Simon & Lee
SET-UP & SITE The best part of Parnell has long been the lower part of St Georges Bay Road and its surrounds, far away from the noise and weird mix of very good and very bad food that makes up much of the main strip. Down and around lower St GB Rd, things get a bit more real. It’s gritty Parnell, or as gritty as it gets, and it’s where Simon & Lee wisely set up its brash and brilliant riposte to the bucket of similarity that has latterly infused the Auckland brunch scene.
SUSTENANCE & SWILL At first skim, the menu appears to be a standard European- style brunch, with your benedicts and waffles and eggs on toast and mushrooms, and you’re drifting into a familiar reverie, then — BANGO! — out of nowhere comes some kimchi or yuzu or activated charcoal or congee or mahn du guk, and suddenly the whole thing feels fresh and alive. It’s a menu that challenges you but not too much. It says, “Don’t be afraid to leap! Simon and Lee are here to catch you!” I like the idea of sweet breakfasts but the options at most brunch places are mostly just gussied up lollies and if I wanted lollies for breakfast, I would buy a packet of jet planes. But Simon & Lee’s sweet option is black waffles ($ 19) with granola mascarpone, maple candied pancetta, chargrilled banana, yuzu and dehydrated raspberries. The blackness of the waffles comes from activated charcoal but the greatness comes from the clever combination of flavours. Its blend of tartness, muted sweetness and globbiness make it arguably the most sophisticated and classy brunch around. The benedict ($ 20) with smoked salmon comprises perfectly poached eggs on buckwheat and tapioca crumpets, with just a gentle souring of kimchi. The “hollandaise” is actually miso truffle bechamel, which provides a happily complementary salty note. It’s compressed completeness on a sort- of bun.
SERVICE & OTHER STUFF Water bottles appear quietly on your table and are replaced as they run low, a touch so subtle and so vanishingly rare in the brunch world that you can’t help but love it. Tiny black boxes on each table offer elegant cutlery. Design is on point. Everything is on point.