The falafel from Ozone. Photo / Babiche Martens

Restaurant Review: Ozone, Grey Lynn

Jesse Mulligan finds all-day restaurant Ozone good enough to be his new local

Cuisine: Bistro
Address: 18 Westmoreland St West, Grey Lynn
Phone: (09) 360 8125
Drinks: Fully licensed
From the menu: Hanger steak and fries $32, falafel and hummus $22, margherita pizza $20, mussels $18, green salad $8
Reservations: Accepted
Rating: 17/20

Well, what a find this is. I’m going to make it my new local, and although I live nearby, I would probably still make it my new local if I was renting in Mangere Bridge. This is a very, very appealing restaurant in an unexpected corner of Grey Lynn, and the only real complaint I have is their choice of name, which sounds like an oxygen bar for Russian oligarchs.

The word “Ozone” is generic but everything about this restaurant is specific. That includes the lighting, which allows this new place to take the title off Hello Beasty as the most flattering place in Auckland to put your face.

They’ve stuck these volleyball-sized orbs on the wall at head height, creating a permanent golden hour. If one of your restaurant goals is to create a social media post that will make your ex jealous (as valid a reason to dine out as a birthday or anniversary) then this is the restaurant for you.

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And I don’t often bang on about interiors but whoever put this place together has created something really special, with luxurious green leather bench seats softening what is still clearly an industrial space.

In the centre of the room is an open kitchen featuring chefs in crisp uniforms working with devoted precision, and then in one corner is a big showpiece oven where crowds of pre-schoolers form an audience around the big guy sliding fresh pizzas in and out of the furnace.

Above right: The beetroot and ricotta bruschetta from Ozone. Photo / Babiche Martens

That’s the other great thing — that although “leather booths and sexy lamps” sounds like a venue for the Tinder generation, there’s a big 5pm wave of parents and children grateful for a neighbourhood restaurant where the drinks are good and the staff unfussy.

“The new Prego”, reckons one of our friends. (If you don’t have children you may not realise when you show up to restaurants like these at 7pm that they’ve already done a full dinner service for a roomful of children and their thirsty, thirsty parents).

There are a couple of flaws — the booths are so deep that the waitress could only access half the table, and I had the air conditioning dripping on me for most of the meal.There are design problems online too, with Ozone’s website and Facebook pages apparently not yet having been alerted that there is a restaurant here. But everything else about the place is of such a quality that you’re inclined to forgive and forget.

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And the food is fantastic. Actually, the pizza was the least impressive of the line-up, although it went down well among the kids. I was more impressed with a hanger steak — a great piece of delicious beef overlooked by chefs scrambling for the more recognisable cuts.The kitchen had enough confidence to serve it rare, pre-sliced like the Americans take it and plated with a pleasantly pulpy green herb chimichurri and an intense jus on the side.

Greenlipped mussels were hot, plump and buttery with an anchovy mayonnaise and if you have any sort of taste for them they’re a must-order dish.They were served with a whey emulsion, technically, and there were other signs on the menu that the kitchen respects live cultures and fermentation — the “new” techniques any decent chef should be spending his or her spare time mastering.

The interior of Ozone in Grey Lynn. Photo / Babiche Martens

Ozone does a fermented hummus, which was probably too subtle to have much impact other than on the menu verbiage but I loved the idea. They have enough space in this old warehouse to get a real lab going, so I hope they follow these early instincts.

The food has two other lovely aspects. Firstly there is a design prettiness to it that really speaks to the care they’re taking in the kitchen — fries are handcut and served vertical, inside a cone of oven paper in a small tin bucket. That hummus was coloured up with a slice of orange, a little beetroot, some first-class falafel and soft baby rocket.

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But the other crucial thing is that you feel great after eating here, not loaded down, bloated or over-sugared. It’s a menu of simple ingredients prepared cleverly enough that you couldn’t easily do the same at home.So it’s satisfyingly cheffy but doesn’t seem to employ the short-term taste-bud tricks that you end up cursing two hours later. It’s fresh, it’s clean, it’s real and it’s a keeper.

The drinks list is great too and outdoor seating plus a bar along one wall suggest this would indeed be a great place for a romantic cocktail once the last discarded dummy has been cleared away. I necked a couple of Yakima Monsters on tap but had my eye on a “cold brew Negroni” and I tell you readers, I could have really tied one on if I didn’t have a newborn baby arriving the following day.

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