Lauraine Jacobs

Food Writer and Author of Delicious Books


1 March 2014


What a view! As you step out of the extraordinarily terrifying lift that whisks you to the fifty-third floor of the Sky Tower, the whole of the Auckland harbour lies in front of you. But within seconds your attention shifts to the comforting, cosseting entry foyer that is cool, sophisticated and very welcoming. Decorated in moody blues with the most fascinating silken textured walls it shrieks thoughtful design and delight.

At first I pondered the decision to move Peter Gordon away from Federal St and install him, his fusion cuisine and The Sugar Club, high in the sky. But having eaten up there and revelled in the ambience, the menu, the attention and the wines, I think this is a master stroke on Sky City’s part.

The Sugar Club first became popular in Wellington when Peter plied his fusion cuisine to that city’s appreciative audience well back into the last century. So good it was, that it upped-sticks and moved to London, where it enjoyed two reincarnations before closing. Peter Gordon, with restaurants in London and consultant chef in such places as Istanbul, has become a household name in both New Zealand and London. And, as anyone who knows him well will attest, he is one of the nicest guys ever let near a kitchen. He is the master, the inventor and the most recognised chef on earth of fusion cuisine, and in his new place he is at the top of his game.

If anyone thinks Sky City rules the roost with their restaurants and celebrity-style chefs, think again. Once the decision was made to move Peter Gordon from his ‘dine by peter gordon’ - that restaurant lurking well back in Sky City Grand’s foyer - the chef himself has made all the major decisions. Inspired by the Luca Guadagnino film I Am Love (which sets producer and star Tilda Swinton in the Art deco era of the 1930s) he charged designers Jonathon Goss and Judy Court with capturing a little of that magic he loved so much. It is gorgeous, and enhanced by some stunning glass art Peter picked up in Venice.

Peter Gordon of course, still has Providores and Kopapa restaurants in London and will continue to jet backwards and forwards. He’s worked closely with his new head chef here, Neil Brazier, to create a menu that suits the surroundings. It’s filled with classic Peter Gordon fusion dishes and some, like the beef pesto hark back to his very first menu in Wellington. That beef is tenderly marinated in soy and spices and then sautéed and served with the fresh surprise of Italian style pesto on top. He also has included his very famous take on laksa, this time a spiced smoky version crammed with duck, pumpkin and a golden egg, and vattalapam - palm sugar and coconut baked custard with mango sorbet and coconut praline, the essence of Asian-influenced dessert and about as moreish as you get.

Some of the enticing things about The Sugar Club are the weekend brunches, and the express lunch menu where you can score a $46 tab for two courses or at $56 you will get three courses. The bargain of the city when you consider the view, especially as all the tables have a view over Ponsonby and the western aspect of our city. You can spend your lunch time watching the poor folks at home.

A much fuller a la carte lunch menu is offered too, where the dishes are more complex and more fully garnished. There’s an Otago saffron linguine with crab, pinenuts and aged Parmigiano on that which I cannot get out of memory as it was so light and airy I almost felt it might lift off the plate. The other dish I adored was Yellow Brick Road’s day boat fish (snapper) with red tuatua, fregola, green sauce and miso beurre blanc.

Here’s the thing about Peter Gordon’s food. It is refreshingly different, remarkably audacious at times, and combines all the things we love to like in New Zealand.

At night of course, unless it is inclement weather, the lights sparkle, the menu changes and there’s a frisson of even greater sophistication. The dinner menu is made up of ever so slightly smaller plates, designed to give guests the experience of tasting more than just the usual old starter and main. Two courses $60, three courses $80, four courses $95, and five courses $105. And that’s probably as much as anyone could or should eat!

Other things not to miss on the menu include the seared yellow fin tuna (garnished with truffled yuzu, umeboshi dressing, goji berries, arami and a beer battered Bluff oyster), the tender merino lamb rack, a wonderfully aromatic five spice duck breast, and the extraordinarily daring peanut butter parfait with salted caramel, chocolate sorbet and crunchy bits.

Some fine staff have been lured from elsewhere to pamper diners, and as the first thing you see is the cocktail bar and a small wine library, there’s a good chance of excellent imbibing both pre-dinner and to accompany the food. This is a great addition to Auckland City’s dining scene.

Sky Tower, SkyCity, Federal St, Auckland

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