Market fish with a fish-head-and-saffron broth and prawn emulsion.

The Grange review: Is this the best office-park upscale bistro in Auckland?

Metro editor Henry Oliver visits The Grange, hidden in Smales Farm's new dining precinct Goodside, and is impressed by what he finds.

Sure, all office parks need places to eat lunch, but how often you think about going to one for dinner? Goodside, which opened in the North Shore’s Smales Farm a year ago, is trying to change all that. And none of its seven permanent outlets are doing as much for the cause as The Grange, a bar and bistro co-owned and run by a North Shore couple who’ve recently returned from working at a bunch of more-than-credible Melbourne restaurants (Chin Chin, Tipo 00, etc).

Adding to the name-drop is head chef Regnar Christensen, who, until recently, was cooking at Wellington’s Ortega Fish Shack (a seafood restaurant with one of the best steaks in the capital). The pedigree is instantly recognisable. There’s a definite Wellington-via-Melbourne-eatery vibe. You can tell from the décor, which verges on looking like every other upscale bistro, but you can also tell from the expert way the simple breakfast menu of eggs and bacon and “no-grain-ola” transitions into an all-day menu of inventive entrées, moreish pastas and big chunks of meat.

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There is no ambiguity when it comes to the food, however. I loved the tartare — beautifully minced beef, served with an oyster cream instead of an egg yolk that made me forget that I’d ordered the tartare mostly because I wanted oysters and hoped this cream would do the trick. It did. I’ve wished I was eating this dish several times since my first visit. The squid, too, was as deep in flavour as it was in colour, thickly black in its own ink. The kingfish crudo was light, fruity and a delight to eat, topped with flowers and bright, refreshing foraged coastal succulents. The saffron tagliatelle with clams and fennel was acidic, bitter, delicious. The market fish (snapper on the visit I ate it) was beautifully seared, soft on the inside, swimming in a fish-head-and-saffron broth with small floating pools of prawn emulsion. No trace of that sauce should be left on anyone’s plate.

The meat dishes, which tend on the heavy side, are just as well executed but a little less thrilling. The pork chop with celeriac, radish and seaweed was as juicy as it was complex and interesting, with bursts of crisp pepper and savoury salt. The 12-hour lamb shoulder is delectably soft, with sweet, slightly spicy crust. It was rich and warming, but started to feel like almost an obligation halfway through.

All in all, The Grange is not just a welcome addition to North Shore dining: the sheer potential of the food (and the more adventurous parts of the wine list) makes me excited for how good it could become. It just needs to be a little more lived in, a little more comfortable, a little looser and, ultimately, a little more fun.

The Grange
Cnr The Boulevard and Smales Farm Ave, Takapuna
Ph 972 9060
thegrangetakapuna.co.nz
Hours: Mon, 8am-4.30pm; Tue-Fri, 8am-late; Sat-Sun, 9.30am-late.
Bill: Starters $12-30; pasta $24-28; mains $26-125; deserts $8-16

This piece originally appeared in the November-December 2019 issue of Metro magazine, with the headline "Office space".

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