keep things simple: head chef Oliver Fitton (The Chamberlain, Beirut) has pulled together a concise all-day menu.
It's also worth checking out their weekly burger special, plus there are salads and juices for the more health-conscious." Full article here. - Viva, 7 April 2018
Teddy's (Auckland) - New Opening!
"We have high hopes for Teddy’s, which has just opened its doors on Ponsonby Rd, filling the space where MooChowChow once was.
Co-owner Oliver Scutts, who’s also behind Annabel’s in Three Lamps, says the idea is to offer an unpretentious and uncomplicated space to enjoy lunch, dinner, or some after-work bites alongside an interesting mix of drinks.
He and business partner Rob Hill are friends with MooChowChow’s owner Mark Wallbank and say they “jumped at the chance” to realise a project they’d been thinking about for a few years." Full article here. - Viva, 6 April 2018
Cali Press (Auckland) - New Opening!
"The new cafe also brings a revamped menu, with fresh twists on our favourites, including new toast toppings and smoothies.
One of the new additions to the menu is the peanut butter and chocolate smoothie bowl – a creamy new creation made with almond mylk, banana, cacao, dates and peanut butter." Full article here. - Viva, 4 April 2018
Go Go Daddy (Auckland) - 16/20
"So the news from Auckland’s favourite restaurant empire is that Moochowchow and Honeybear have closed down, each replaced, in a sense, by the new Go Go Daddy, which slots into Honeybear’s Ponsonby Central corner space and serves Thai food a la Moochowchow." Full article here. - Viva, Jesse Mulligan, 4 April 2018
Clarence Road Eatery (Auckland) 13/20
"I once asked a former colleague to explain exactly how far across the harbour bridge he lived.
He narrowed his eyes and said (a little defensively, I thought): "The North Shore is not another country."
But it might as well be, right? On any given week-night, any given on-ramp is so slow you should probably pack snacks.
It was just after 1pm on a Saturday when we whizzed across the bridge. Little yachts bobbed in the water, the sun was doing that thing where it flares under thunder clouds and Northcote Point was lit like a movie star." Read the full review here. - Canvas, Kim Knight, 7 April 2018
Williams Eatery (Auckland)
"It's a straightforward Scandi rectangle of a room, cool, stony, monochromy. Perfectly matching pale wood tables line up precisely, the tabular uniformity interrupted only by a communal stone table at the end of the long space. It's on the ground floor of a lovely new timber-heavy complex called Wynyard Central. Running the show are brothers Charles and Patrick Williams, who formerly worked together at now-defunct Grafton joint Ceremony, which was a tiny, cool slice of genius in an area that craved it." Read the full review here. - Canvas, Greg Bruce, 7 April 2018
Sidart (Auckland) 20/20
"At Sidart, the toilet paper is en pointe. Literally. I went to the bathroom twice, and both times, the roll ended in a neat triangle.
Who does this?
No, seriously, who does this, because every time I looked around every staff member was fully occupied tending to every customer's every gustatory need. Attention to detail? I was surprised there wasn't a chocolate on my pillow when I got home.
It was just a regular Wednesday. We established this when we booked online, when someone phoned to confirm our booking on the day and when we were escorted to a table with a gazillion-dollar view. "No special occasion," we said, cheerfully. And then Sidart proved us wrong." Read the full review here. - Canvas, Kim Knight, 24 March 2018
Major Tom (Auckland) 5/5
"I don't think it's a good idea to give an eatery a 100 per cent score. There is always something — for us the coffee could have been warmer — and besides, you don't want them to think they have nailed it and to stop trying. But then I also read that Major Tom is solar-powered. And that makes up for the tepid coffee." Read the full review here. - Canvas, Helen Van Berkel, 25 March 2018
Good Street Deli (Christchurch)
"I don't mind if a dining establishment has a small menu, but I do mind if those few dishes aren't nailed.
For a cafe with a modest lunch menu – just five options, three of which also appear as breakfast offerings – my dining companion and I expect The Good Street Deli's kitchen to execute them all perfectly." Read the full review here. - Stuff, Jo Gilbert, 23 March 2018
Egmont St Eatery (Wellington)
"Wed heard That the CBD favourite was now under the guidance of Rob Essenburg?, a chef from Chicago with a penchant for making vegetables the star of the show.
We ordered a trio of savoury, slightly firm profiteroles ($10), stuffed with taleggio. We suggest popping a whole one in your mouth to get a burst of creamy cheese and honey. We were offered an extra one so we wouldn't fight over the third ($2), which was definitely a good decision. A glass ramekin of creme fraiche ($12) came topped with an umami-smashing, texturally exciting combo of fragments of crispy potato, salmon roe and capers. " Read the full review here. - Stuff, Janan Jay, 21 March 2018
Pukeko Junction Cafe & Deli (Christchurch)
"If you go... Don't rush your visit. We stopped at Pukeko Junction Cafe en route to Hanmer Springs. The plan was to grab some takeaway coffees and drive on, but the smell of bacon, and the sun-drenched deck drew us in. Before we knew it we were happily stretched out under the rustic veranda, sipping on two of the best coffees we've had in quite some time with breakfast on the way." Read the full review here. - Stuff, Laura Baker, 21 March 2018
Piccolo (Christchurch) 3.5/5
"In a perfect world, every suburb would have a neighbourhood Italian restaurant.
You know the kind of place: red-and-white checked tablecloth, reliable pizza, comforting pasta dishes, maybe even those old-fashioned, basket-wrapped bottles of Chianti on the table. The kind of place that even were it not run by an Italian grandmother, it would at least do a convincing job of making you believe it was." Read the full review here. - Stuff, Alastair Paulin, 22 March 2018
Spice Alley (Auckland) 13/20
"Taro custard with fried shallots and coconut cream is an acquired taste that I have failed to acquire.
I am not alone. I really wanted to embrace the sweet-savoury profile of khanom mo kaeng ($10). I really wanted my guest's first night sans child or husband in two years to be special.
The next day, she emailed me politely: "It was so nice to get out and eat onion pudding like a normal person."" Read the full review here. - Canvas, Kim Knight, 17 March 2018
Monte Cervino (Wellington) 5/5
"While its mainstay is, of course, its restaurant, you need time to explore the extensive gardens (complete with p?wakawaka), aviaries and gift shops. And, for the younger guests, there's the most impressive playground fort my dining companion and I have ever seen." Read the full review here. - Stuff, David Burton, 15 March 2018
Williams Eatery (Auckland) - New Opening!
"Newly opened Williams Eatery is the first business to set up shop in Wynyard Quarter’s new residential and hospitality precinct Wynyard Central. Charles and Patrick Williams are the brothers behind the cafe and say the idea for it was sparked while working together at Grafton cafe Ceremony, which closed at the end of last year. “We’ve always loved creating a space for others to come in to enjoy and relax,” says Charles." Full article here. - Viva, India Essuah, 13 March 2018
As it happened we were fine, but the downstairs dining room was still packed enough that when it was time to leave, a group of women had to stand up and tuck in their chairs, while one innocent bystander was walloped in the head by my maroon Herschel sports bag." Full article here. - Viva, Jesse Mulligan, 14 March 2018
Riverstone Kitchen (Oamaru) 5/5
"While its mainstay is, of course, its restaurant, you need time to explore the extensive gardens (complete with p?wakawaka), aviaries and gift shops. And, for the younger guests, there's the most impressive playground fort my dining companion and I have ever seen." Read the full review here. - Stuff, Jo Gilbert, 12 March 2018
Sake Bar Icco (Auckland) 15/20
"They do sake, obviously, but tall cold beers and an iced plum wine were the order of the day — eventually. Icco gets busy, and the service is a little stretched. Do yourself a favour and exercise the kind of gentle, patient calm employed by the waitstaff. Icco means "one house" and while plenty of restaurants spin the "mi casa, su casa" mantra, here it feels authentic." Read the full review here. - Canvas, Kim Knight, 11 March 2018
The Collins (Auckland)
"It's in an old villa and has retained a lovely brick fireplace, an old ceiling blocked into textured squares by varnished wooden beams and the kinds of features that you look at with your dining companions and say, "that must have been the original hallway … " But ... On a hot and humid summer Saturday morning, a fan may have eased the temperature inside from a migraine-inducing sauna. Yes, Collins offers outdoor seating (full) but inside nothing cooled our sweaty brows." Read the full review here. - Canvas, Helen van Berkel, 11 March 2018
Monzu (Auckland) 14/20
"I went to Monzu looking for exuberance and excess but what I got was an odd restraint. It's a cliche to associate Italian food with cheerful charm, but there was a disconnect between the formal service (Spinosa admirably excepted), the austerity of the room, and a menu packed with references to childhood memories and mamma's recipes." Read the full review here. - Canvas, Kim Knight, 3 March 2018
Cassia (Auckland) 11/20
"Multiple winner of the best restaurant in Auckland award, it has become the place you go when you need to eat somewhere that is definitely good. After all, that’s the reason I was there, trying to make up for a dud meal last week and, let’s be truthful, to satisfy some professional curiosity I had over the recent consensus that this is THE best eatery in the city." Full article here. - Viva, Jesse Mulligan, 7 March 2018
Mad Samurai (Auckland) 11/20
"Like very short men, small Japanese restaurants rely heavily on their personalities. Think of the fabulous Icco in Morningside which, yes, serves great food but would be easily forgettable if it weren’t for the numerous tiny touches they’ve applied to make it their own." Full article here. - Viva, Jesse Mulligan, 28 February 2018
The Butcher's Son (Auckland)
"The Butcher's Son is right next door to Herne Bay watering hole The Elbow Room, but they are playing to quite a different crowd I suspect. Barely open a month, it's a lovely, big space, with outdoor seating that flows into a serene room — note the chocolatey treats in the cabinet on your way in — with pine tables paired with provincial-style crossback chairs, boxed greenery and an enigmatic sign pointing to a "greenroom" towards the back of the room. Turns out it's a space you can hire, or just eat at if it's free. Most of the customers were women, many were young … did I mention that the Butcher's Son is vegan?" Read the full review here. - Canvas, Michelle Hurley, 24 February 2018
Hot Hot Asian (Auckland) 14/20
"By 6.30pm the place is packed. Are these heaving tables of alpha female achievers eating before an evening of debauchery or does Team Millennial just go to bed very early? In any case, they can't get a cocktail here because the menu is in a state of flux and right now the lychee margarita, etc, is off the list. There is, however, beer and wine ($8-$14) and it is mercifully chilled." Read the full review here. - NZ Herald, Kim Knight, 24 February 2018
Urban Verge (Auckland)
"There's been a cafe on this prime site across the road from Cornwall Park for years, but now it has new owners (actually the original owners have returned), it's had a makeover and a quite good new name, which is nicely evocative of its sense of place. There are tables on the footpath out the front, it's good and light inside and there's a little outdoor terrace at the back, with a pretty decent collection of toys for the kids and a good-sized chalkboard on which they (or you) can unleash creatively." Read the full review here. - NZ Herald, Greg Bruce, 18 February 2018
Lillius (Auckland) 18/20
"It is a clue to the calibre of this restaurant that when the waitperson brought me a spoon, I was excited. Soup? Pudding? Hard-boiled eggs and toast? Two courses into a five-course "kitchen's choice" experience, I was ready for anything.
"New season's perla potatoes," said the waitperson. "With a wholemeal pikelet for mopping up."
My nose tasted it first. Those waxy little spuds had been doused in a sticky, stinky cheese sauce. Tiny circles of green bean added crunch; the pikelet had a tangy, fermented funk. Sometimes I buy perlas at Countdown, but when I cook them they just taste like potatoes." Read the full review here. - NZ Herald, Kim Knight, 17 February 2018
Charlotte's Kitchen (Paihia) 8/10
"A sodden sky has rendered the view from the end of Paihia wharf obsolete. Russell has disappeared in the rain. My hair, clothes and feet are wet, but it is 21 degrees at dinnertime and some of that could be sweat. It is too humid to eat, way too hot to be nice to people.
I guess that might help.
On a work trip to the winterless north, Charlotte's Kitchen was a bright spot on a drenched waterfront. Book ahead, because it gets busy. Tonight's crowd includes families, tourists and a group of locals celebrating a birthday. They have an all-day menu, a wood-fired pizza oven and a drinks list that includes Bay of Island wines and locally brewed McLeods beer. All of this is very nice, but if you like pork, consider pre-ordering your piggiest dreams — the knuckle comes as a minimum 1kg serve." Read the full review here. - NZ Herald, Kim Knight, 3 February 2018
Asian Ruby (Auckland) 8/10
"The Christmas tree is still up at Asian Ruby, which adds to the sense of crazy joy that surrounds the place. You know when you’re at a party and you’ve got your “on” personality turned up to 10, showing interest in the most minor conversational tidbits, laughing at things that wouldn’t be jokes in any other situation, keeping your eyes wide and alert?" Book now or read the full article here. - Viva, Jesse Mulligan, 24 January 2018
Jervois Steak House (Auckland)
"The neighbours were searing chops. I could smell the fat and the spatter. I imagined the salty, juicy first bite of expertly grilled meat. I cancelled plans to open a can and called the Jervois Steak House and Saloon.
A week out from Christmas, and the place was packed. End-of-year get-togethers, carnivorous couples, packs of men with loosened ties and loosened wallets — those steaks start at $40 and finish at $160." Book now or read the full article. - NZ Herald, Kim Knight, 14 January 2018
Asian Ruby (Auckland)
"You get to Asian Ruby down a steep and wonky set of brick stairs. The main dining room decor includes a model boat, a rickshaw and a flat-screen television broadcasting the kitchen's best efforts — book a table in the pretty back courtyard (and skip the next paragraph) if you'd prefer not to know what's coming next." Book now or read the full article. - NZ Herald, Kim Knight, 16 December 2017
Next Door (Auckland) 7.5/10
"The service is warm and knowledgeable, careful and precise. We got such good treatment that I wondered if I’d been spotted as a reviewer but it turns out they’re just like that with everybody." Book now or read the full article here. - Viva, Jesse Mulligan, 14 December 2017
The Best Auckland Restaurants of 2017
"Check out the top-rated restaurants of the year. Food critic Jesse Mulligan gives us his top picks. " Book now or read the full article here. - Viva, Jesse Mulligan, December 2017
Masu (Auckland) 10/10
"We sat at the bar overlooking the kitchen, and this is definitely the place to be. Kitchen staff chat away, most of them loyal employees from Simon’s past who’ve taken this new leap with him because they believe in him as a boss." Book now or read the full article here. - Viva, Jesse Mulligan, 12 December 2017
Mum and Dad set strict rules for the dinner table.
As the lowest links in the food chain, Stephen and I had to lay the table — the cutlery, the place mats, and fold the serviettes inside everyone's individual rings.
Food was on the table at 6 and all five children were expected to be there, hands washed, no excuses, before Dad said grace. And before anyone asked permission to leave the table, Dad insisted we say thank you to the cook.
And that's what I'm going to do today.
However, it's only recently become a trend in Auckland, and it's largely thanks to talented chef Javier Carmona.
Han (Auckland) 9/10
My dinner is on fire and I am not sure what to do. Rendered pork fat is dripping on to glowing charcoal, igniting flames that render more pork fat.
It is a vicious-delicious cycle. But what if the flames get sucked up the extractor fan? What if they spark into the wiring? What if we all go down in a blaze of authentic Korean barbecue?
"Don't worry," says the waitperson. "This is completely normal." He has been like this all evening. Quietly, reassuringly, brilliant.
"It's been one of Auckland's greatest culinary mysteries: why hasn't fine pacific cuisine been available in restaurants in the world's large Polynesian city. For celebrated kiwi chef Robert Oliver it was a contradiction that needed fixing, so six months ago he co-founded Kai Pasifika at the top of Mt Eden Rd in Newton.
"There was a lot of questioning around why there wasn't a Pacific restaurant in Auckland," says Oliver. "I think part of the reason is that while Pacific people know how good the food is, the perception of the food through tourism is not great."
Beast & Butterflies 9/10
The menu is billed as Pacific Rim with street food influences. This downplays the finesse that lifts, say, a plate of shiitake and tofu gyoza ($17) from dumpling to daring. Delicate crimped parcels arrived beneath a lacy wisp of soy and sesame-infused starch. Style and substance.
"Look at those suckers," said my dining companion. "That's definitely octopus."
She was right. There was no disguising the origin of this beast, but onion flowers lent elegance and flavour, and a crunchy tangle of fennel and celery contrasted beautifully with the tender tentacles ($22).
Beast & Butterflies proclaims it's "feeding the fabulous". Thank you, and right back at you: we were being fabulously fed and even the plates exceeded expectation - they were reminiscent of sea glass, echoed in pale green and gently curved water tumblers.
Hanger steak is the meat you order when you want to be that person who knows vegetable yoghurt is going to be the next big food trend (truly, I heard it on a podcast last week). It's slightly chewy, super flavoursome and, in this case, seared alongside snowpeas and broccolini, ensuring the lady diner gets both types of dietary iron ($23).
Next Door Bistro (Auckland) 4/5 Stars
"At Next Door Bistro, chef Bryan McGruer, who has run kitchens both good (The Grill, Jervois Steak House) and otherwise (Nomad), has deconstructed the banh mi. "Deconstructed" is a word that usually makes me flinch - McGruer's "Caesar basket", which I ate at Nomad when it first opened, was probably the silliest single dish I have ever eaten - but the Flavours of Banh Mi, which he does here, is bloody marvellous." Book now or read the full article here. - NZ Herald, 29 October 2017
Rosie (Auckland) 8/10
"It was Monday, and Rosie was heaving. I'd called ahead from the poorer side of town, but everything that could be booked, had been. I wheedled. I promised we'd get in a cab immediately. Okay, relented the maitre d', who didn't just save us a table, but shifted us to a less draughty one as soon as she was able. Turns out Monday nights are BYO. Genius. There's nothing people with money like more than the opportunity to save more money." Book now or read the full article here. - NZ Herald, Kim Knight, 28 October 2017
"Cazador celebrates 30 years as a family-owned business next month. The restaurant was passed down from executive chef Dariush Lolaiy’s parents Barbara and Tony to Lolaiy and his wife Rebecca Smidt (pictured above) in 2012. A locally sourced, game-centric menu has been heavily refined over the years, seeing Lolaiy crowned Metro’s Chef of the Year for 2017, and the restaurant winning Best Neighbourhood Bistro, too." - Book now or read the full article here. Noted, Katie Richards, 25 October 2017
Inti (Auckland) 9/10
"I really liked Meat Fish Wine, but unfortunately the rest of you hated it. It’s okay, I can handle it. We’re usually on the same page, you and me, but occasionally we can’t come to an agreement. And let’s be honest, your voice counts more than mine because, although I can tell the world what I think, only you can close a place down." Book now or read the full article here. - Viva, Jesse Mulligan, 4 October 2017
Clarence Road Eatery (Auckland)
The restaurant, after a four-month refit, certainly looks the part: lovely tiles, handsome striped banquettes, blond chairs. It bills itself as a "family affair", so presumably some of the five partners are related to Simon and Jacquie Mackenzie from the well-regarded Stafford Rd Wine Bar along the street, who are principals. Hip Group connections are mentioned, but it's hard to think of anything Hip Group about this place.
The Halcyon (Auckland)
"Our dinner at The Halcyon was like the proverbial curate's egg; parts of it were excellent. The restaurant, a subsidiary of Ponsonby Rd Bistro, occupies the two adjoining rooms at the top of Wanganui Ave that were home for as long as I can remember to Andiamo. It takes its name from the Greek word for kingfisher (the connection between that and "halcyon days" is a long but interesting story if you want to look it up)." - NZ Herald, 24 September 2017
Headquarters (Auckland) 8.5/10
"Winner, winner, chicken dinner. When I say the flesh was waxen, I mean that in the plumpest, most toothsome manner possible. Our waitperson confirmed the bird had been brined for a day, before taking a slow turn on the rotisserie." Book now or read the full article here. - NZ Herald, Kim Knight, 23 September 2017
"After 10 years in the game, one of the country’s best fine-dining establishments is closing its doors come Christmas. Owner Michael Meredith is saying goodbye to Merediths, with plans to give more through food." Book now or read the full article here. - Viva, Sarah Downs, 20 September 2017
Gas Monkey (Christchurch)
"You'd be forgiven for thinking you've gone bananas stepping into Gas Monkey. Everywhere you look there are primate pictures, gorilla geegaws and monkey mementoes, from simians smoking and drinking to chimps playing the cello." Read the full review here. - Stuff, Alastair Paulin, 21 September 2017
"You don't need a special occasion to indulge in this 'not-so-daunting degustation. Dining out involves a panoply of considerations; will your chosen destination be begrudging of overactive children? How long will it take before you can inhale the first delicacy? Have the staff at your favourite restaurant already seen you three times this week? If the answer is yes to all of the above then we’re calling for a change — a shake-up in your eating-out repertoire as it stands." Book now or read the full review here. - Denizen, Madeline Saxton-Beer, 20 September 2017
"Ostro is such a grown-up and pretty eating space. At night, with the city's lights glinting on the Waitemata, you can almost ignore the tragedy that is the immediate view - a waterfront drowning in cars." Book now or read the full review here. - NZ Herald, Kim Knight, 16 September 2017
Hello Vietnam (Christchurch)
"Faced with two extra six-foot plus teens to feed, one of them a visiting No 8 for the Nelson College First XV, we were looking for somewhere cheap and cheerful. Hello Vietnam fit the bill. We got a friendly welcome and a large corner table with a lazy Susan accommodated our party of seven. The restaurant looks a bit sterile from the outside, with the two exterior walls mostly glass, and inside some neon blue ceiling lights give the impression of a souped-up Subaru, but the nearly full room was warm and welcoming." Read the full review here. - Stuff, Alastair Paulin, 14 September 2017
My first thought was that Ostro was being a bit cheap when my king prawn salad ($24) arrived with the main attraction sliced vertically in half, but this dish was more than the sum of its parts. Buttery gem lettuce and a creamy (and surprisingly spicy) chipotle dressing contrasted texturally with cucumber, pumpkin seeds and slivers of crispy pork jowl. The prawns went with everything (and there were enough of them to go with everything).
Could Ostro score a hat-trick with a charred octopus salad ($21)? Yes, it could. Grapefruit for cut-through, capers for briny, salty interest and little spikes of green chilli paired perfectly with the octopus.
Dinner was heading for a perfect 10, when the potato-topped snapper, prawn and lobster pie arrived. Where the humble kahawai had been exalted beyond expectation, in this case, the luxe ingredients were lessened. The pie was nice, but it was $44 and I wanted every mouthful to taste like justification, not peppery mashed potato topping. (In terms of bang for your buck, get the $12 side of fried brussels sprouts: huge, and the sweet hits of sultana are spot-on).
Read Full Article Kim Knight 16th September
"More than 40 years ago, I did my OE in South America. The handbook said $5 a day, but I typically spent $2 - $1 for a hotel and $1 for everything else - so I didn't get much fine local cuisine. Dinner most nights was fried potato and a chunk of unidentifiable and unchewable meat, cooked over a charcoal fire built in an old hubcap, and served on a tin plate." Book now or read the full review here. - NZ Herald, 3 September 2017
Ampersand (Auckland) 9.5/10
"You can’t go wrong with this menu — though I’d be disappointed if you didn’t try the duck bisteeya, featuring stewy bird wrapped in flaky pastry, sitting on a butternut puree, drizzled in duck jus and topped with crunchy pinenuts and a salty sweet caper-raisin salsa piled into a little pyramid." Book now or read the full article here. - Viva, Jesse Mulligan, 7 June 2017
Giraffe (Auckland) 9.5/10
"We sat at the bar overlooking the kitchen, and this is definitely the place to be. Kitchen staff chat away, most of them loyal employees from Simon’s past who’ve taken this new leap with him because they believe in him as a boss." Book now or read the full article here. - Viva, Jesse Mulligan, 5 July 2017
Blue Breeze Inn (Auckland) 9.5/10
"You can tell within two seconds of walking through the door that Blue Breeze Inn is one of the very best restaurants in the country. I’ve eaten there a few times now and the atmosphere has always been superb... " Book now or read the full article here. - Viva, Jesse Mulligan, 19 April 2017
"We were only three and we were ordering everything. It wasn't a lot, since the menu was slimmed down for summer. But the waitress, who it turns out, was co-owner Leah Escondo, visibly blanched at our gluttonous plans. So I said she could hold the bulgogi. I don't think she realised how much this pained me." Book now or read the full review here. - NZ Herald, 15 January 2017
"Eggs benedict is eggs benedict pretty much wherever you go. But we had a hankering for something else, something a bit different, something with a touch of spice. Casablanca offered that spice on a cold, wet and windy Sunday morning." Book now or read the full review here. - NZ Herald, 13 August 2016