New and Notable (1)
The French Cafe’s new look.
By Catherine McGregor. Photos by Ken Downie.
After the mad rush of the Christmas party season, the summer break gives restaurants the chance to relax, regroup – and redecorate. The French Café is one of a number of Auckland eateries to have reopened for 2014 with a bright new look. The carpet, chairs, pendant lights (by Grey Lynn’s Monmouth Glass Studios) and wallpaper – designed by Aucklander Emma Hayes and featuring herbs from the restaurant’s own garden – are all new, as is the art; look out for pieces by Max Gimblett, Karl Maughan and Dale Frank. According to co-owner Creghan Molloy-Wright, the interior design was inspired by Katie Lockhart’s work on the restaurant’s French Kitchen dining room and garden area, which opened last year. Molloy-Wright’s last change before reopening: getting rid of a couple of tables. “My staff can’t understand why I keep removing them,” she says. “But I want every table in the room to be a ‘good table’. No bad tables, that’s my mantra.”
Another Metro favourite, the meat and game-focused Cazador, starts the year with a revamped interior and refreshed menu. Since taking the reins in 2011, husband and wife team Dariush Lolaiy and Rebecca Smidt have slowly worked to bring the venerable Balmoral restaurant into the 21st Century, gradually de-cluttering and refreshing the 1970s-style décor. Over the Christmas break they closed up shop and went for broke, installing new floors, a new bar area and a striking green banquette. The menu has also had a revamp, with a whole new array of bar snacks to go with your ice-cold glass of sherry: pan fried poussin hearts, calamari with pistachio and pomegranate, smoked bone marrow, venison liver parfait, duck nuggets, boar hock rillettes and more.
The Engine Room, our best upmarket bistro of 2013, also has a new look. A Fearon Hay-designed extension has doubled the restaurant’s floor space, adding a new kitchen, new bar and new entrance around the corner on Bartley St.
With Peter Chichester and Rekha Dayal at the helm, Mt Eden’s Gala café was one of Auckland’s most exciting eateries. It claimed top honours in our 2011 Best Cafe awards for many reasons, including their Indian-fusion “mother-in-law” eggs, which we described as “a veritable work of genius”. After a couple of years away from the industry, Chichester and Dayal are back, this time in the CBD. What was the Grassy Knoll café on Shortland St is now Giles Luncheonette, open Monday to Friday, serving Best Ugly bagels, Supreme coffee – and (yes!) those mother-in-law eggs.
Julien Le Quere and Jane Raybould’s Winehot has been pretty much the best thing about Morningside for years now, equally beloved for the brilliant drinks list and the French charcuterie menu. Now Le Quere and Raybould have opened a new all-day eatery, nearer their Waiheke home. Housed in the old Island Thyme/Thymes Tables building in Surfdale, Frenchôt is a café/creperie by day and, upstairs, a classic French bistro by night.
Also new and notable
Housed in Ponsonby Central, and run by the team behind the Blue Breeze Inn, Chop Chop Noodle House & Whisky Bar offers up a pan-Asian menu of cheap and cheerful street food: Japanese ramen, Chinese dumplings and buns and Korean fried chicken and crab. Palm Court is The Langham Auckland’s new centrepiece, a lobby bar/cafe serving breakfast, light snacks, drinks and “tiffin afternoon tea” daily. The old Portside Organics site at the ASB Building in Wynyard Quarter is now Johnny Barr’s Fresh Food Bistro, an Auckland outpost of the popular Queenstown eatery. Open daily from 8am until late, Johnny Barr’s serves a café/bistro menu with an American twist: where else in Auckland will you find chicken and waffles, Philly cheesesteak, and gourmet mac & cheese?
Victoria Park Market is gradually coming back to life. The latest openings include a flagship Salash Delicatessen, selling lunchtime sandwiches and salads alongside their salamis, meats, dry goods and cheeses; and Espresso Corner, a cute café brewing organic Allpress coffee and selling a small range of sandwiches and baked goods. The Morningside Lunch Bar in Mt Albert is reopening on Monday February 10 as the Mustard Kitchen, serving breakfast and lunch from 6am, Monday to Friday. The latest addition to SkyCity’s stellar hospitality line-up has an opening date: The Grill’s Sean Connolly throws an opening party for his Italian restaurant Gusto at the Grand on February 21, with plans to welcome diners from early the following week. New year health-kickers are raving about Ebisu’s “nude bento”, a Paleo-inspired lunchbox featuring cauliflower “rice” and courgette “noodles”, plus poached chicken or salmon. Hobsonville Farmers Market is on the move. From this weekend you’ll find it at The Landing, aka the Hobsonville Point Ferry Terminal.