First Look: Onslow
Words by Alice Harbourne, photos by Ken Downie.
Growing up on a sheep and cattle farm in the Wairarapa meant that for chef Pip Wylie, land-to-plate eating has always been second nature. It’s informed an impressive career which has seen Wylie run her own restaurant in London, work in the kitchens of the renowned River Cafe and the original Sugar Club in Wellington.
Over the past 20 years, however, Wylie’s retired from the brutal culture of restaurant kitchens for the healthier, gentler lifestyle of cafes, like Grey Lynn institution Ripe, where she’s been head chef for the past five years. “I feel like I lost my way a bit,” she reflects. “It’s hard to avoid the grind of night time hours in restaurants, but really that’s the food I’m most passionate about cooking.”
Now she and her family – brothers Dougal and Hamish, sister-in-law Sarah – have opened their first Auckland restaurant, Onslow. It’s a chance to cook the food she truly loves to eat; homely shared plates that honour the New Zealand seasons with a subtle Moroccan influence.
She whips up a selection for us to try: glistening ras-el-hanout-rubbed pork shoulder with cumin apple sauce and watercress, tender chermoula-marinated monkfish with crispy chorizo lardons, lightly seasoned chargrilled squid and chilli jam, and (would it be a suburban restaurant without it?) beets, feta and maple walnuts. It’s crowd-pleasing food, but there’s an understated sophistication to it thanks to the odd surprise burst of aniseed or the zing of perfectly tart orange.
Situated in the former home of Peasant on Dominion Rd, the stark concrete and glass building no longer feels like a VTNZ waiting room thanks to the addition of a bar area, marked out with reclaimed jarrah Power Co. pillars, and banquettes dotted with cushions. An outdoor area patiently awaits resource consent – come summer it’ll add even more of a sense of place to this road-side pavilion – especially once locals catch on to the concisely curated wine list, which offers two shining examples of each popular varietal.
With Wylie in charge, pretension is nowhere to be seen. In its place? A welcoming atmosphere and hearty comfort food. Onslow is set to be a great local.
191 Dominion Rd