Restaurant Reviews by Jesse Mulligan

Read Viva eating out editor Jesse Mulligan's reviews

Jesse Mulligan. Picture / Supplied.

Having reviewed restaurants for Metro magazine for the past five years, in between hosting TV and radio shows, Viva eating out editor Jesse Mulligan knows his way around a menu.

Restaurant Review: Cocoro - 9/10
The menu is overwhelming, in a good way. You can choose from a tasting menu, the traditional a la carte, and then there is a page of daily specialities which looks easily as good as either of the others.
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Restaurant Review: Blue Breeze - 9.5/10
You can tell within two seconds of walking through the door that Blue Breeze Inn is one of the very best restaurants in the country. After sliding into a booth and almost knocking the small table over with my unwieldy thighs, I opened up the menu and began working on an eating plan.
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Restaurant Review: Monday's - 5.5/10
Mondays is a restaurant with great promise, but right now it’s a cafe doing evening service badly. The food tastes good, but the staff act as if they’re not at all bothered if you eat here or not.
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Restaurant Review: Etxeberria - 8/10
The menu is a thrilling read, peppered with obscure ingredients and unlikely combinations. There are three entrees, mains and sides, so we ordered all of them and shared, though the dishes don’t really lend themselves to this approach.
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Restaurant Review: Clooney - 10/10
Of all this city’s restaurants, Clooney is the one to save up for. A handful of Auckland establishments offer flawless food served by pleasant people, but Clooney is the only room that makes you gasp when you walk in.
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Restaurant Review: Barcelona - 8/10
It was 8.30pm when we arrived, well after peak New Zealand dining time, but I was still surprised to see a few empty tables. There are 100 great restaurants in Auckland, I suppose, so why would you take a chance at what looks, from the outside, like a generic tapas joint. But in fact it is a uniquely charming tapas joint of excellent quality.
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Restaurant Review: Icco - 8/10
The best thing on the menu is the sashimi, a daily changing selection of fish species you’ll have heard of but each of which are transformed by the knife into something interesting and new.
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Restaurant Review: Samadi - 8/10
The food is good. You won’t leave gobsmacked that it’s taken this long for you to discover Afghani cuisine, because most of the tastes and dishes are at least vaguely recognisable from Afghanistan’s Asian and Middle Eastern neighbours.
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Restaurant Review: Satya - 4.5/10
It’s been so long since I’ve been scowled at and eye-rolled by a waiter, it almost made me nostalgic. With presumably little support from the floor, the kitchen is successfully turning out bowls of beautifully spiced curries that taste pleasingly different to each other.
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Restaurant Review: Tao - 8/10
I suppose eight out of 10 is the equivalent of four stars, the rating you give an Uber when everything is mostly great but the driver checks his texts at the lights and the car smells vaguely of cinnamon.
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Restaurant Review: Porch - 6.5/10
The food is not bad at newcomer Porch, but the service isn’t special.They seated us on the deck, sorry, “the porch”, in front of the city’s best view, but even in summer it’s hard to enjoy the fresh seabreeze of evening without some supplementary shelter or heating.
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Restaurant Review: Azon - 6.5/10
At this stage Azon would make it into the suburb’s top 10, but it has plenty to improve on if it wants to drag customers away from those other mighty options. The food is generally good, with plenty of crunchy salad vegetables in the starters and some tasty meat in the mains.
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Restaurant Review: A'meza - 8/10
A'meza's food menu is short — a sure sign that a kitchen has confidence. We started with pandesal, a pillowy, slightly sweet Filipino bread roll served with a butter-enriched milk curd and salt. You definitely need to order this.
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Restaurant Review: The Kimchi Project - 7.5/10
The kimchi at The Kimchi Project tastes as it should — not as sharp and inky as the stuff I make at home, but fermented long enough that the lactic bacteria has imparted a mild acidity to the cabbage.
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Restaurant Review: Victoria Park Market Finds
A developer promises me this area will boom in the next few years. Meanwhile, you should come in and enjoy the place just for the food, at an outdoor table with room for the family under warm Auckland skies.
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Restaurant Review: Cornwall Park Bistro - 7.5/10
Somebody in the kitchen here really knows what they’re doing. The food was delicious, and hearty — the way a bistro should be. I started with house-made potato gnocchi, singed in the pan then tossed with brown butter, manchego cheese and plenty of seasoning.
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Restaurant Review: Augustus - 9/10
I’d heard the word “bistro” thrown around a bit but I hadn’t realised how French Augustus would actually be, the menu sprinkled with classical cooking terms like remoulade, meuniere and tarte tatin.
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Restaurant Review: Soul Bar & Bistro - 9/10
Having eaten borderline pub grub two reviews on the trot I was well up for a guaranteed winner this week and Soul Bar & Bistro is definitely that. I’ve eaten at Soul a few times and I’ve yet to see a server get the smallest thing wrong.
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Restaurant Review: Lord Kitchener - 6.5/10
It looks even more exciting once you’re inside, with some fancy interior decor that says “your people are welcome here”. They do a really good pie — a flaky pastry lid over a stew of beautifully cooked steak in an intense gravy the night we visited, but it changes regularly.
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Restaurant Review: The Original - 5/10
There was a moment early on at The Original when I thought we were in for a good time. It takes a lot to dismantle that feeling of nostalgia-fuelled goodwill, but The Original managed it, with a lethal combination of average food and absent service.
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Restaurant Review: Amano - 9/10
While the food was being made in front of me I chatted about wine to the French waitress. “I’ll get my Italian colleague, she knows the list even better than I do,” she said. She wandered away then came back again. The food is spectacular. A beef carpaccio is artistic on the plate, and seasoned with all the right things.
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Restaurant Review: Culprit - 9.5/10
The cooking team is led by Kyle Street, formerly of Depot, and the kitchen vibe is busy and chatty. It’s a beautiful thing to hear your order called out to a group of chefs who immediately begin working on its creation.
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Restaurant Review: Kindred - 6/10
Entrees are designed to share but come without serving spoons. Prawns arrive with head, shell and all and are drenched in butter, but come without a finger bowl. The look is industrial chic, the colours all leather and cream, and it is quite a nice room in which to sit and drink and eat.
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Restaurant Review: Morepork BBQ - 7.5/10
Creative opening sentences are all very well, but this week I’m just going to say it: this is the best barbecue brisket in the city. Brisket is a meat sub-genre that emerged in Auckland about 18 months ago and promised so much.
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Restaurant Review: MooChowChow - 9/10
I ate at MooChowChow, a casual but upmarket modern Thai restaurant where nobody ever runs short of a drink and if you’re still hungry after your savoury courses you just order more food.
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Restaurant Review: 69 - 4/10
There are plenty of things wrong with 69, starting with the name. I could have used some guidance through what is a very unusual menu. There is a list of hotdogs, then a few local specialities.
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Restaurant Review: Molten - 8.5/10
Should you need an excuse, a good reason to revisit long-time Mt Eden resident Molten is because it has a new charcoal-fired pit for spit-roasting and barbecues in its courtyard.
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Restaurant Review: Tok Tok - 8/10
The food — Asian fusion but mostly Thai — arrives hot, fast and fresh and there is enough on the menu to satisfy any particular craving you might arrive with.
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Restaurant Review: Pasture - 10/10
Pasture is a beautifully new restaurant in a beautifully old building. There are no choices, just a tasting menu of six courses plus extras, and the best place to sit is at the bar watching a team of young chefs work together in silence to create one masterpiece after another.
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Restaurant Review: Azabu - 9.5/10
The new Japanese restaurant Azabu arrives on a Ponsonby streetblock with little else to recommend it. Azabu is another hit. It begins with the service, which they’ve managed to pitch right in the sweet spot of casual excellence.
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Restaurant Review: Lokanta - 7.5/10
The style is authentic Aegean — named after the sea shared by Greece and Turkey — and the staff are authentic Aegean too. They’re proud of the food, keen to impress and they speak good English, with just enough grammatical tics to make the conversations fun.
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Restaurant Review: White Rabbit on the Park - 6/10
It had been a long night at White Rabbit. We’d arrived at 7pm, then received an entree at 8pm, a main at 9 and a dessert just before 10. There were a few problems with the food, and we’d both eaten too much of it anyway.
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Restaurant Review: Meat Fish Wine - 8.5/10
Dining at the new Meat Fish Wine I was extremely impressed by the sommelier, who knew a LOT about wine and could talk about it with patience and alacrity.
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Restaurant Review: True Food - 9/10
You leave feeling light yet soulfully satisfied — a credit to the food itself, which is not always healthy, exactly, but comes without many of the things that tend to knock you over: saturated fat, deep frying, butter and cream.
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Restaurant Review: Gemmayze Street - 6.5/10
I’m torn as to how to feel about Gemmayze Street, the new Lebanese restaurant in St Kevin’s Arcade, which has been open just a couple of weeks as I write but is already flat out busy. There was much to love about the restaurant, but we ended up having a pretty terrible time, for a variety of reasons.
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Restaurant Review: Fish - 8/10
I’ve reviewed the Hilton’s restaurant, Fish, a couple of times since it opened, and the verdict has been “great food but it feels like you’re in a hotel”. Now foundation chef and first class nice guy Shane Yardley has moved on and Fraser Shenton runs the kitchen under group chef Gareth Stewart (ex Soul). The food is as good as ever, though it still feels like you’re in a hotel.
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Restaurant Review: Adam Arnold - 7.5/10
Adam Arnold have hit the jackpot, successfully hiring a chef with talent and real-world experience. He used to create desserts at the Shangri-La hotel group — more on these later — and he seems to be taking well to the twin challenges of creating his own menu.
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Restaurant Review: Tiger Burger - 7.5/10
The latest arrival is Tiger Burger, whose own site has plenty of history. Mondiale was a local legend — a casual tapas bar presided over by two silvery foxes with thick European accents.
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Restaurant Review: Giusto - 8.5/10
I looked at the menu and it was … actually not terrible. Surely, I thought, this seemingly inert kitchen couldn’t really be offering all of these things tonight. A slow cooked shoulder of venison? Go on, tell me it’s not available but you have a filled roll where the lettuce has only just started to turn.
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Restaurant Review: Onslow - 7/10
The owners have done a wonderful job of improving the space left to them by Peasant, which was just a box with tables in it. Now there are fairy lights, bookshelves, rustic posts and vintage lightbulbs. 
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Restaurant Review: Paris Butter - 8.5/10
Simplicity and confidence are closely related in the modern kitchen, and this is clearly the menu of a chef who knows what he likes. Almost everything we ate was flawless and impeccably constructed.
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Restaurant Review: Lucky Lucky Dumplings - 8.5/10
There are dumplings, as you’d expect, and they are hot and quivering and firm to the bite. I would have liked some condiments — soy, chilli and vinegar — but you couldn’t fault the dumplings themselves, a combo of prawn, pork and lamb spiked with cumin.
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Restaurant Review: Kazuya - 9.5/10
This week is Viva’s art issue and aside from Sidart, previously lionised in these pages, Kazuya makes Auckland’s best claim to being “art on a plate”. Actually since I last visited, chef Kazuya has started designing his own plates, too.
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Restaurant Review: Kiss Kiss - 7.5/10
Seating is communal, around picnic tables with floral printed plastic tablecloths. It’s no wonder people are going for this: it’s about as casual as Auckland dining gets, but the scenery is stylish and evocative. They’ve totally nailed it.
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Restaurant Review: Oaken - 8/10
There are plenty of these delicate creations on the menu. The restaurant is a complete refit of former tenant the Quay Street Cafe, which was fast and friendly enough, though probably not a sufficiently high-profile suitor for this outstanding Britomart site.
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Restaurant Review: Pocket Bar - 6.5/10
Pocket Bar is both exciting and disappointing. It’s housed in a beautiful, architecturally-designed room combining modern and ancient, timber and steel, glass and greenery.
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Restaurant Review: Everest Dine - 7.5/10
Everest Dine is on the main strip of Parnell and, appropriately for a Nepalese restaurant, getting to the restaurant requires quite a climb.
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Restaurant Review: White + Wong's - 7.5/10
The massaman lamb curry is a must-order — beautifully tender shoulder in a deep spicy gravy elevated by the strong fragrant zing of kaffir lime. Dumplings arrive hot and translucently perfect in a bamboo steamer.
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Restaurant Review: Cibo - 9/10
With or without wheat, Cibo is an outstanding restaurant, the sort of place that reminds you how good Auckland can get. You can’t go wrong on the menu, which is both upmarket and reassuring, inventive without being edgy.
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Restaurant Review: Bodrum - 6.5/10
Bodrum is a solid restaurant with pretty good food. How well you rate the place depends on your expectations, really. The cuisine is from the Mediterranean, though unfortunately the Greek/Turkish part rather than the Spanish/French/Italian part.
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Restaurant Review: Mulan - 6/10
The new Mulan on Hinemoa Street has all the ambience of an acupuncture studio, housed as it is in a large rectangular room with no soft furnishings or decorations, each table grimly illuminated by a cheap wall sconce.
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Restaurant Review: Little Jimmy - 9 /10
Little Jimmy is a second opening from the owners of One Tree Grill. The salmon is my 2016 dish of the year — an accolade diminished somewhat by being awarded in March, sure, but “dish of the decade” is probably hyperbolic.
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Restaurant Review: Jafa By Night - 8.5 /10
The chef knows what he’s doing, the staff pay close care and attention, and on a hot autumn evening the breezy table by the big bifold doors must be one of the nicest places in Grey Lynn. The food is modern bistro, a style which threatened to take over Auckland five years ago.
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Restaurant Review: The Cult Project - 8.5/10
Pop-ups are a low-risk venture that — without the overheads — usually offer very good value for the diner. The food was fantastic — ambitious, modern and palate-perfect, with some touches that were totally brilliant.
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Restaurant Review: Bird on a Wire - 7.5/10
Bird on a Wire’s salads are part of what made their old Ponsonby Rd shop such a hit when it opened in 2012: plenty of raw, red, energy slaws with nutty Asian dressings and liberal use of chickpeas and other legumes.
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Restaurant Review: Rockefeller - 8/10
This week’s restaurant is called a “champagne and oyster bar”, but the reality is so much more appealing than the hell I was imagining. In fact Rockefeller is more understated. The restaurant does indeed serve oysters: just two varieties in this, the off-season, presented in four different ways.
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Restaurant Review: Spacca - 8/10
The food is great. It’s southern Italian, centred around Naples, so there’s pizza, naturally, and plenty of tomatoes. You’ll be lucky to get out of there without ordering the antipasti, but it features some of the best food on the menu and is a lovely way to start an evening. 
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Restaurant Review: Artwok - 7.5/10
The food was good and I’d run out of things to say about myself, so there wasn’t much to do with my mouth but spoon pieces of pork into it. We started with pricey raw oysters, served on the half shell with a mignonette made with a fancy chardonnay vinegar.
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Restaurant Review: Le Chef - 8/10
Henry ordered a whitebait fritter to start, after I called shotgun on the steak tartare. He got the better deal as it turned out, with a beautifully light, crepe-like creation bearing about as high a whitebait-to-batter ratio as physics will allow.
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Restaurant Review: Namo - 7.5/10
The chef at new restaurant Namo used to work at Nobu in Tokyo (there are dozens of Nobus these days, making plenty of money for co-owner Robert De Niro; if you thought he was desperate doing those Meet the Parents sequels, don’t pity him too much). As you’d expect, this guy knows what he’s doing.
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Restaurant Review: Andy's Burgers - 6 /10
Sky City’s new restaurant Andy’s Burgers solves a lot of problems by being open 24 hours a day, 364 days of the year. It’s just the thing when you’re hungry and everywhere else is closed due to seasonal holidays or lack of pre-dawn foot traffic.
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2015

Restaurant Review: Pasta & Cuore - 9/10
Italian food is the best food in the world, yet one of the hardest places to get a good feed is in Italy. In the Mt Eden shops the new pasta joint is more authentic than anything you’re likely to find in Pisa.
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Restaurant Review: Euro - 9.5/10
I think Euro is on the verge of something special. It’s been cut down to half of its original size, superchef Gareth Stewart has rebuilt the menu and suddenly everything feels almost perfect.
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Restaurant Review: Cleaver and Co - 6.5/10
At Cleaver and Co things are mad, if happily so: the chef talks like he wouldn’t change a thing, and it’s already a favourite spot for many families in the area. The ribs are great — plenty of meat, a decent glaze and smoked until they fall off the bone. Of the sandwiches, I can recommend the pulled pork.
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Restaurant Review: The Street Food Collective - 8/10
Now there’s another wave of vendors doing middle class-friendly, but nonetheless authentic eats, around the city, and on a rostered basis at The Street Food Collective. Judge Bao answered my prayers for steamed buns — perfect little white domes, split through the middle and filled with braised treats.
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Restaurant Review: Brothers Juke Joint - 8.5/10
We all (I’m now one of them, sadly) get so excited about a barbecue restaurant — not just the taste of the meat, but because we don’t have to muck around cooking it ourselves. Brothers Juke Joint is a refurbished factory space on the fringe of suburbia. 
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Restaurant Review: Swashbucklers - 8/10
One discriminating friend enthusiastically described it as “the only place you can eat fish and chips with a chilled glass of beer in view of the harbour bridge”. Now I’ve been there myself and can tell you that Swashbucklers is really, really good. 
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Restaurant Review: Sen - 7/10
Sen is the new restaurant inside the old CAC bar in Mt Eden, almost opposite Sabato. It’s not quite the stuff of lifelong memories yet, but the food is good and everyone is trying hard. What it is, pleasant?
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Restaurant Review: Beirut - 8.5/10
Pickled fries! It’s a simple and wonderful idea, and I thought of them again on Monday night when I tried Beirut’s saffron candy floss, impossibly fine and sugary, served with a spoonful of thick clotted cream. 
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Restaurant Review: Han Sik - 8/10
Han Sik is a beautiful space in the Victoria Park complex, a commercial development which has so far proved a bit of a curse for restaurants. But the execrable Libertine has finally gone and the Matterhorn seems to be doing pretty well in its place, while down in the courtyard the preposterously titled iVillage reputedly serves some of the best Indian food in town. So, with Han Sik now here as well, maybe we’re in the midst of a renaissance.
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Restaurant Review: El Humero - 5/10
I ate at Jervois Steak House last week and I think we may have a new winner. I was there to review the place but part way through the meal it became clear that things will change very soon, as departed executive chef Simon Gault’s shadow slowly disappears and new guy Gareth Stewart takes charge of the food.
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Restaurant Review: Peach Pit - 8/10
For a start, everyone who works there is enthusiastic and on-message — they love their food. I’d encourage the chef not to fill her Ritalin prescription because whatever she’s doing is working. Her food is a mash-up of carefree experimentation and technical expertise.
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Restaurant Review: Ralph's - 7/10
Here is another neighbourhood favourite: Ralph’s — an easy, friendly eatery serving simple food and craft beer to a grateful local crowd. The menu relies almost entirely on the deep fryer and the burger grill. All of the starters come battered — pickles, chicken and an incredible jalapeno pepper stuffed with cream cheese.
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Restaurant Review: Farang - 8/10
Chef Bong makes his pastes from scratch, and you can taste the difference. The flavours are familiar but he’s not afraid to add unexpected ingredients in the pursuit of perfection. The staff create an atmosphere of casual friendliness, even if you’re just picking up takeaway orders.
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Restaurant Review: Food Truck Garage - 4/10
I ate at the “faster, tastier, healthier” Food Truck Garage this week, for the first time since TV chef Michael Van de Elzen moved on. It did not go well. I arrived hungry and left depressed. I went twice to be sure — ordering nine things and finishing only three of them.
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Restaurant Review: Antoine's - 6.5/10
Antoine’s is the stuff of legend; the Viva age issue seemed an ideal time to drop in and see how the old girl is holding up. So much to mock about Antoine’s but don’t let anybody tell you the food is ridiculous too, because Tony Astle is a talented chef and, as explained, very versatile.
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Restaurant Review: Madam Woo - 9/10
I’ve become obsessed with a new food mash-up, just a few hundred metres away at Malaysian-inspired eatery Madam Woo. Here, chef-co-owner Josh Emett has invented the roti-taco/rotaco/tacoti. For now let’s call it what he calls it: a hawker roll.
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Restaurant Review: Deco Eatery - 6.5/10
The restaurant definitely has an out-of-Auckland vibe, with young, eager-to-please waitresses who pronounce viognier “voy-in-jer”. It’s not mind-blowing stuff, but you won’t leave hungry, and most of what Deco offers is in the experience.
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Restaurant Review: 46 & York - 7/10
It’s a beautiful bar in an old building with low lighting and unusually dressed waitresses. The menu is divided into Classics, Paddock, Ocean and Garden, and we ordered one from each.
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Restaurant Review: Ramen Takara - 7/10
Thank goodness for ramen soup — tasty, transportable and (with an egg and vegetables) mildly nutritious. Ramen Do on Symonds St was always good, then the sublime Zool Zool opened in Mt Eden and then, one day, I heard whispers of a good place called Takara in Browns Bay, a suburb hitherto famous only for its numerous South African residents and their ceaseless blithering about biltong.
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Restaurant Review: Miss Moonshine's - 9/10
Tonight we were pilgrims at the temple of Miss Moonshine’s, where the meat is smoked in an oven the shape and size of a locomotive engine. The owners found it in Kansas and shipped it to Ponsonby, where it’s fired up at dawn and loaded with pork shoulder, lamb leg, whole chickens, beef short rib and, the king of slow cooked cuts, brisket.
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Restaurant Review: Sidart - 10/10
The chef’s table at Sidart is Auckland’s most expensive meal, and its most incredible. For $180 a person you’ll receive nine courses of food plus extras, while sitting with three friends in gallery formation at the kitchen pass of the city’s best chef.
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Restaurant Review: Eight Point Two - 8.5/10
Now open from 5pm, seven nights a week, Eight Point Two is setting itself up to be more than just a four-course destination restaurant. The new menu is designed to encourage low-commitment eating.
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Restaurant Review: Ika Seafood Bar and Grill - 7.5/10
People say Auckland’s restaurant scene is diverse, but for years now there’s been absolutely nothing for the casual diner who wants to eat stingray served by Laila Harre. I’m pleased to report that this has now been rectified.
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Restaurant Review: Chikos - 8.5/10
We go most weekends to Hobsonville Market for the best tomatoes in the city, stopping off at The Bread House in Avondale for perfect organic rye bread that lasts all week. And now we have discovered Chikos, home of a multi-award winning chef and his affable mentor.
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Restaurant Review: Nanam - 8/10
In the early weeks after opening, about two thirds of Nanam’s clientele were Filipino, though the ratio has dropped to more like 50-50 these days as locals realise the three-bedroom home in Royal Oak that cost them $900,000, now has a decent ethnic restaurant in the hood.
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Restaurant Review: United Kitchen - 8/10
You wouldn’t call it fine dining — the tastes and ingredients are more bistro style — but the techniques on display are quite cheffy, the presentation is precise and there’s a mandatory set menu.
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Restaurant Review: Ortolana - 8/10
This is for Viva’s winter fashion issue and as such I’m obliged to share the contribution I made to our fashion industry some years ago in Wellington. I was in a bar and bought a drink for a young design student named Kathryn Wilson, who told me she dreamed of becoming a shoe designer.
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Restaurant Review: Tokyo Bay - 7.5/10
I visited Tokyo Bay with three nervous men, friends of mine who, like me, are at a stage of life where skipping domestic duties for a boozy meal in the sun is an incredibly high-risk move.
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Restaurant Review: Better Burger - 5/10
Make no mistake, Viva reader, in an ideal world I would not be celebrating my second week as eating out editor for New Zealand’s most stylish weekly magazine by writing a review of McDonald’s.
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Restaurant Review: Phil's Kitchen - 9/10
Though Auckland these days has a new restaurant opening each week, and most of them are solidly nice places to eat, Phil’s is something different. The food is ambitious and delicious, and the people who work there are so adorably enthusiastic that when you leave you want to run out and tell everybody in Auckland about it. Fortunately, that’s my job.
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