Nov 12, 2015 Restaurants
Words by Alice Harbourne, photos by Ken Downie.
It’s been a big year for chef Brian Campbell. In February he left Milse, the Hip Group-owned dessert bar he conceptualised and ran for two years. His 14 staff literally cried when he announced his departure; for them, he was Milse.
Eight months later and the majority of that team can be found freezing sorbet in balloons, tempering chocolate and fluffing egg whites at new Fort St dessert bar, Miann, co-owned by Campbell and his wife Roselle. Judging by the abundance of gateaus in the cabinet on just day two of opening, so immaculately lacquered and airbrushed they could have been 3D printed, the team is happy to be reunited with their Scottish-born, internationally-recognised tutor.
Brian himself looks far too fresh-faced for someone who hasn’t had a day off in seven months, and far too calm for a new business owner facing the unrelenting first week demands of juggling new customers, staff and processes. But of course for Brian, the team aren’t new, and the patisserie selection is a result of his ability to trust them; each cake, gelato stick and macaron flavour and on-going collaboration.
Fans of Milse and the Campbells’ pop-up Sweet Cuisine will be familiar with the style: sophisticated flavour combinations, playful yet always-elegant presentation and blooming marvellous textures that never fail to induce involuntary OMGs.
Surprisingly, Brian says he doesn’t have a sweet tooth. If he had to choose, his current cabinet favourite would be a dark Valrhona gateau with blackcurrant, tea and coffee. It’s rich, but not sickly, with nutty, roasted flavours and a sharp burst of tangy fruit.
I have a very sweet tooth, however, so the White Forest was right up my street; a layer of glossy cocoa coats a cloud-like white chocolate mousse, topped with a Rudolph-like nose of cherry. It has a creamy, malteser-like flavour I’m going to forever crave at sugar slump-o’clock, which makes sense given Miann means “to crave” Scottish Gaelic, a nod to Brian’s roots.
There are other subtle references to his homeland too, like airy shortbreads and (when available) the Cranachan Dessert, a Scottish version of Eton Mess made with toasted porridge oats, honey, cream and whisky.
Speaking of porridge, a short and simple breakfast menu will be available in the coming months – the first time Brian will deviate from dessert in a few years. “There’ll be no bacon and eggs,” he says, “but things like grilled peaches with fresh cheese on toasted breads, fresh fruit, granola and simple porridges.”
With 30 seats inside, and another 30 soon to come outside, the Campbells are hoping to attract breakfast trade from local offices, especially in summer. It’ll suit winter too, its inky interior, conceived by Milton Candish of Millimetre Design, lending itself nicely to cosy gateau-loading. Thoughtful details like Peter Collis crockery and lampshades, a dessert cabinet imported from Italy and quality glassware mean this relatively minimalist space feels luxurious.
I’m so glad Brian and Roselle Campell don’t want to return to Scotland (I asked, and they really do love it here) they grace Auckland with a standard of excellence Michelin stars were invented for.
57 Fort Street