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Metro Eats — Thursday 15 June

Reviewing restaurants, a restaurant review and what's happening and new in Auckland food.

Metro Eats — Thursday 15 June

Jun 16, 2023 Metro Eats


This morning on the bus to work I started tearing up while listening to an episode of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ podcast Wiser Than Me where she talked to food writer and critic Ruth Reichl. I am, unfortunately, extremely corny when it comes to things like this: the simple act of Reichl explaining her process of writing on food, one of the foremost pleasures of her life, the thing she loved so much she likened how she experienced it to the same joy and emotional levity which happens to other people while listening to music… hearing that got me crying on public transport. As I often feel the same way about it.

I am a fan of Reichl, whose memoir Garlic and Sapphires, about her time as the restaurant critic of The New York Times, delighted me in its impressive commitment to the bit. After landing in New York (from L.A., where she was the critic for the L.A. Times), Ruth immediately deduces that she will be recognised at every restaurant she steps foot in. The solution? Dining in disguise.

The review that Reichl is perhaps most known for is of Le Cirque, a scene-y restaurant which was frequented by celebrities and the New York elite. The review was split into two columns: one, where she describes her experience of dining there in disguise, treated like shit, and the other, as Ruth Reichl, where champagne greeted her at the table. Although this concept may seem fairly benign to us now, it, apparently, freaked the editors out at the time – Le Cirque was a beloved restaurant, which the critic before Reichl had bestowed four stars (the maximum) and lauded with praise.

Reviewing restaurants now in Auckland can not be compared to the stakes of reviewing restaurants for the New York Times in 1994, but it’s inevitable you will receive special treatment if you are recognised as someone, whether that’s a restaurant reviewer or an influencer or a figure in the industry. I know that we in New Zealand like to pretend that we don’t care about that sort of thing, and that everyone gets treated equally regardless of who you are, but it’s just not true. I’ve experienced it both ways.

Really, I like to go to a restaurant, and sit down, and eat food – I’m not a very good diner when it comes to chatting with the server or the chef. (A restaurateur once called me “cold”, a description that made me sad but I accepted begrudgingly.) I think that’s why listening to people talk about food, the actual food, makes me feel some type of way: because it speaks to how much I love eating, a pleasure that is completely separate from the theatre and politics of the Restaurant.

– Jean


P.S. A big thanks to Tuatara for sponsoring Metro Eats for the last little while – to say thanks, and goodbye, pick up a pack of their new hazy IPAs, now in cans. Very fruity, very hoppy.

P.P.S. I’m doing a fun + short story on Lay’s chips for the next issue and want to know: where do you go to get your Lay’s in weird and wonderful flavours? Bonus points if you tell me your fave. Email here.


What’s happening


Alta , the wine bar and restaurant on Karangahape Rd owned and operated by Georgia van Prehn, is closing, with its last service being tomorrow, 17 June. Alta was named as one of Metro’s Top 50 restaurants last year, where we (I) wrote that, “It’s interesting cooking that doesn’t get in the way of taste; though combinations feel unexpected on the menu, there’s a specific appeal to imagining what you’re going to get and finding out you’re very, very wrong.” On a personal note, I’ve very much enjoyed sitting in the courtyard at happy hour with wine and two oysters: one natural, one battered. Salut, Georgia!

Pasture , the six-seater fine dining restaurant in Parnell, is now permanently closed. Its sister sites, the bakery and test kitchen Alpha and bar Boxer , have also closed. Read more about the closure on The Spinoff here.

Kebab Shop at Gemmayze St is back again this Sunday 18 June – there’s also new items on the menu, like a Kibbeh burger and a mint choc chip ice cream sandwich.

Want a yum-looking sandwich? Homer Sandwich is doing a pop-up at Metro favourite Bar Martin on Sunday 25 June, noon until sold out. One example of what to expect: lamb shoulder, labneh, fennel, salsa verde.

If you’re a budding food entrepreneur, looking to open your own business, you should consider applying for The Kitchen Project’s 26-week programme which covers business planning, finance, marketing and more. Applications are open now.


What’s good

Trialling a new format. Will I stick to it? Who knows.

Mini-review: I went to an Italian trattoria on the North Shore called San Marco, which my dad quickly declared as the “flashest restaurant in Glenfield”, though they do not have very much competition. It is quite massive, sprawled out over at least two separate lots, with a cafe and daytime eatery dining room and a dinner dining room, plus a covered outdoor area with high tables. There is more regional Italian food on the menu than many in Auckland – we had Saor, for example, which originates in Veneto (where our server was from) and was a little bowl of sweet onions with pine nuts, raisins and kahawai (in Veneto, sardines are more commonly used. The pizza is woodfired, in the oven that dominates the middle of the room, and the pasta handmade (and obviously so – the strozzapreti was charmingly nonuniform, tossed in a bright tomato sauce with lots of seafood served on top). I had the ravioli, which had a beef filling and served in a familiar butter-and-sage sauce. It was tasty and fresh, cooked very al dente. The best thing I ate that night was probably the punta di petto, oven-roasted wagyu deckle, sliced thinly, tender and flavorful. It is just as a suburban restaurant should be: warm and friendly, with people-pleasing (and kid-pleasing) food; the sort of place you’d go to for a Friday treat after work (nearby, ideally, and unfussy). They also make their own gelato in-house (the tiramisu was already sold out by the time we ordered dessert).

We went to Sidart for their Taste of Sidart ($100pp) four-course + snacks special, which is a little step down from the usual six-course (and slightly more affordable! By $60). Snacks are always the highlight at fine-dining restaurants (I liked the Marmite croissant), but the starter of raw fish and wasabi was also very good.

I went back to Gloria’s for the first time in a while and really enjoyed the Coronation chicken, which was a cold sandwich with focaccia and poached chicken, spiced mayo, and one of my fave ingredients of all time, crispy shallots.

Henry and Simon both seemed to like these new chips they picked up at the dairy, the Herr’s Buffalo Blue Cheese flavoured cheese curds. Do I endorse? Well, they do taste very cheesy.


What’s new


A cocktail bar called Bar Beluga looks to be opening soon in a new development in Ponsonby – a co-op food and drink space named ‘Rose Alley’. Looks to be leasing spaces now if you’re looking for one.

We were sad to see Peach Pit go, but the restaurant scene in Auckland churns on: a new Brazilian wine bar, Tempero, is set to take its place and open its doors early next month. The head chef and co-owner is Fabio Bernardini, who opened Mr Morris with Michael Meredith and had a stint at Pujol in Mexico.

A new cafe and eatery is coming soon to Devonport, Dulcie, at 33 King Edward Parade. It looks to have a very lovely view, facing right onto the beach.

A new bakery has opened in Silverdale called Fa Artisan Bake – coffee is by Eighthirty.

If you live out west, there’s a new cafe that roasts its own beans, Haodee Coffee Roasters. It also sells pastries from Manis (in Ponsonby).

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In the Autumn 2024 issue of Metro we celebrate the best of Tāmaki Makaurau — 100 great things about life in Auckland, including our favourite florist, furniture store, cocktail, basketball court, tree, make-out spot, influencer, and psychic. The issue also includes the Metro Wine Awards, the battle over music technology company Serato, the end of The Pantograph Punch, the Billy Apple archives, a visit to Armenia, viral indie musician Lontalius, the state of fine dining, and the time we bombed West Auckland to kill a moth. Plus restaurants, movies, politics, astrology, and more.

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