The Sugar Club


15.5/20 Sky­tower, 72 Vic­to­ria St, Auck­land 09 363 6365, skyc­ityauck­ Lunch Wed-sat, Din­ner 7 days 3 cour­ses $100, 4 cour­ses $115, 5 cour­ses $125

THERE’S SOME­THING re­ally pleas­ant hap­pen­ing high above Auck­land. The Sugar Club, Skyc­ity’s show­case for Kiwi cui­sine, is ben­e­fit­ting from a pro­longed and de­ter­mined jour­ney to find just the right combo of lead­er­ship, head chef and ser­vice style to make the din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence as mem­o­rable as the long lift ride to the best view in Auck­land. There has been, un­til now, sin­gu­lar el­e­ments of sat­is­fac­tion but this time it felt more com­fort­able, more to­gether than be­fore. The guid­ing hand of re­spected Peter Gor­don, who de­liv­ered us The Sugar Club some years ago is still ev­i­dent. His in­flu­ence on the styling of the din­ing area re­mains and his name heads the menu in­tro­duc­tion that ex­plains the fu­sion fo­cus that has been so in­flu­en­tial in es­tab­lish­ing him as one of our culi­nary stars.

But there has been pal­pa­ble change and, while there is not just one beat to the heart of this trans­for­ma­tion, clearly a key in­gre­di­ent is the work that Executive Chef, Josh Bar­low, is do­ing with menu. Bar­low joined The Sugar Club from The Grove, where in 2016 he took on the role of head chef work­ing along­side Ben Bayly.

Bar­low is clearly a ma­jor talent in his own right, with the as­sur­ance of some­one much older and more ex­pe­ri­enced. There are glimpses of the Bayly style, as well as the Gor­don ap­proach, but there is also lash­ings of in­di­vid­u­al­ity.

The menu de­liv­ered well-tested flavour com­bi­na­tions such as veni­son and beet­root and salmon with fen­nel. Along­side these was a su­perb serv­ing of monk­fish with kim­chi pump­kin. This fu­sion of fish from the South Is­land and Korean-in­spired pick­les with Sin­ga­porean herbs shows just how well Bar­low has picked up Gor­don’s fo­cus on multi-cul­tural blends. Another dish that worked won­der­fully well was the aubergine with a baked sesame crust. It shared a plate with feta, tahini yoghurt and mango dress­ing. The com­bi­na­tion of savoury and sweet was formed beau­ti­fully, but with the wel­come im­pact of a chef who knows how to wield a per­fectly re­strained hand. Bar­low’s in­tel­li­gent ap­proach re­vealed it­self fur­ther in a stun­ning work-up of Perig­ord truf­fle, chicken cus­tard and black gar­lic.

Desserts were ad­e­quate, but need more at­ten­tion. Our choices of grilled pineap­ple with lemon­grass and co­conut and another of Ni­uean honey par­fait with co­conut tapi­oca were tasty enough sweet treats, but stood some­what in the shadow of the first cour­ses.

Wel­come changes ap­peared in other as­pects of The Sugar Club ex­pe­ri­ence. The ser­vice has lost that fussy and for­mal edge: we had a well-in­formed and en­gag­ing waiter and, watch­ing oth­ers work­ing the floor around us, sug­gests some­one has re­minded staff that din­ers should be the ones shin­ing most brightly.

Men­tion must be made, too, of the drinks list, par­tic­u­larly the wine list sec­tioned into gar­den, sea, farm and planet. It’s a very fine se­lec­tion and it now melds much more har­mo­niously with the menu.

Prices are at the high end, how­ever the cur­rent of­fer­ing of key el­e­ments make a visit both en­ter­tain­ing and good value.

The Sugar Club is for­tu­nate to have con­vinced Josh Bar­low to come on board and so long as ser­vice de­liv­ery and at­mos­phere can keep abreast of his adept han­dling of con­tem­po­rary trends in Kiwi din­ing, this is a com­bi­na­tion that, po­ten­tially, will take us much fur­ther into the heav­ens.

ABOVE The Sugar Club’s wild shot veni­son, burnt cream, smoked beet­root, con­fit car­rot and anise LEFT Josh Bar­low

BOT­TOM 1154’s spinach and ri­cotta tortel­loni and bu­ca­tini am­a­tr­ciana

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