WHERE WE ATE

Cui­sine’s team of re­view­ers as­sess eater­ies around NZ

Cuisine - - CONTENTS - GINNY GRANT

Am­per­sand Eatery 15/20 228 Ōrākei Rd, Ōrākei 09 522 9503, am­per­sandeatery.nz Break­fast, cof­fee & lunch 7 days, din­ner Wed-Sun Mains $26-$29

SINCE OPEN­ING IN March, Am­per­sand has be­come a firm favourite for eastern sub­urb dwellers who were hith­erto a lit­tle starved when it came to ex­cel­lence in lo­cal sur­rounds. The open-air deck look­ing out onto an ex­pan­sive view of the Ōrākei Basin is a de­light­ful spot to spend a long lunch sip­ping on a rosé or an ex­cel­lent cof­fee from busi­ness part­ners Espresso Work­shop. Am­per­sand is part of the Ōrākei Bay Vil­lage devel­op­ment in an old ware­house that in­cludes the likes of Farro Fresh and Broth­ers Beer. Be­cause this is Auck­land, it’s a park­ing night­mare, but if you’re com­ing from town, then it’s worth hop­ping on the train – Ōrākei sta­tion is over the road.

The ex­pan­sive space man­ages to feel in­ti­mate at night. The deck awnings and screens come down and the light­ing is good. When we dined there was a draft, how­ever, that blew across the din­ing room, mar­ring the cosi­ness a lit­tle – but I did note a pile of blan­kets in a basket for those in need. Run­ning the floor on our visit was Matt Wood­ward; charm­ing and ef­fi­cient on a busy night.

Chef-owner Mikey New­lands was head chef at el­e­gant coun­try res­tau­rant Bracu and fine-din­ing pop-up Al­lechante, but at this all-day eatery, the food is ca­sual – which is not to say it isn’t ex­cit­ing or in­ter­est­ing. There is plenty of tech­nique go­ing into the dishes, but it feels re­laxed and un­pre­ten­tious.

The drinks list is small and sharp, cu­rated by New­lands’ part­ner Amanda Rogers (former som­me­lier at Si­dart), with a tight of­fer­ing of in­ter­est­ing wines and beers. My beer geek com­pan­ion prac­ti­cally squealed with de­light when a Par­rot­Dog Blood­hound red ale was sug­gested to ac­com­pany her starter of house-smoked sal­mon in­stead of a wine; and it was a very smart, co­he­sive match.

That sal­mon, which has been on the menu in slightly dif­fer­ent vari­a­tions since Am­per­sand opened, was very good. The smok­ing was light – re­ally more of a cure – while the mar­i­nated leeks it came with were del­i­cate. The su­perb ac­com­pa­ny­ing cray­fish oil dom­i­nated the dish, but it was har­mo­nious. Another en­tree of drunken chicken was a de­light – moist poached chicken breast with a rich, dark, black se­same sauce that was light­ened with pick­led cu­cum­ber, along with some sliced green beans. Both en­trees were large and at­trac­tive to look at.

The req­ui­site dish of many a menu for a veg­e­tar­ian is mush­room risotto, of­ten bland and unin­spir­ing. Not so

here, where in­stead we got an in­tensely flavoured dish of per­fectly cooked spelt and flavour­some mush­rooms, with some tex­tu­ral in­ter­est in the form of roasted al­monds and sun­flower seeds. A bis­teeya of pi­geon and quail was another high­light – with flaky pas­try, del­i­cately favoured meat, a silky parsnip puree, crunch from pomegranate seeds and cracked wheat and sweet­ness from golden raisins, it was rich and warm­ing on a cool night. We adored a side of broc­coli with a sriracha emul­sion and can­died peanuts too, but for many here the high­light will be dessert.

A “Snick­ers” bar that’s def­i­nitely bet­ter than the orig­i­nal com­prised a rich salted caramel sauce, some moreish darkly roasted peanuts and a light-asair peanut par­fait, with shav­ings of cho­co­late and a light but rich cho­co­late ganache. The cho­co­late fon­dant – a dish so easy to get wrong – was on point, with a crisp and light outer, gooey mid­dle and a per­fectly brûlée glaze on a side of roasted ba­nana. We liked that we were warned that the fon­dant would take 15 min­utes – it was worth the wait.

What is ap­par­ent here is Am­per­sand’s ap­peal to all ages, ev­i­dent in the many fam­ily groups out for a weeknight din­ner, a ca­sual week­end brunch or a spot of lunch. Food is ap­peal­ing to both the wal­let, the eye and the palate, and the drinks list is rea­son­ably priced and in­ter­est­ing. New­lands and Rogers have cre­ated a care­free des­ti­na­tion that ticks a great many boxes.

LEFT The pi­geon and quail bis­teeya at Am­per­sand OP­PO­SITE Am­per­sand’s own­ers, Amanda Rogers and Mikey New­lands

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