Dec 17, 2014 Restaurants
City Works Depot, 90 Wellesley St, central city.
Ph 309-0304, odettes.co.nz
Daily (from 7am weekdays, 8am weekends) for breakfast and lunch; dinner Tuesday-Saturday.
Bites & sharing $7-$18; mains $23-$39; sides $8-$10; desserts $14-$16.
By Simon Wilson. Photo by Ken Downie.
First published in Metro, December 2014.
It’s tempting to say there are some standout dishes at Odettes. Like the beef cheek fritters. The meat has been slow-cooked forever, rolled into balls, dipped in beer batter and deep fried. You get five in a bowl with a tangy red pepper sauce and a bit of walnut and charred leek. You could pop them whole in your mouth if your own cheeks are on the big side, but that’s, you know, a bit gluttonous. They’re really delicious. You should savour them.
There’s also a deep-sided plate of “asparagus slaw”: the veges are grilled and served with cherry tomatoes, a little cured meat (bresaola) and truffle oil. Both dishes are terrific — original; superbly conceived, cooked and presented; and so very, very tasty — and the fritters offer a new take on meatballs that deserves to become a famous must-try dish for anyone who likes their meat. Yet neither the fritters nor the asparagus are standouts because there are many more where they came from.
There’s a new chef in town, and he’s the real deal. Josh Kucharick is a Québécois Canadian with a remarkably deft, creative touch. He’s alive to the modern demands of Auckland restaurant customers — lots of dishes (like both those above) to share; gluten-free dishes like the kingfish carpaccio with shaved coconut and puffed wild rice; other totally on-trend numbers like the muesli on the breakfast menu, which is “ancient grain bircher” served with almond milk, marinated berries and toasted almonds.
Vegetarians will have to pick their way through the daytime menus with a little care — mushrooms come with chorizo, “spinach scrambled” with pancetta, those asparagus with bresaola — but it isn’t hard to ask for small adaptations. And at night there are several remarkably good vego options. One favourite: wild mushroom with lightly whipped feta, basil and “donuts”, which are little balls made with dehydrated mushroom flour that possibly mean a lot to Canadians and are really yummy.
Also, they do fantastic soft-shell crab sliders, with saffron aioli and soft crumbed legs poking out all over. Divine scallops with confit pork hock, sharpened up with salsa verde and sweetened with mandarin. Feature dishes of fresh fish and slow-cooked meat. A plump pear tarte tatin served with vanilla ice cream that’s just straight-up sin on a plate, and lemon curd served with blueberry compôte and a big slab of meringue that’s also awfully good.
And the drinks? Pitchers of cocktail mix (a Campari and Pimms concoction, and a gin sling of sorts); a very-well-selected short wine list, strong on the locals (and with three rosés); lots of teas, homemade sodas and juices… this is such a good place for a long afternoon or an evening out.
Odettes is the new anchor tenant in City Works Depot: an upmarket, sitdown eatery, open all day and into the night in the manner of Ortolana and Depot. And, yes, it’s in their league.
The room is big and airy, the beautiful crockery is by Robert Gordon and, hanging throughout the room, there’s a stunning set of large irregular glass globes designed by Nat Cheshire.
Joost and Clare van den Berg created all this, with Clare in charge of design. They’ve already proved themselves with cafes in this town, first at Herne Bay’s Zus and Zo, which they no longer own, then at Takapuna’s Zomer. It’s so good they’ve given us their first restaurant.
And that is what it feels like: a gift. The floor staff have a lovely way about them. It’s so comfortable to sit inside, with a wall of glass at the front and informal elegance all around and, as the weather improves, the sheltered outdoor seating will also come into its own.
Is there anything wrong with Odettes? Yes. They’ve got the tables for two longways, so you’re not sitting as close to your companion as you might like. And they could have put an apostrophe in the name. But do I care? Not really.
How we review
Every restaurant is visited at least twice and rated for what it is trying to do: a superb bistro and superb fine-dining place both get 5 spoons. We pay for our meals and if possible do not declare our presence.
We’d eat here if we had to — 1 spoon
Good, but it really should be better — 2 spoons
Very good — 3 spoons
Extremely good — 4 spoons
Superb: among the very best of its kind — 5 spoons