September 16, 2014
The Black Hoof

This week for Cheap Eats, I ventured into the storm to find a Spanish oasis in The Black Hoof

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Roasted cauliflower ($9)

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Goat cheese croquettas ($11)

While the name The Black Hoof may conjure images of an English pub with dark wood, Yorkshire puds and bar maids, the name actually refers to the hoof of the prized black Iberian pigs, of which several of their legs can be found hanging above The Black Hoof’s bar.

Once a dark night club, the owners of The Black Hoof (who hail from Casita Miro on Waiheke Island) have stripped the place back and polished off the black paint to create a warm and inviting space to enjoy a few bebidas and tapas with friends.

The Black Hoof’s dining room is bright and airy, sitting at the top of a flight of stairs on Auckland’s Wyndham Street. The room almost glowed on the cold and rainy night Alexia, Lynn and I visited, with the walls boasting exposed, terrocotta-coloured brick and the dining furniture reclaimed in one form or another.

True to its namesake, the menu here features a number of charcuterie options including hand-carved Serrano ($12) and Iberico Jamon (we ordered the former as the later is too pricey to feature in a Cheap Eats budget) and a number of Spanish cheeses.

For those after more substantial offerings, the menu has a variety of familiar (think patatas bravas and gazpacho) and less familiar Spanish offerings, including raw line caught fish with green olives and lemon, or beef cheek with carrot puree, salsa verde and pickled mushrooms. We liked the sounds of the vegetable dishes and ordered the roasted cauliflower ($9) and braised beetroot ($9) as well as the goat cheese croquettas ($11) and pork chicharrones ($16) to remind us this was a Spanish place.

I was particularly fond of the cauliflower, an imaginative concoction of scorched cauliflower and kale dressed with sweet and juicy sherried raisins, pine nuts and topped with plump and salty whole anchovies and a squeeze of lemon; the whole thing was both a flavour and textural delight.

The goat cheese croquettas with honey and marcona almonds came as three golden medallions with a crispy crumbed outer and a warm, velvety filling of goat’s cheese; the honey added an extra soothing dimension of flavour whilst the almonds provided a nice contrast in texture. The braised beetroot was a spin on your classic combination of beetroot with nuts and cheese; the candied walnuts were dark and treacly in colour with a moreish crunch whilst the medjool dates added a soft, caramel richness.The valdeon turned out to be a rather potent blue cheese that thankfully didn’t feature too heavily, providing a heady aroma to the finish of the dish.

The hand-carved Serrano Jamon came simply served as is in slivers of various shapes and sizes; it had a beautiful flavour to it but was chewier than expected. The least successful of the dishes was the chicharrones, better known to us as fried pork belly seasoned with fennel seeds and a sprinkle of lemon juice and parsley. The skin was lovely and crunchy but Alexia and I found the meat itself to be a bit on the dry side; it certainly benefited from the lemon both to moisten things up and to cut the richness of the pork belly.

Although drinks do not feature in a Cheap Eats budget, I must note that both the non-alcoholic red sangria and the sangria blanco were excellent; my red sangria was a combination of red fruit juices topped with soda and spiked with whole cinnamon and star anise whilst Alexia’s sangria blanco was a fragrant combination of sauvignon blanc, gin and kiwifruit liquor.

The Black Hoof is a welcome addition to Auckland’s sparse Spanish food scene; they have a great philosophy on using both Spanish and local produce, and I’ll be returning to try the squid ink rice with crispy calamari and saffron aioli and the lamb shoulder with labneh, cumin spiced almonds and chickpeas.

www.theblackhoof.co.nz

Location: 12 Wyndham Street, Auckland CBD
Phone: 09 366-1271
Hours: Tuesday – Thursday 11am – 10pm; Friday 11am – 11pm; Saturday 3pm – 11pm
Prices: Bread $8; Charcuteria $9-$29; Queso $13; Para picar $4.50-$11; Verduras $9; Pescado $12-$16; Carne $16-$26; Arroz $26; Dulce $6-12; Non-alcoholic drinks $4-$10; Craft beer $8-$17.50; Cider $10-$30; Wine by the glass $8-$23
Credit Cards: Yes
Licensed: Yes
Suitable for Vegetarians: Yes
Takeaways: No
Bathrooms: Good (small doorway access)
Wheelchair Accessible: No

September 7, 2014
Pocha

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Pocha isn’t your average Korean restaurant. Situated in the Chancery in the Auckland CBD, it’s housed in the shop space which once was a patisserie I visited many moons ago. The fit out resembles more bar than cheap and cheerful eatery, but that was the intention. You see, Pocha is the sort of place where Koreans (and anyone else for that matter) can come to drink, but also enjoy some delicious Korean food on the side. The interior is dark, with the bar backlit with blue gels that remind one of a night club. The K-Pop is pumping on the stereo and waiters and waitresses have secret service earpieces in situ. There is plenty of room to sit inside, but there’s also a lovely outdoor over-bridge where one can sit and bask in the overhead heating. 

The menu here doesn’t have nearly the number of recognisable Korean favourites, but what they do have is good. Although, unbeknownst to Gareth and I, the dishes at Pocha are geared toward feeding large crowds, so do not be tempted to over order. We started with the ubiquitous crispy kimchi pancake ($25), which was as good a rendition as any I’ve had before. True to their intent, the pancake which arrived was large, perfectly crisp with a nice bit of heat and a tangy dipping sauce to go with it. 

If we thought the kimchi pancake was large, the pan-fried pork belly and squid ($33) was nothing short of enormous.  It came on a cast-iron plate the size of a large pizza dish, with barely set eggs and nori-topped rice, as well as a side of miso soup. The waiter explained that I was meant to toss the whole lot together, bibimbap style, before serving it. And oh did I take to it with my long-stemmed spoon, and with great delight too as Gareth watched on in amusement. We’ve always been told not to play with our food, but here one needs to make an exception. The dish itself was delicious; warm with gochujang, the squid was blissfully tender and the pork belly rich and moist. After several serves, Gareth and I stared at the dish and felt defeated; we’d barely made a dent in it.

In true Asian form, we took the rest of away which would easily last several meals. I’ll be arming myself with several friends the next time I come.

Pocha

A11 Chancery Square

50 Kitchener St

Auckland CBD

Ph. (09) 887 7850

August 12, 2014
Cheap Eats: Bun Hut

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The humble bun is a delicious commodity, which, up until recently, had been unfortunately overlooked in this age of Dominion Road dumpling wars. Situated in between dumpling heavy weights Barilla and New Flavour lies Bun Hut, an unsuspecting looking shop that offers something that the others lack: buns.

Not quite a dumpling, not quite a bao, these steamed buns ($4 for 5; $7 for $10) tread the line between the two, possessing the best of both. Their slightly thicker exteriors are a textural delight, both soft and slightly chewy at the same time, without distracting from the lush, tasty filling inside. Becky and I have a penchant for the combination of pork and fennel and ordered a plate of five, however Bun Hut offers a number of other fillings if aniseed isn’t to your liking.

Bun Hut, which on first glance appears more like a bakery than restaurant, has a large glass display cabinet at its counter, containing filled pancakes and some unusual looking desserts.

There are a number of long, communal tables to seat those who are dining in, a surprisingly trendy arrangement which could well make an appearance in the Tumblr of accidental Chinese hipsters. Its menu boasts an extensive array of dishes, from filled breads to gruel, casseroles and noodles. And everything is ridiculously cheap. In addition to our pork and fennel buns, we ordered a plate of dumplings ($9 for 20; how could we not?), a roast sesame pancake stuffed with stewed beef ($3), noodles with pork mince ($8) and fried noodles with shredded pork ($8).

The roast sesame pancake was similar to the chilli-licked lamb pitas one can get across the road, with the added benefit of sesame seeds sprinkled on top. The dumplings, as all dumplings in this area seem to be, were delicious and the going rate more similar to what it used to be like before everyone knew about dumplings. The pork mince noodles were an interesting concoction, sprinkled liberally with crushed peanuts and served with preserved mustard greens (the Chinese’s answer to sauerkraut); though deliciously savoury, the mustard greens were a little more potent than what I’m used to. James’ fried yellow noodles were alarmingly greasy and not particularly special.

I’d like to return to try the different steamed buns, bready-items and main dishes, of which the stir-fried tofu with minced pork mince in a spicy sauce amongst many other dishes catches my eye. But if trawling through the list-like menu sounds too arduous for you, sitting down at dinner and pointing to what your neighbour orders might do the trick too. 

Location: 563 Dominion Road, Balmoral
Phone: 638-8898
Hours: 8am-9pm, seven days
Prices: Dumplings $9-$11; steamed buns $1-$7; breads $1-$5; gruel and soup $2-$6; main dishes $6-$16; cold dishes $1-$7; casseroles $7-$12; noodles $5-$9
Credit Cards: No
Licensed: No
Suitable for Vegetarians: Yes
Takeaways: Yes
Bathrooms: None
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

July 11, 2014
Eat It takes London: Polpetto

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Artichoke, farro and pecorino

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Marinated heirloom tomatoes

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Burrata, agretti and chilli

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Beetroot, goats cheese

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Maple tart

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Rhubarb with yoghurt sorbet

Italian food, the sort of pure and rustic fare you envision eating al fresco in a vineyard in the Italian countryside somewhere is so hard to find. I never found myself in such a situation whilst travelling around Italy itself, where tourist-traps were in abundance, let alone in Auckland. But that sort of Italian dream was easily found at London’s Polpetto on Berwick Street. 

One cool Friday night in April, Emma (my only bona fide Italian friend) and I pitched up early to Polpetto in the hopes of acquiring two seats in a place that takes no bookings but have the public beating at the doors for a chance to eat there. We snapped up two of the last spots in the house, at the marble apertivo bar. 

The lighting at Polpetto is low and the decor leaning more towards the shabby side of chic, with gingham hankies for lamp shades and worn stucco walls. To sate my obsession with rhubarb we started with a glass of the rhubarb and rose bellini, wonderfully tart and the perfect tint of just-tickled pink. 

The menu, with its focus on fresh and seasonal produce, is coy with the descriptions. Simply ‘burrata, agretti, chilli’ or ‘artichoke, farro, pecorino’.  All the plates are small and intended to be shared; after Emma and I had been done ordering, we’d surprised ourselves, having ordered only vegetarian dishes. 

Every dish that arrived was spectacular, from the light but nutty artichoke and farro, sharpened with slivers of pecorino, to the unexpected puree of beetroot which was comforting and earthly but made lively by the smattering of salty goat’s cheese. One would imagine that to serve a plate of simply tomatoes, these would have to be the best damn tomatoes one could find. And they were.

We both ordered dessert, to the protestation of our already rather full tummies, and what a good choice it was. I had the stewed rhubarb (again!), a deconstructed crumble topped with a scoop of yoghurt sorbet which was a little bit of tangy genius. Emma’s maple tart was silken and aromatic with that unique tree resin. 

There are a number of other restaurants that fall within the Polpetto family (their original restaurant Polpo is famous enough to have a cookbook put out by it) that each have a slightly different take on Italian, so there are options available to you if Polpetto is full.

Polpetto

11 Berwick Street

London W1F 0PL

Ph. +44 20 7439 8627

June 22, 2014
Better Burger

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Whilst I was busy fossicking around on foreign shores, the lads back home were busy opening a number of dedicated burger joints. It seems as though there has been an eruption of high-quality burger places including Burger Burger in Ponsonby and Pinky’s within Tyler Street Garage. But the one that excited me most was the opening of Better Burger at Britomart Country Club

BCC itself has undergone a bit of a revamp; it’s now a little more refined and a lot cosier than before, as it made way for its burger side venture. As a classicist, I am happy to report that Better Burger is serving up the best burger I’ve ever tasted. Yes, even better than Shake Shack. They’ve taken two cliched but often poorly executed concepts, simplicity and quality, and successfully sculpted the best burger in Auckland. 

The thing that first surprised me about Better Burger was how cheap their burgers were. Priced at $5-$6.50 each, that alone will have punters bypassing the Downtown McDonald’s in favour of Better. And once they’ve tasted it, they won’t want for another burger ever again. But this place is no secret: people know about it, and the lines can be out the door and the waiting time long.  I waited for over half an hour for my burger on my first visit, but oh was it worth it. 

It starts with the bun. It’s crafted by Bread & Butter Bakery and lightly charred, adding a lovely crustiness to this soft roll. The Angus beef patties are just the right thickness, perfectly seasoned with a good lick of salt (so often overlooked in just about every burger ever made) and grilled to blushingly medium-rare. Again there’s some nice charring on the patty, adding a smoky-depth of flavour. Add to this some beautiful cheese that goes all gooey, home-made pickle, salad and Curious Cropper tomatoes, and a secret-sauce that took two months to perfect. Voila, you have a Better Burger

They love simplicity here so much, that they only have regular Coke or Sprite on tap (I gawked slightly at first, but as I took my first sip of full-sugar Coke in 5 years I sighed yes, it really does taste better) or a choice of chocolate, strawberry or vanilla thick shakes. They’re really thick, like semi-molten beverages of ice cream. You’ll burn calories trying to suck it through the straw, and that’s what I love about them. I’ve yet to taste the strawberry (it came as a personal recommendation from the head chef Dan Smith himself), but I will next time.

And don’t get me started on the fries. Okay, get me started on the fries. Skins on, crisp, fresh, greaseless. Impossible? Not so. I’ve been wandering through life, living from chip to chip, and I’ve finally tasted perfection in a fry. 

If there isn’t a Better Burger cult already, there will be soon; I’ve already converted several friends. 

Better Burger 

31 Galway Street

Britomart

Auckland CBD

Ph. (09) 303 2541

June 8, 2014
RAD

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This week I’ve returned from a two month stint in London and two weeks suitcase-toting around central Europe. What an experience! London is a brilliant city with so much to offer, a place for foodies to eat their hearts out (pun-intended). There’s plenty that I’ll miss about the place: everything’s open till late and people are milling around at 11pm on a Tuesday; the amazingly efficient public transport system (and the CityMappers app on my iPhone) and knowing that you’re just one of six million. 

But New Zealand has plenty that London doesn’t, including generally excellent coffee. Most of the good ones (I personally frequented Dose on Long Lane near Smithfield) often had a Kiwi or Australian connection oddly enough. Our cafe culture is something to be envied and upon arriving home I was delighted to finally be visiting RAD. 

On a fine Saturday lunch time the place was thronging with barely a spare seat in their slickly designed house, save for the one I found myself perched  on at the window looking out onto Mt Eden Road. Thoughtfulness is something overlooked these days in the age of instant gratification and snap-to-it, but RAD bucks this trend in their aesthetically-pleasing geometric decor and natural wood interiors. They served a fruity, rose-based tea instead of water and their table numbers are made out of Lego. The menu is well thought out and humorous (visit to see what I mean), comprising of a small number of breakfast and lunch dishes. Small in number does not mean you aren’t spoilt for choice; peanut butter buttermilk pancakes? Truffle oil in your quartet of mushrooms? How to choose! On the lunch menu, the Vietnamese heritage of owner Duke Tran comes through in the pork banh mi and lemongrass beef vermicelli, of which I opted for the former.

I try to spare my several hundred Facebook friends with the details of my gastronomic life (read: no food pics please) but I couldn’t contain myself when I bit into Nana Tran’s pork banh mi. This is is the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten. Ever. The pork, marinated and sublimely tender, has a residual smoky sweetness to it. Who knew pork could be this good? The pickled turnip and carrot add the perfect level of crunch and act as a tangy foil to the fragrant cognac chicken pate layered within. The baguette, homemade, is ideal: light and soft in the middle, with crusty edges but not so crisp as to roughen the roof of your mouth with (yeah, you know what I’m talking about). Topped with sprightly sprigs of coriander and some slices of red chilli for a bit of kick, I feel certain this is the only hand-held meal you’ll ever want to eat again. 

The coffee is excellent (although what do I know, I’ve been stuck in London for the past two months) and they have a Lewisham award to prove it. I only wish their breakfast menu was an all day one, although if this were to interfere with the magic coming out at lunch, then scratch that idea. 

RAD

397 Mt Eden Road

Mt Eden

Auckland

Ph. (09) 631 5218

March 8, 2014
Cheap Eats: Chop Chop Noodle House & Whiskey Bar

This week for Cheap Eats I head to a new Asian-fusion venture in Ponsonby chop chop. 

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Fish of the Day ($18)

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Soft-shell crab ($16)

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Steamed pork bun ($8)

Now normally I wouldn’t touch Asian food that’s been mucked about with so as to be termed ‘fusion,’ but Moochowchow changed all of that for me. Some people, like Che Barrington, know what they’re doing when it comes to the mixing of Eastern and Western cuisines. The fusion masterminds behind Moo not long ago opened The Blue Breeze Inn in Ponsonby Central, a decidedly more Chinese venture, and even more recently opened a subsidiary eatery right next door called Chop Chop Noodle House & Whiskey Bar.

Chop Chop Noodle House pulls its inspiration from old-school kung fu movies and cowboy Westerns, but it has a decidedly Tiki-bar appearance which is a nod towards its sister restaurant Blue Breeze Inn. The service here is as fast as lightning (see what I did there?) and it’s the sort of joint one comes for a quick bite. Although drinks are rarely the focus at Cheap Eats (mainly because they are neither cheap nor edible) attention must be paid to Chop Chop’s, whose menu features a number of imaginative cocktails (including non-alcoholic versions) worth a visit all on their own. My virgin Drunken Master ($8) was a tangy, lime and pear concoction with a delectable, sherbet-like topping of freeze-dried mandarin. The menu itself is short, which would make one think that choosing what to eat would be a simple task but it is not. There are ‘fried’ offerings, of which Zoe and I ordered exclusively from due to their inherent shareability, and ‘bowls’ of ramen, including a monstrous-sized Cobra Kai Super Ramen noodle bowl. The descriptors of each dish are enigmatic, outlining simply ‘soft-shell crab, cucumber, sweet miso’ ($16) for one dish and ‘pork bun’ ($8) for another.  We ordered both, plus the fish of the day with udon noodles, kimchi and ginger soy ($18).

All three dishes arrived quickly and together, leaving Zoe and I torn between which dish to start on first. I began by dismembering the soft-shell crab, an exceptional dish of crisply fried crab partially doused in a piquant dressing, be-speckled with that ubiquitous Japanese topping of shichimi togarashi; the latter lent a fiery kick that was quelled by the soothing cucumber salsa that accompanied it. The pork bun was a large steamed bao which Zoe and I happily split: it had that perfectly fluffy, bleached-white bread exterior housing a comforting pork filling that was cleverly off-set by the addition of another tangy cucumber dressing, but this time fragrant with mint. Although a peculiar pairing in theory, I thought the minted dressinged worked well to lift out of obscurity what would otherwise be just another steamed pork bun. Last but not least was the fish of the day, terakihi to be precise. Both impressive in taste as it is in appearance, this was the dish that I’d been looking forward to trying, having seen its image well circulated on Instagram. A bundle of terakihi pieces had been wrapped in udon noodles and deep-fried to create a crispy cage that was imaginatively paired with a spicy tomato salsa that hailed more from the Orient than Mexico.

Zoe and I left a little too full but inspired with the belief that Asian-fusion can work, although fusion is food better experienced in the flesh than through the written word, so you’d best be on your way to Ponsonby Central to try it soon.

Location:  Ponsonby Central, 140 Ponsonby Road

Phone: (09) 360 0708

Hours: 12pm – midnight every day

Prices: fried $8-$18; bowls $14-$18; cobra kai super ramen $25; add-ons $1-$2; sweets $10.

Credit Cards:  Yes

Licensed: Yes

Suitable for Vegetarians: No

Takeaways: No

Bathrooms:  Neat and shared with the other restaurants in Ponsonby Central

Wheelchair Accessible:  No; tables and seating are all bar height. 

February 21, 2014
Cheap Eats: Spice Garden

This week for Cheap Eats I visit a restaurant where South and South East Asia collide. 

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The Parnell end of Quay Street is often the last place one thinks of when wanting food. Better known for that terrible rite of passage, the restricted driver’s license test, the only other reason one visits this isolated block of shops is for the KFC or 24 hour McDonalds. But the shops at number 8 Quay Street are the unexpected home of a restaurant which serves up an equally unexpected pairing of Indian and Thai food.

Spice Garden is a small restaurant styled with a colour scheme that would make The White Stripes proud. There’s plenty of sitting space, but if eating in public isn’t your thing, they do a takeaway and delivery service (and you get 10% off your bill to boot). Their menu doesn’t break the mould of either cuisines but it covers all the basics, including a few classic Indian-Chinese dishes and a number of vegetarian dishes hailing from both countries. Prices are also standard for your average Indian and Thai place, with a slightly higher premium on dishes that used to quack or live under water. And hinting at the restaurant’s slightly stronger Indian roots, all mains are accompanied by rice.

Feeling it would be too difficult to decide on one cuisine or the other, Alex and I embraced bi-culturalism and ordered both; the chicken vindaloo ($15) and the golden basil leaves ($15; a stir-fry of chicken and fresh basil leaves). Although we love a bit of heat, we ordered the vindaloo ‘Kiwi-hot’, not ‘Indian-hot’. As Alex put it, we’re brave, not stupid. What arrived was more medium than hot, but the curry was fragrant with cardamom and had that distinctive tang which makes vindaloo a favourite. Chicken, a meat I try to avoid because it too often is dry, was surprisingly moist and had been basted such that it tasted like it’d been licked by the flame of the tandoor oven.

The chicken in the golden basil leaf stir-fry was comparably less moist and more reminiscent of home-style cooking without the unearthly tenderised meat. This dish too had had the smoky treatment, but this time it was a kiss from a wok. The portion was generous and full of julienned bamboo shoots, which were saturated with the flavours of the stir-fry and lent a moreish, chewy-tender texture to the overall dish. Alex also ordered a mango lassi ($4), a choice motivated by the way drinking it enabled her to have dessert at the same time as dinner. Her lassi was slightly thinner than some, such that it resembled a drink more than the dessert she was hoping for, but it was gone in no time.

Spice Garden’s location puts it slightly out of the way for some, but if you’re indecisive about what to have for dinner, don’t feel compelled to settle for one cuisine. After all, variety is the spice of life.

Location:  Shop 5, 8 Quay Street, Auckland Central
Phone: 302-2444
Hours: Monday-Thursday 11:30am-2:30pm and 5:00-10:00pm;  Friday-Sunday 11:30am-3:00pm and 5:30pm-late
Prices: Starters $8-$21; Curry mains $12.90-$17; seafood dishes $17-$25; vegetarian dishes $12-$14.50; rice and noodle dishes $12-$18; soups $8-$17; Thai salads $16-$17; sides $3-$5.50; desserts $5; drinks $3.50-$4.50
Credit Cards:  Yes
Licensed: BYO wine; beer for purchase
Suitable for Vegetarians: Yes
Takeaways: Yes (10% off)  and Home Delivery with Dine-In
Bathrooms:  Fine
Wheelchair Accessible:  Yes

December 20, 2013
Cheap Eats - Indian Kitchen

This week for Cheap Eats I trek to Jervois Road for a taste of the subcontinent. 

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Jervois Road is often overlooked for its dining out potential due to its close proximity to the hospo-hefty Ponsonby strip. A recent discovery, one Indian Kitchen along Jervois Road, makes me now wish I were a Herne Bay local. Situated about half way down is Indian Kitchen, an unsuspecting but well-presented Indian restaurant that was balefully empty on the Thursday evening I visited (although they did a good takeaway trade in the time I was there).

The dining room is dark and moody with lots of Aboriginal art on the walls and a large flat screen playing Bollywood music videos in the background. Rare for an Indian restaurant, Indian Kitchen has a smart wine list (probably to cater for the discerning neighbourhood palate) and a number of ‘adult’ lassi that have been spiked with liquor. The kitchen’s menu is of the Northern persuasion, so many of the curries will be familiar to you. It was refreshing, however, to see a few that don’t often feature on most Indian restaurant menus, including the chicken mughlai and chilli chicken (the latter a by-product of the Chinese-Indian border). Miraculously, whether you’re there for lunch or dinner, all the mains curries (including the vegetarian options) will set you back a mere ten dollars. This realisation is a dangerous one, tempting one is order more curry (and naan bread, and chutneys) than one actually needs. But as they say, curries always taste better the next day.

Not feeling particularly akin to our vegetarian counterparts, my mum and I overlooked the vegetarian options and ordered a beef madras and lamb saagwala (both $10). Although both mains are served with basmati rice, what meal at an Indian restaurant is complete without double carbs, the second namely in the form of naan bread. But instead of opting for the usual naan, I ordered the roti ($2.90; described by the waitress as a less fluffy version of naan), which doesn’t make an appearance on menus often. The curries arrived in traditional copper-toned serving pots and both were exceptional examples of their respective types. The saagwala was a resplendent spirulina-green with a strong garlic, cumin and fennel flavour to it; the lamb itself had been tastily marinated and held its own despite the delicious gravy it was served in. The beef madras was a thick, golden curry nubbly with coconut threads and spiked with ginger, cardamom and mustard seeds. Mum and I both agreed these were the best curries we’d had in a while. The roti was a thin, wholemeal pancake with large blisters all over its surface; I personally preferred this to regular naan bread, for its lightness and rougher texture. 

Despite the geographic disparity between Herne Bay and home, I’d be happy to make the trek to Indian Kitchen again and again if they continue to churn out curries as good as this all the time. The service was attentive (although there were few patrons to distract them), the surrounds immaculate and the food divine. Here’s to discovering the flavours of the subcontinent all over again.

Location: 204 Jervois Road, Herne Bay

Phone: (09) 376 2001

Hours: Lunch Tuesday – Sunday 11.30am-2.30pm; Dinner Monday – Sunday 5pm – late.

Prices: Appetisers $6.50-$16; Tandoor $10-$24; Mains $10; Breads $2.90-$11.90; Sides $5-$6; Condiments $3-$8.50

Credit Cards:  Yes

Licensed: Yes

Suitable for Vegetarians: Yes

Takeaways: Yes

Bathrooms: Fit for a raj

Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

December 11, 2013
Federal Delicatessen

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Toasted Reuben ($22)

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Meatloaf on rye ($15)

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Banana and toffee pie with caramel popcorn ($11.50)

Looks like Al Brown’s done it again. It started with Depot. Then came Best Ugly. Now Aucklanders are being enchanted by the 1950s Manhattan charm of Federal Delicatessen, which in the short time it has been open, has affectionately come to be known as ‘The Fed’.

Walking into The Fed is like being sucked into a time-warp, where water is served in red acrylic tumblers and linoleum floors and Formica are the vogue.  I half-expected and half-hoped Don Draper would walk in at any moment. The Fed is by no means large, and as it favours the non-system of seating by walk-ins, it pays to visit in smaller groups. On a bustling weekday lunch hour, Zoe and I found ourselves perched at the deli counter in front of the guy whose job was to thinly slice enormous sides of cured salmon. We were like two hungry kittens with our faces (nearly) smooshed against a fishmonger’s window.

If you’re anything like me, anything and everything on The Fed’s menu appeals. I have yet to rise early enough to sample their breakfast fare, but I have my stomach set on the crispy latkes with lox and the smoked mullet hash. The lunch and dinner menu is wide and varying, and demands multiple visits in order to fairly sample the lot. On this particular visit, I couldn’t look past the toasted Reuben sandwich ($22) whilst Zoe, going on a recommendation opted for the turkey meatloaf on rye ($15).

The Fed, like all of Al Brown’s ventures, is a little bit pricey. I can’t remember the last time I paid for a sandwich that cost $10 (wait, yes I can, never). So I can be forgiven for gawking a bit at a sandwich that went for over $20. But when my Reuben arrived, it was nothing short of enormous. And delicious. The slices of pastrami were so thick they were almost slab like, and the rich Russian dressing that accompanied it was off-set well by the tangy dill pickles and sauerkraut. My one gripe is I’d prefer the pastrami to be thinly sliced, with more of a hot and smoky kick to it; Al’s errs on the side of caution. Zoe’s turkey was beautifully moist (which is so often tricky to get right with this bird) and tasty, the cranberry and iceberg lettuce adding a sprightliness to it, making it a much lighter sandwich than mine. I could only finish half of my Reuben. Just. But they do a window-operated take-out service that will happily wrap your leftover sandwich in waxed paper with a cute Fed sticker for you. 

Special mention must go to the slaw that played side-kick to both our sandwiches:it was simple, tangy and utterly moreish.  

The Fed has recently extended their hours so that they close late (like properly, 2am, late) so that weekend revellers can enjoy some real food. Like the night we three shared a slice of their delicious banana toffee pie with caramel popcorn. Think of the best banoffee pie you’ve ever had, then refine it and add some restraint.Then you’ll have The Fed’s version which ticked all the right boxes with its ginger-nut base, just enough caramel to sate your craving for burnt sugar without going overboard and marshmallow-shaped pillows of whipped cream. And, hallelujah, their caramel popcorn is crunchy! 

To quote Kath and Kim, “It’s nice. It’s different. It’s unusual.” The Fed is all these things, and I’ll be back soon for the poutine and oyster stew. And the schnitzel. Oh just all of it.  

Federal Delicatessen

86 Federal St

Auckland CBD

Ph. (09) 363 7184

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