It took only a month to turn what was Maldito Mendez Mexican restaurant, into a neon pink Wallbank-masterpiece. The room has gone from kitsch, to loud and just the right amount of tacky – you mightn’t be surprised if the table next door leaned in and asked you to put your keys in a jar with theirs. Covering the walls, floors and ceiling are “the kind of things you’d never put in your living room,” admits Wallbank; like wagon wheels for light fixtures.
The pair casually bills the concept as South East Asian, though more accurately, the menu snakes west from Myanmar to India before crossing the southern Indian border into Sri Lanka. Much like their offering at Woodpecker Hill in Parnell, or The Blue Breeze Inn a couple of hundred yards away, this is Asian-fusion. Just don’t say that to Wallbank, he hates the word ‘fusion’, preferring to explain his restaurant style this way: “We never try to cast ourselves into just one country. By doing this we can cherry-pick the things we love from each place.”
Unlike most of their other restaurants, however, Honeybear’s menu is short, with five large and six small plates alongside several carefully crafted, kombucha-based cocktails and a neat wine list. There is a specially brewed honey beer, by the Coromandel’s Blue Fridge Brewery. The star dish is a (huge) $7 dosa, served with ginger chutney and a coconut and chilli sambol – who said you couldn’t get a bargain in Ponsonby?
Chef Barrington says he’s worked tirelessly over the past month to perfect his dosa recipe telling me the secret is practice and a well-seasoned pan – much like the secret to a perfect cheese toasty is an old, well-loved cheese toasty maker.
Will this new opening impact their other Ponsonby Central restaurants? “The idea is no reservations, get in, get out, have a good time,” says Wallbank − a casual approach which makes perfect sense in a place like this. They say three’s a crowd. Perhaps not?
4 Brown St