Lauraine Jacobs

Food & Wine Writer

1 March 2019

EATING FEBRUARY : AUCKLAND

Some of my highlights of eating out this month. The first of a new monthly series. All in restaurants are in Auckland.

• Red Wall 1939

With every bite of this almost Imperial food I felt my dinner to be an experience unmatched in any other Chinese restaurant in town. Presented almost formally in a beautiful room in the historic homestead overlooking Parnell Rose Gardens, it delivered a parade of nine exquisitely styled dishes. From the tiny hors d’oeuvres through to a splendidly sweet fresh crayfish tail with Oolong tea glaze, everything seemed consistently light and full of flavour. Highlights? A stunning chicken broth, and the excellent wine matched with every course. $$$$ (but great value.)

• Clooney

At a time when we’re all earnestly thinking about the very roots of food we eat in Aotearoa, along comes chef Nobu Lee to work with the passionate Tony Stewart at Clooney. I really loved their five course canape menu, preceding dinner, which absolutely nails the history of our food, with well thought out playful nods to Māori (tender mussels), iconic fish and chips, homegrown vegetables, innovation in aquaculture and the future (insects – not really my thing.) That room’s so dark I almost tripped up, but this is precision cooking and the focus is all about the food. I could happily eat all of the courses of dinner again too. Highlights: a slice of rare Pekin duck – (that skin!!) and superb beverage matching. $$$$

• Orphans Kitchen

For impromptu dining it would be hard to beat Tom Hishon’s impassioned and enthusiastic cooking that embraces everything that’s seasonal, simple and good. The seating is never that comfortable but the fresh light fare make this a fine place to go to for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I loved my fish (always thoughtfully sources and expertly cooked) with grapes and charred fennel, and the garden salad was exactly what any such touted salad should be – crisp, fresh and as green as green. Highlights: that fish and the excellent wines by the glass $$

• Farm to Table at Gusto

I don’t think there’s ever been such an amazing dinner with so much seemingly casual, delicious food as Sean Connolly’s collaborative dinner at Gusto. I keep on forgetting about this place, as it’s buried in the Sky City Grand Hotel. If anyone ever needed proof of the excellence of the produce from around Auckland’s city fringe farmers, this was a dinner to really show it all off. From the starter of Kaipara oysters to the absolutely perfect finish of a pure ice-cream made by Giapo with local buffalo milk, this was a contender for Dinner of the Decade. Who knew Auckland had such fabulous vegetables; fresh cauli, spuds, onions, eggplant, basil, cavolo nero, pumpkin, walnuts, mushrooms and of course Curious Croppers tomatoes (well we all knew them!) Highlight: The intense flavour of everything, the friends who gathered and the Value for Money. $$$

• Royal G, at Eastridge

As my wise 3 yr-old grandson said as we drove past Eastridge Shopping Centre in Orakei, “Look at all those dinner shops!” Such an exciting addition to the Eastern suburbs which almost rivals the North Shore for a dearth of really good culinary excellence. The best stop there in my opinion is Royal G, the brainchild of Javier Carmona who is an expert on pre-Hispanic cuisine, but here produces a play on Indian street food. It’s awesome Indian casual fare and every bite comes with a huge hit of flavour that will have me returning as often as I can. Highlights: the Fijian ceviche with fermented pineapple (pic above) and the Bombay street Sammy with its dirty butter chicken sauce. $