Restaurant Review: The Good Luck Coconut, Wynyard Quarter
Jesse Mulligan trials The Good Luck Coconut, where the staff present as well as the snacks
Cuisine: Asia Pacific
Phone: (09) 303 0440
Address: 39 Jellicoe St, Wynyard Quarter
Drinks: Fully licensed
From the menu: Chicken skewer $16.50, crab slider $18, pickles $6, ika mata $21, shitake dumplings $14, terakihi $35
Score: 0-7 Steer clear. 8-12 Disappointing, give it a miss. 13-15 Good, give it a go. 16-18 Great, plan a visit. 19-20 Outstanding, don’t delay.
We often discuss visuals in this column — lighting, furniture, pot plants — but we rarely talk about what the staff are wearing. Given that they are moving billboards for the restaurant’s brand, I might be missing a trick here so let’s take a moment and say thank you for the city’s best waiting uniforms, from the casual wear-it-as-it-suits-you tropical stylings of The Blue Breeze Inn to the immaculate retro diner dresses at The Federal.
“I couldn’t work anywhere with a uniform. I sweat too much,” says the barista at the cafe where I write this review each Friday morning. He’s thinking of those starchy thick bus-boy outfits, but if the designer is thinking hard enough, a stylish staff outfit doesn’t need to be uncomfortable. The only rule for a uniform is that it must be uniform — everyone needs to be in the same thing.
At The Good Luck Coconut they’ve gone for beautiful Hawaiian shirts, and with some sort of unofficial handsomeness filter clearly applied during the recruitment process, it’s aesthetically uplifting just to watch them work.
This is, I think, the third restaurant this group has opened and the last one I visited, Little Jimmy in Greenlane, had the same energetic, positive energy as soon as you walked through the door. Exuding a happy buzz is no mean feat when the restaurant is empty as The GLC was when we walked in and, although we arrived at the very back end of acceptable dinner hours, neither the wait staff nor the kitchen showed any signs of disappointment at having to crank back into gear just as they were about to untie their aprons.
The place is a tiki bar, which means probably not much to most New Zealanders but will be a good way of attracting tourists on quiet nights. The food genre is fairly loose — some talk of Asia-Pacific on the website but the dishes are led by their ingredients rather than any recognisable category of cuisine. “Coconut cream, charcoal cooking and fish” probably covers it, with the occasional exotic fruit popping up as a garnish and a reminder of the restaurant’s Polynesian ambitions.
Everything tastes crackingly good, particularly the stuff from the “fire pit” section of the menu. Given that exciting title I was picturing a hole in the kitchen floor filled with scorching rocks that the wait staff have to walk over bare foot as part of their initiation but the truth is, sadly, less intense: a small charcoal range that nonetheless does the trick. Chicken thigh skewers were juicy and chompable and then there was the asparagus — grilled is the best way to eat this end-of-year treat and these spears were done to perfection, with a fatty miso aioli for dipping.
One risk of a big, efficient restaurant like this is that the food can feel impersonal, but at The GLC there is somebody out the back determined to bring love to the experience. I always order pickles if they’re on — it’s a great way to assess a chef and his or her propensity for taking shortcuts. Here, the plate of pickles was handmade and beautiful: half a dozen individual vegetables individually brined with some young coconut flesh included to tip a standard appetite whetter into the realm of something tropical.
I was hoping for some more interesting fish on the menu — we’ve been eating loads of porae at home lately, for example — but the old standard, terakihi was at least served skin on, elevating it beyond the bog standard pesce del giorno fillets you’d get at a suburban pasta joint. Even better, The GLC fish of the day comes with octopus, which really is a rare marine treat, and it all works pretty well with an unexpected red cabbage puree on the side.
It’s difficult on a quiet night to assess how this place will vibe on a busy Friday evening but it is well set up for success, with a large bar physically separating the restaurant area from a more casual drinking zone, and a well-drilled service team who look as though they’ll be more than a match for whatever the North Wharf happy hour crowd can throw at them.
No point wasting space talking about the restaurants that haven’t worked in this part of town but we now have a pretty good line up down here between this place, Williams Eatery and the evergreen Baduzzi. Of those three restaurants, The Good Luck Coconut is the only one where you can see the water while you eat your dinner and there is something very special about watching the wild sea rising and falling only metres away from you.
Keep the Lime scooter well away from the wharf edge, and if you really want to be transported somewhere fast, find a table at this excellent restaurant and tell them to stoke up the fire pit.