Lauraine Jacobs

Food & Wine Writer

30 March 2015

ODETTES

A little background first. The old City Works Depot site stood waiting for years while developers mucked about, trying to get the site covered in monstrous new buildings and failing that, a residential enclave that may have extended those disgraceful housing blocks cluttering the top of Hobson Street. Thankfully good sense prevailed and the large airy sheds on the land have been renovated, broken up into very interesting spaces and house all sorts of creative uses. It is now a fun precinct to visit, day or night, and the best news is there’s reasonable parking available round the clock.

Al Brown has his office and development kitchen there for his ever expanding empire (tucked behind his Ugly Bagel shop), the media giant Bauer has vast offices below, other spaces are taken by ad agencies and creative, you can get your hair blow dried over a cup of tea, or pick up flowers for a date, and then there is food, good coffee, cakes and drink. Lots of it.

The newest arrival is the best yet. Odettes Eatery sits in the centre, oozing comfort and offering a thoughtful menu that changes a little throughout the day to suit the appetite. It is the brainchild of Clare and Joost van den Berg who ran two wonderful chic eateries on the North Shore, Zus & Co and Zomer, before selling up to concentrate on their city venture. They planned the interior themselves, with minimal guidance from site architect Nate Cheshire, and the result is stunning in every detail. The large, almost square room is light and airy, and decorated in a gorgeous palate of restful blues and greens, with an outstanding feature of a wall of teal green tiles surrounding the open bar and kitchen behind, juxtaposing a sleek timber wall opposite. Banquettes and attractively places corner tables are furnished with the most comfortable seating around – with lots of cushions that seem to cry out “sit here and relax.” And two other features, the large artwork by Slim Aarons and some drop dead gorgeous globes of glass lighting than hang over the room, are just perfect. And while the warmer weather lingers on, diners can eat out in the adjacent stunning outdoor plaza. You may never want to leave.

Fittingly, the menu is in total sync with this exhibition of good taste and high fashion. Chef, Josh Cucharick’s food meets all the demands of the modern diner and there is something for everyone, as long as they are prepared to be a little adventurous. His flavours tend to Middle Eastern tastes and are very tasty with the spices and lovely sour notes that region is known for. The van den Bergs wanted a city style menu to suit anyone, anytime, so they open for breakfast and lunch seven days and for dinner on Tuesday to Saturday.

The breakfast/brunch menu is way different from the expected ‘eggs with everything’ that dominate most other cafes and restaurants around town. And all the fashionable dieters will love current offerings like a dish of ancient grains bircher with almond milk, marinated berries and toasted almonds, an egg white omelette with tomatoes and a fresh and zesty smashed avocado, chili and coriander on toasted rye. Fancy something heartier, then there’s a brioche burger with pork sausage or the lovely Tahitian vanilla crepes with lemon yogurt, blueberry compote and mandarin sugar. All complemented by delicious juices and smoothies that reek of freshness and good health.

Lunch and dinner menus are similar; divided into sections ‘bites’, ‘for sharing’, mains, and desserts. It is hard to understand why the bites and sharing items are separated, as if you have a knife and fork it’s pretty easy to share anything. (Dishes that are hard to share are broths and soupy dishes, as the thought of dipping spoons in constantly is a little worrying.) But that’s a very minor quibble.

Standouts enjoyed alone have been the soft shell crab slider and a delicious Vanuatu Prawn steam bun. The beef cheek fritters are very moreish, and spinach empanadas with kidney beans, quark and dill were delicious. I usually love fresh kingfish served sashimi style but at one recent shared lunch we all agreed that we‘d have loved something more than the dry and crunchy coconut shreds and crisp popped rice that adorned it. Even a little lemon juice we requested didn’t help that lovely kingfish to shine! Our seared Atlantic scallops, large and plump with shreds of confit pork hock and a salsa verde was much more successful dish and we all voted the saffron tortellini with yogurt curd, spiced cashew and green chilli a major triumph.

There’s one dish not to miss; the ‘wild’ mushrooms which come bathed in whipped Persian feta, accompanied by little donuts made with mushroom flour and baby basil. I loved this highly original dish and I am not alone. Lunching with a gourmand friend, he took one bite and waved the waiter over to order a second helping. Yes!

There’s a full bar and a great little wine list, with lots of wines by the glass that suit the food perfectly. Odettes also offers some lovely house made sodas – great if it’s hot or you need to return to work after lunch and can’t go the distance with wine or cocktails to accompany your meal. There are plenty of very helpful service staff on the floor and nobody seems to have to wait for their food to arrive.

If you are after a casual meal, don’t miss this. No bookings unless you are a party of six or more. And don’t try to split the bill according to what you ate. I love their policy of “one bill per table or split it evenly.” We are all grown-ups, aren’t we?

Odettes Eatery, Shed 5, City Works Depot, 90 Wellesley St, City phone 09 309 0304