12 Jul // Auckland Restaurant Month: a preview

The Veuve Cliquot rose wine match at The Grove

 

Squid ink brioche with soft shell crab at Masu

Auckland is a great place to dine all year round, but come August there are plenty more reasons to uber yourself into the city and feast. Auckland Restaurant Month sees the CBD come alive with special events, visiting chefs, and special set-menus.

People are always asking me where I like to eat, and where I’ve been recently, or if I’ve tried a certain new place, or if I’ve been to their favourite dumpling joint. I love hearing about where other people like to dine out, and lucky for me I get to try all sorts of places and call it work. I’ve had some really great meals in Auckland lately, at both some old favourites and some new ones. Here’s a few eating highlights for me lately, and a few picks for August. YUM.

The Grove

On a Wednesday a while back, my dear friend Harriet and I had a midweek date night to end all date nights. She was a week or two out from getting married, and I was a bridesmaid. We had 6 courses at the Grove to both celebrate and talk all things matrimony. The Grove is amazing; it’s this beautiful fine-dining restaurant off an unassuming square by a church in the city. The best in NZ produce is on display, and goddam chef Ben Bayly and his team can cook. The play on textures, and temperature, and flavour combinations reminded me why, in a trend towards all things casual, fine-dining is so important. What I especially loved about that meal though was the unintimidating wine matches. They were described by the wait staff with the enthusiasm of someone who had actually tasted and considered the wines themselves, and I loved them all the more for it.

During Restaurant Month, the Grove is doing five courses for lunch or dinner for $75, an absolute steal, or if you’re feeling slightly more flush, check out their event with Paul Carmichael of Sydney’s Momofuku Seiōbo. If anyone would like to sponsor me a spot I am desperate to go. Thanks in advance.  

Federal Deli

I love the Fed. Yes it only serves filter coffee at breakfast time (I’m not holding it against them), and yes people may just think it’s poutine and sandwiches. In fact, it’s a very reasonably priced place to get dinner, and recently before a show, my friend Josie and I did exactly that. It was a Friday night and I was feeling very fragile (slash hungover) from the night before at Depot (see below) and it was the absolute perfect place for nourishing comfort food. I’ve had the whole lemon sole fish before, which is excellent, and the schnitzel, which is especially great with the poutine, but this night we shared a portion of the free range chicken off the rotisserie, and a couple of their veggie-laden almost Ottolenghi-style salads. It was exactly what I felt like, and really well priced when sharing.

The Fed are doing a bargain $25 two course lunch or dinner for Restaurant Month and it looks great.

The Cult Project

Chefs taking on an alter ego in the form of a moving, mobile, pop-up brand of restaurant is a fascinating development in dining. Without the overheads of a bricks and mortar restaurant, and by developing a cooking style and customer base, it’s a less risky approach for those who may want their own joint one day. And it’s exciting for diners. The Cult Project is one such pop up, and I tried their food earlier this year. Carlo Buenaventura and William Cook are very talented young chefs, and boy can they cook. They focus on locally sourced, often unusual, ingredients, as well as taking inspiration from their own cultures and travels, which makes their food inventive, interesting, and impressive to eat. The menu I sampled at K Rd’s Madame George included a carrot cake dessert with notes of curry (weird, but it worked), charred and then chilled lettuce with sunflower seed cream, and a luscious creamed corn.

They’ve teamed up with Kiwi Harvest for Restaurant Month, an outfit dedicated to rescuing food across Auckland. Food Waste is a huge problem, so this dinner, cooked out of rescued food, will be fascinating. Technically talented chefs and food that would otherwise have been binned. I can’t wait.

Masu

If you haven’t sat at the bar out the front of Federal Street’s Japanese smart-diner Masu, and had the off-menu squid-ink brioche with crispy soft-shell crab, with one of their excellent craft beers on tap, or a wine from their beautifully curated wine list, or one of their gorgeous cocktails, then I suggest you do so immediately. I took my friend Hannah who was back from overseas for a pre-dinner drink and snack, and she wanted to move to Auckland on the spot.

At Federal Street’s flagship Restaurant Month event, Masu’s chef Nic Watt takes on the second course of this feast, with Crispy Pork Belly, Mustard, Miso, and Roasted Nori.

Depot

I love Depot. I love the atmosphere, and the service, and I’ve eaten my way through the menu more than once. A crisp chardonnay and a few local oysters is the perfect start to any meal, the sliders are infamous, the skirt steak dish tastes like a fancy Big Mac, and don’t even get me started on pudding. Dinner at the pass overlooking the kitchen is pretty much the most perfect first-date spot in Auckland (I mean I wouldn’t know but friends assure me this is the case).

Depot is part of A Taste of Federal Street too (wild hare fillet anyone?), as well as offering a special raw bar deal during August, matched with Nautilus wine. Get thee a date, get thee to the bar, and get thee some oysters.  

Champagne and oysters at Depot

This post was brought to you in partnership with Auckland Restaurant Month.