There are some innovative things happening in the Auckland restaurant scene and one new opening that has caught our eye is Alta on K’ Road. Owned and operated by Georgia van Prehn, who was formerly head chef at Scotch in Blenheim, the 22-seat eatery operates with an ever-changing set four-course menu of snack, entrée, main and dessert, with additional “supplements” that include sourdough bread, oysters, mortadella or a seafood platter.
With a focus on minimising food waste, the main menu currently includes devilled scampi; beetroot, smoked yoghurt and sunflower seed; octopus noodles with beef fat, marmalade and silverbeet, and for dessert, licorice cake with vanilla custard. The drinks menu is just as interesting – there’s a selection of natural wines available, and you must try the olive oil-infused martini. Van Prehn is one to watch – even Al Brown is a fan.
In with the new
Wellington’s Logan Brown is serving a new three-course menu featuring three entrées, four mains and five desserts, with bread and butter to start. Standouts include pāua ravioli, Fiordland venison with osso bucco and black garlic, and warm pistachio and hazelnut cake. If you’re in the market for a “spiritual experience”, Logan Brown owner Shaun Clouston and craft-beer baron Richard Emerson are hosting a seven-course degustation shared-table event on August 12 with Emerson’s craft beer and premium spirits matches.
Flavour of the month
August means Restaurant Month in the City of Sails. Now into its 11th year, this celebration of the Auckland culinary scene sees its best and brightest serving up some world-class cuisine. More than 100 special-price menus are on offer around town, including at Mr Morris, La Marée, Cassia, Ebisu and Soul Bar & Bistro, plus a host of dining events. Our pick: Masu Unleashed featuring chef Nic Watt on August 27. New to Restaurant Month is Social Hour, a cocktail and sharing plate match available at 19 of the city centre’s finest bars. For more information go to heartofthecity.co.nz.
West is best
Auckland’s Titirangi village has something to celebrate with the opening of Street Feast, a new food precinct with some serious chops. Seven street-food maestros are on board, including Josh Barlow (The Grove, Sugar Club) and Brody Jenkins (The Grove, The Grounds), who have brought their Jo Bro’s Burgers and Loco Bro’s tacos and Mexican dishes to the space, which also has a splendid outdoor veranda area.
Behemoth Brewing Co is pouring top brews from its Churly’s Rise craft-beer bar, and Dominion Road pizzeria Stumpy’s is serving wood-fired pizza hot from the oven. Mar & Tierra bring Colombian flavours to the table, and Sa Pa Kitchen serves a cracking Vietnamese menu, including a selection of bánh mì and pho. Something sweet to finish? Wen & Yen’s dessert bar is a treat indeed – think doughnuts, tarts, waffles and gelato.
BusinessDesk popped in just after the inaugural opening on July 20 and the place was buzzing. Luckily, diners can order food from their table via their smartphone, which cuts down on queuing.
Marc Hershman, the man behind the Street Feast concept, says he found inspiration for the place on his travels. “I’ve eaten my way through some of the best street-food halls in Melbourne and Japan,” he says. “Food halls can bring communities together.”
I see red
Remember the name Ryan Henley – the award-winning chef is making waves in the Queenstown restaurant scene in his new role as executive chef at the QT. Formerly of Melbourne’s three-hatted Vue de Monde and Christchurch’s Pescatore, at the QT he’ll be overseeing in-house restaurant Bazaar, Reds Bar and the winter pop-up Lil Red at QT.
The new 40-seater fine-dining pop-up heroes Japanese cooking techniques. Two stars of the menu are Kurobuta pork loin chop with fermented black doris plum and thyme, and dry-aged Black Origin wagyu ribeye with smoked wagyu fat.
“Ingredient focused, that’s how I’d describe my style,” says Henley. “I make sure we have the very best produce – you’ll see sustainably caught seafood and native ingredients, with a focus on foraging and raw.
Located in the old harbourmaster’s building at Matiatia on Waiheke Island is Ahipao (te reo for “low burning fire”), a family-owned eatery specialising in sustainable, seasonal, locally grown produce – and a good selection of Waiheke wines. Esme Pfaff, husband Nick and daughter Alannah run the café, which adjoins the family’s knitwear workshop and business.
They’ve also brought in Jorge Choremi (Oyster Inn, Cable Bay) as food and beverage manager, and he has been helping to oversee the cafe’s new Mediterranean-inspired menu. “You can start the day at Ahipao having breakfast and soaking in the stunning views, or finish it watching the sunset over Rangitoto,” Choremi says. “There is no pressure here; you are welcome to enjoy a glass of wine and read a book while you wait for the ferry.”
Reap the rewards
Diary August 19 for the Man O’ War Harvest dinner at the Park Hyatt’s Onemata restaurant in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter. The three-course sharing menu has been released in advance and it’s a good ’un, with charred octopus, beetroot, kawakawa and braised endive; and Kalbi braised short ribs, roasted baby onions and gremolata among the selection. Man O’ War will, of course, be matching the wines. Bookings can be made by contacting [email protected].
Chef Steve Macdougall has won the Great NZ Toastie Takeover. Photo: Sarah Hodgett.
Toast of the town
Toast of the town
Congratulations to head chef Steve MacDougall of Mollies Restaurant (at the Hotel d’Urville) in Blenheim, who has taken out top honours in this year’s hotly contested Great NZ Toastie Takeover. His winning creation is titled the Mo Jo Pork Cuban with a Twist and it’s a hearty combination of slow-roasted pork belly, provolone, chimichurri, American mustard, McClure’s pickles and apple chilli on a toasted sourdough served with kūmara fries.
Competition head judge Kerry Tyack said MacDougall’s toastie was “a well-orchestrated and harmonious partnership that felt like comfort food through and through”. Be quick, though: this people-pleaser will be available for only another month or so from Mollies.
Follow Jacqui @jacqui.loates.haver