Monday, February 13, 2012

Auckland's best restaurants this minute

I'm often asked which Auckland restaurant is best. The answer changes all the time and is only definitively decided once a year in the Metro awards. But I can give you a pretty good list on any day of the week.

Anyway, I recently got an email on this topic by a nice American named Brian who said he was visiting town for a couple of days and wanted to make sure he ate at the right places. Usually such email requests are concluded with something like: "but I don't have any money so don't recommend anywhere the mains cost more than $10." Not Brian though, he's a class act. He said I could tell him to go "anywhere, from cheap to expensive". Fun!

For your interest, and for future internet searches/searchers I said:

"Brian, I'd be delighted to: Depot and Coco's Cantina are my two favourite Auckland restaurants. Both buzzy, busy, central and great for Aucklander watching. You can't book for either so arrive early if you don't like waiting at the bar with a drink.

Sidart is high end but has just launched a special Tuesday test kitchen menu where you eat what the chef gives you as be experiments with new menu ideas. Finally Meredith's, ten minutes cab from the city [blah blah blah, deleted for boring reasons you don't need to know about]. But definitely book for that one, earlier in the week the better your chances."

I could have added plenty more, but did the guy ask for a novel? No. Oh, but then actually I did send him another one that said this:

"Just been thinking of a couple of others you might enjoy:

The Grove - won Best Restaurant in Auckland last year, sort of French Laundry-style

Cocoro - new Japanese, apparently spectacular. I haven't been yet but [blah blah blah, I sound a bit wanky here so I'm deleting it]. You can only book if you're doing the degustation - which is how they prefer you to eat - and there's a central table which would be nice if you're eating alone (Depot has bar seats which will be good for same)"

So Brian tried out a few of these places, and afterwards he sent me an email which I thought you might like to read - outsider's perspective and all that. Here it is:

"Dude, Jesse!

Nice job with the restaurant suggestions.

Meredith's was definitely the highlight. Creative and flavorful! My favorite thing was the beet root meringue with pate'. Seriously, I thought it was as tasty as The French Laundry. Each course was really excellent. I actually fist pumped the chefs in the kitchen on my way out!

Depot was really cool. In fact, stopped by there twice, once for breakfast and the other for lunch. Had the oysters, of course, along with some tilapia sliders. Tasty! The people there were also very cool to hang out with since i was by myself! Bobby and Nelli have me some good sight seeing tips.

Coco's Cantina...very good. Love the scenery! Reminded me of some "interesting" spots in San Francisco. A ton of great bars in that neighborhood...

Cocoro...I thought three out of the six plates were excellent...a few missed the mark with me. The flavors didn't pop for some of the dishes...and it seemed a bit mundane and old fashioned. The raw fish was incredible, however. Not sure what they put in it...but it was the best I've had.

All in all, the food scene was better than I thought. The fresh fish of course was the star everywhere I went. And whats up with the coffee culture?! Awesome...every where I went they made kickass coffees. They're really into the design with the frothy milk....loved it. Better than some places in Rome....

I will definitely be back to wife wants to try Merediths! Although, in one month we too will have a baby...Hopefully Merediths has booster seats!

Thanks again for all of the tips...made my trip a million times better! 

Best, Brian

p.s. I put some pics on my blog..."

Isn't that nice? Americans, unbeatable on their day.

By the way, since then I've been to Cocoro (pic above thanks to my wee Samsung Nexus S Android phone) and it was lovely - a beautiful environment, feels like you're not in Auckland but in a good way, and super dooper food with, yeah, maybe an occasional bum note but generally spectacular.

I've also been to Sidart's Tuesday night test kitchen (pic above and top). Wow, is that something. Another massively exciting development for Auckland eating - even other chefs are buzzing about it. It's been full every Tuesday but you can get a table if you ring a few days beforehand, and if you want an idea of what's on offer, check out this secret menu I snaffled last week for your enjoyment. It just lists featured ingredients really, but it'll show you the scope of what you get to eat and some of the inventiveness on offer. It costs just $80 per person which is unheard of for this level of eating experience. Do it!