RESTAU­RANT, WINE

A col­li­sion of English roasts and Kiwi sum­mers ticks all the boxes

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS - Kim Knight

Mouth­wa­ter­ing meat;

How’s that New Year’s res­o­lu­tion go­ing? Eat less, ex­er­cise more. Live, love, laugh, re­peat. Sal­ads! Sal­ads! Sal­ads!

Dear reader, there is noth­ing for you here. I am at The Grill and I am about to eat half a kilo­gram of cow with a side of duck fat spuds.

If my mother saw my plate, she would say: “Your eyes are big­ger than your stom­ach.”

To which I would re­ply: “Mphff­phh.” (Be­cause it’s hard to be co­her­ent when your mouth is very full).

I could have or­dered from the raw bar: oys­ters, snapper, scampi, sword­fish, etc. I sup­pose I could have had a salad — the $32 chef’s ver­sion with baby veg­eta­bles and leaves, ja­mon, egg, manchego cheese and or­tiz an­chovy, is mixed at the ta­ble. But a truly bal­anced life is light and shade, peaks and troughs. Tonight, I am a pig at Sean Connolly’s leather-up­hol­stered trough.

The West York­shire-via-Syd­ney chef has been an Auck­land fix­ture since 2011, when re­al­ity tele­vi­sion show cam­eras fol­lowed him and the cre­ation of this SkyCity eatery for 100 days.

Early re­views were very com­pli­men­tary. Half a decade later, there is no se­ri­ous slip­page. The ser­vice, which, in sim­i­larly pricey restau­rants can some­times feel in­tim­i­dat­ing, was ex­actly the right mix of pro­fes­sional (warm tow­els, ar­ti­san bread and but­ter, reg­u­lar wa­ter re­fills) and friendly (yes, the clams were one of the wait­per­son’s favourites too). And the food? Per­fect meat, cooked per­fectly.

The first mouth­ful of that enor­mous fat-rid­dled rib eye on the bone ($49) made the back of my jaw tingle. When I googled this re­ac­tion later, the col­lec­tive wis­dom of the in­ter­net of­fered a sim­ple di­ag­no­sis: saliva. My mouth was lit­er­ally wa­ter­ing.

James had the 130-day grain-fed sir­loin from Ash­bur­ton ($55 for 400g). Imag­ine the very best Burger King patty you’ve ever eaten — tangy, charred and juicy — and then imag­ine that de­li­cious and dis­tinc­tive flavour served as a steak. Strange, but true. (Or maybe my taste buds need to spend more time around prime cuts?)

The amuse-bouche, a baby York­shire pud­ding with salmon-spiked creme fraiche, ar­rives at ev­ery ta­ble, “com­pli­ments of Sean”. Such a clever col­li­sion of English roasts and Kiwi sum­mers in a sin­gle mouth­ful. I badly want the recipe.

The Grill, first and fore­most, is a steak house. Prices start at $42 (180g of pas­ture fed an­gus eye fil­let) and run to $120-plus for the dry-aged, on the bone cuts of New South Wales Black An­gus for two. Con­sider start­ing with those Cloudy Bay clams ($28) in a meaty, Mediter­ranean broth. Briefly cooked, su­per plump, and bet­ter than any I’ve had any­where else.

I first tasted white as­para­gus at a win­ery restau­rant in the Hawke’s Bay. It was a tran­scen­dent mo­ment. The Grill didn’t quite achieve that with a $20 soup, but the in­clu­sion of a gold-leaf coated quail egg, sliv­ers of fresh as­para­gus and the as­sem­bly of said dish at our ta­ble, was pretty spe­cial. I am cer­tain I be­gan enun­ci­at­ing more clearly.

All that posh went out the win­dow when the tomato sauce ar­rived with the duck fat pota­toes. A menu main­stay since open­ing night, they were dis­ap­point­ing. Less crunch than I re­mem­ber and not enough bang for my 12 bucks. Pick­led baby beets with white an­chovy (also $12) shone by com­par­i­son.

Dessert was too much. Too much toasted co­conut on a panna cotta that was too heavy and too thick. It was par­tially saved by a very lively pineap­ple sor­bet, but, re­ally, we were too full to ap­pre­ci­ate it. I know what my mother would have said.

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