The fine folk over at SkyCity Entertainment don't see the point in city workers jumping into rush-hour traffic for a stressful drive or commute home.

So they've devised a drawcard to keep people in town – specifically near Federal St, the hub of a collection of eateries and one of the CBD's key hospitality attractions outside of the waterfront.

It's called the golden hour, a selection of curated summer set-menu specials that apply to the first sitting of the evening, with first orders generally prior to 6pm.

In my view that's practically lunch, but the magnet for sitting down so early is the assemblage on offer: Metita, Huami, Nic Watt's Masu, Cassia, The Sugar Club and SkyBar.

It's a serious gastronomic collective.

This week, it was the turn of The Sugar Club, following hard on the heels of the wonderful Metita, literally from the ground floor to 200 metres above it. 

Tequila sunset

For me, the 5.30pm booking was fine, as SkyCity is a five-minute walk from BusinessDesk's Graham St office. But it did present some logistical problems for my dinner partner, who drove in from the eastern suburbs.

Parking, however, wasn't one of them, as The Sugar Club crew are super happy to validate parking even before dinner. 

The swift bullet-like elevator ride to what is technically the 53rd level (not sure how a tower has "levels" exactly) was also fun, though our slightly more acrophobic American co-passengers were slightly less enthusiastic, studiously avoiding the glass portal on the floor.

It's a sweet venue, covering the circumference of the tower and with a rather comfy, classy cocktail bar at the entrance. 

The restaurant – run by celebrated chef Peter Gordon until he left in 2020 – seats 82 patrons, all of whom have excellent vantage points over the Waitematā Harbour and harbour bridge. 

Instagram moment

At our twilight time of the day, almost two hours of daylight were still left, and you got the sense that most of the diners were deliberately taking their time awaiting the Instagram moment when the sun dipped below the North Shore horizon.

Ahead of that, there was the small matter of a cocktail. I kicked things off with a very interesting concoction called the Sugar Daddy. 

A warning to vegans to turn away now. 

The drink includes a Laphroaig whisky, infused with a smoky pork fat, blended with a coffee liqueur and apéritif à l'orange – so everything a man could possibly want in meat, coffee and even some citrus notes to balance it out. I was in two minds – but it was still early, so I gave it a chance! My partner opted for a gin and tonic, a safe and winning bet.

Golden hour but no goose

The golden hour offering, at $79 per diner, is essentially a pared-down, three-course sampling of what is otherwise a fairly extensive menu.

It kicks off with a lovely sourdough bread and smoked butter starter, followed by an entrée of either quail served with pomegranate and pumpkin or a rolled cabbage with hazelnut, lemon, and smoked paprika. In deference to the vegans, it's turned off with the sugar daddy (see above).

We both opted for the quail, which was utterly crisp and delicious. If only it were a bigger damn bird!

 The Sugar Club quail: a tiny, delicious bird. (Image: A Lee)

While there is also a main course catering for the vegan grazers among us – a celeriac croissant with olive, coffee & nori purée – we opted for the longline snapper served with coconut, nori and a "fish sausage" (lobster, and other crustacean-wrapped in a seaweed casing) – all of which was served with lime leaf and daikon.

It was sublime.

The snapper was the star of the show. (Image: BusinessDesk)

Diners, however, aren't obliged to order from the lighter, earlier menu; they can pick from an assortment of curated menus. These range from a three-course menu starting at $120 a head to a $175 deluxe tasting menu that throws everything into the mix. 

If you've managed to win at the tables, you can match that with a curated beverage pairing for an additional $95.

Port-a-loo or port-in-the-loo? The porthole features in the bathrooms. (Image: BusinessDesk)

We wrapped things up with a feijoa-and-pear pavlova off the à la carte menu before heading down to the casino as it was still early. All part of SkyCity's cunning plan!
Dinner: Tues-Sat 5pm-9pm
Golden hour from 5pm. Last order 6pm (though that can be extended if you're nice)
Bookings recommended