Some­thing for ev­ery­one

A kalei­do­scope menu re­flects its sur­round­ings

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - RESTAURANT - Kim Knight

Re­cently, I took part in an ex­per­i­ment where re­searchers sought to de­lib­er­ately ob­scure any vis­ual clue as to what flavour ice­cream I was tast­ing. They did this by bathing the test­ing booth in red light. My palate was forced to work harder, but that was okay, be­cause it was for science.

At The Hal­cyon, where the room glows like a West Coast sun­set on meth, my palate was also labour­ing. And that was an­noy­ing, be­cause I wasn’t pay­ing for a work­out.

What to make of The Hal­cyon? It used to be An­di­amo, favourite haunt of men of a cer­tain age and women with ex­pen­sive hair­cuts. Now it’s like Paula Ryan sud­denly started wear­ing Trelise Cooper, ex­cept that’s un­fair be­cause there is far more re­fine­ment in a Trelise design than there is in this res­tau­rant, which has a strangely un­fin­ished feel.

The ta­bles are not solid enough to an­chor all that colour; the bird cage roof fea­ture is whim­si­cal, but at floor level there’s just so much wide, open space (ex­cept, con­versely, be­tween the ta­bles).

The lack of co­he­sion ex­tends to the menu. There are three sal­ads, for ex­am­ple — cae­sar, falafel and sushi. You can order a side of Chi­nese broc­coli with gar­lic chilli and oys­ter sauce but also a side of car­rots braised with but­ter, bay and chardon­nay; the “com­fort” mains in­clude snap­per and chips — and, when we vis­ited, a mas­saman duck curry.

There was, I sup­pose, some­thing for ev­ery­one. But this is an all-day eatery (from the same folk as Pon­sonby Rd Bistro) and not a buf­fet. The dearth of any par­tic­u­lar di­rec­tion was un­set­tling. It meant the food had to work ex­tra hard to re­as­sure me leav­ing my liv­ing room when Uber was on surge-charg­ing had been a good idea. Per­haps a cock­tail would help?

A spritz of gin, pink grape­fruit and pink pep­per­corns ($18) tasted as de­light­ful as it sounded, even though we were half­way through our first course be­fore our drinks ar­rived.

The wait­per­son had sug­gested we go for a few snacks, some­thing from the grill, and a hand­ful of sides. Great ad­vice — ex­cept, at 7.45pm on a Satur­day night, 50 per cent of the grill menu (the lamb and the chicken) had sold out.

From the snacks menu, the soft-shell crab taco ($16) was tricky to share, but it got a big tick for flavour. Be­san (chickpea flour) fries are an ex­cel­lent al­ter­nate to spud, though they needed to be crisper to make the most of a large dol­lop of tangy yo­ghurt and tamarind ($14).

They were out of tua tua, so we went for the smoked fish paté ($14), lifted from some­thing-I-could-- have-made-at-home by de­li­cious lit­tle slabs of pick­led cu­cum­ber and ca­per berries, and (slightly scorched) seed crack­ers.

Who­ever is on the grill re­ally knows what they’re do­ing. Our salmon and scotch fil­let (both $28) were tar-black on the out­side, juicy and just-cooked on the in­side. Def­i­nitely the best steak I’ve had this year.

Our fi­nal main was the mas­saman duck. It’s a large piece of meat and it fell off the bone in sharable por­tions. De­li­cious, though in the mud­dled light­ing, it took a few sec­onds to fig­ure out it was sit­ting on brown rice (the menu just said “rice”).

Ac­tu­ally, all things duck were done very well. Hamil­ton’s Duck Is­land roasted white cho­co­late and miso ice­cream took an ex­cel­lent ap­ple pie ($14.50) into the next strato­sphere. I would ac­tu­ally drive to Hamil­ton for more of that ice­cream, but I’m not sure it’s quite enough to tempt me back to The Hal­cyon.

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