Lauraine Jacobs

Food Writer and Author of Delicious Books


1 July 2014


At a time when huge budgets for restaurant openings and big named chefs abound throughout the city it is heartening to see an enthusiastic young team embark on a modest new restaurant project that gains instant acclaim. A brother and sister team, Hailey Boock Rodger and Elliot Boock, who grew up in neighbouring Grey Lynn, together with Hailey's chef husband Craig Rodger, have already attracted favourable reviews for their new venture, Loop in Kingsland.

Kingsland is almost door-to-door eating establishments these days, although it seems that most of the places have their eyes firmly fixed on watering the football and cricket crowds who flow through the Kingsland train station to adjacent Eden Park. So it is great to see young people who put food first and foremost operating this genuine restaurant, albeit one that is casual and a tad quirky.

When the team moved in they stripped out most of the fittings; what remains is a glorious white-tiled kitchen, a feature in itself, and it looks to be a serious centre for the creation of some interesting fare. It is openly viewed from most points in the large airy space of the dining area, and at the rear there is a huge photographic portrait of chef Craig Rodger's favourite culinary hero, Marco Pierre White. Interesting hero worship, for Rodger is serious and shy, unlike the brassy bad boy of the British culinary scene. The connection I believe is that both are genuinely passionate about food.

So what about other little bits of quirkiness? Well. I loved the industrial lights, specially imported from IKEA in Oz, the very comfortable and generous white chairs and the odd jugs of flowers decorating a few of the wooden tables. The walls are vast and high, and at the top of each side of the restaurant are the original painted advertisements running the length of the room, giving a clue to the idea that maybe these premises originally housed a grocery store.

But even better, the art is fascinating. A friend of the Boock-Rodgers, Tyrone Lane, painted two of the collection of interesting pictures that adorn the walls. The large one is a busy pedestrian scene at the Queen and Wellesley Street intersection in Auckland’s downtown filled with people all crossing the streets. Look carefully and you might spot Lorde and Taylor Swift walking together, or some mates of the artist. I thought I identified Elliot. And on the facing wall is a smaller painting of the Laundromat on Karangahape Rd and who is that lurking outside? Would-be-if-he-could-be political influencer Kim Dotcom and his former wife Mona. Very funny indeed.

The food too is a tad quirky and I like that. My two favourite items on the menu are ‘bacon and eggs’ and ‘pineapple lumps.’ Neither are to be missed. The bacon and eggs (see the photo) make a fabulous starter. Chef Craig Rodger hails from Scotland where he enjoyed a classic Europe training. His play on bacon and eggs is beautifully crafted; a Scotch quail's egg juxtaposed with a couple of squares of meaty pork belly, garnished with wonderful triangles of crisp paper-thin crackling, pea shoots and celeriac.

His pineapple lump dessert is new on the menu. Fascinated with those delicious chocolate covered pineapple marshmallow chunks of deliciousness we all grew up with, chef Craig did some research and discovered they were the creation of Charles Diver at the Regina Confectionery Company in Oamaru in the early fifties. He spotted an early handwritten recipe and was inspired to de-construct the pineapple lump, as chefs do. This glorious dessert centres on a long sticky slice of chocolate terrine, surrounded by blocks of pineapple marshmallow and a wedge of glace style fresh pineapple. I love a thinking chef!

Hailey and Craig are committed to a healthy diet and this is reflected in the overall menu. I felt like a spy when I read it for the first time as there are endless codes to decipher. They prove to be useful however as LCHF is low carb high fat, GF gluten free, V vegetarian and DF dairy free. (Goodness me, where are all these people coming from that a restaurant has to turn to this?) Do not fear. Be that as it may, the menu is jolly good and filled with things that will please most people whether they worry about these requirements or not.

I loved the afore mentioned bacon and eggs, and a chunky coq au vin terrine that has since been replaced by a rich duck liver parfait with beetroot puree, roast artichoke, pistachios, quince and bread. (You can ditch the bread and the dish becomes LCHF if you must.)

There are just five entrees and five mains which change out every 8-10 weeks to reflect the seasons. Even though that number of choices may seem limiting, you just sense everything is going to be fresh and invigorating.

When it came to main course choices, I was impressed at the simplicity. My slow braised daube of beef had been in the oven for 24 hours and literally melted in my mouth, as it should. The accompaniments were lovely; butternut and ginger, cucumber, coriander and a spiced coconut emulsion. Just the right amount of flavour hits for a cold wintry night. The market fish (kingfish) was stacked with good old fashioned braised carrots and lots of lovely greens and fresh and deliciously light.

Vegetarians are thoughtfully catered for; rosemary and brown butter gnocchi to start and a complex main dish of rolled aubergine and mushroom with couscous, harissa, butternut, macadamia and roasted broccoli. And wouldn’t you know it, every single of those dietary codes were satisfied by that one dish! Praise on high!

There are lots of sides to choose for those who feel the need including some rather wicked twice cooked chips with parmesan aioli and rosemary salt, or the terribly trendy kale slaw with far too many healthy components for me. And lovely desserts, especially that pineapple lump plate and that old favourite, a Baileys affogato.

The wine list is concise and interesting with some of the usual suspects that diners are comfortable with, but also a nice selection of French wines from Maison Vauron (and their delicious imported French cheese too.) A few craft beers enhance a predictable choice of tap beers, and for those waiting or on their own there’s a cute little bar with a display of quirky Scotch whisky jars the Boock's grandfather gifted them.

Of course, service by the owners is never going to be a problem as the commitment to this restaurant shows from the steady stream of food that arrives promptly from the kitchen to the warm interested welcome diners get from the front of house team.

LOOP, 462 New North Rd, Kingsland T09 849 4448

Open dinner Wed to Sun from 6pm. Lunch/Brunch Fri - Sun