Monday, April 16, 2012

What's good this week

Hi! As usual I've got plenty to say about plenty in the world of local food, but not quite enough time to write about it in any meaningful way. So here's a bunch of stuff I've been discovering and liking recently, hope it helps you to navigate the murky swamps of Auckland eating.

Clevedon farmers market is probably my favourite of all the Auckland markets – and not just because of this cute alpaca we got to love and stroke yesterday. It’s probably 40 minutes from Auckland but feels super-rural, and the stall holders are a good mix of usual suspects (buffalo mozzarella, cupcakes), local yokels (mushroom guy, heritage seed lady) and random seasonal stalls (figs, chestnuts, passionfruit).

Clevedon is where young (26!) chef Hayden MacMillan from Tribeca shops for his ‘Farmers’ Market dish’ each week. He grabs a few things he likes the look of then smashes it altogether for a one-off, seasonal-plus addition to his excellent menu. What a talented kid he is – if you’re looking for a leftfield dinner option you should take advantage of his $75 tasting menu: five courses plus extras too, probably. He won’t stay this cheap for long. Check out my Metro review of the place for more detail.

Up in the hills above Clevedon Market is Vin Alto: a winery, sort of, although the vineyards are elsewhere in the country. Vin Alto does some interesting European varietals like arneis and, um, I’m not sure what else, we were really checking the place out as a wedding venue. Anyway, Enzo the guy who owns the place does long lunches and tasting nights throughout the year and it looks like an incredible place to eat – a big old European style dining room with antiques for Africa like a massive corkscrew collection, a 16th century wardrobe and an authentic gramophone. Look it up .

I met a macaron woman at Clevedon. I’m not much into sweet stuff, but macarons are pretty bloody good when they’re good. Check out this flavour of the week – candied bacon, maple and banana. More stockists at .

There’s some good, juicy controversy raging in print, online and at dinner partays over about the inclusion of Botswana Butchery in the Metro Top 50 after just 11 days open. People tend to like the food pretty good, although I’m hearing lots of stories about slow, sloooow service. I had a great time there and the location is unbeatable, but we did have to wait a lot throughout the night. It looked like not enough staff on the floor to me – which is easy to fix, but you’d think they’d be making it a priority with all this chat around. They’re in a pretty corporate part of town, and people who have bad service experiences taking clients out won’t ever be back. I’m looking forward to them sorting their shit out quick fast and getting so good people won’t look twice when they turn up in the top 50 next year.

Non-alcoholic options. At a party this means one litre of Just Juice per dozen bottles of wine, but Christians, recovering alcoholics and pregnant ladies (I think that covers it) will appreciate having some more interesting choices. Check out Heron’s Flight grape juice from Matakana, made with the same exacting standards as their wine and cleverly packaged to look like a something a grown up might drink.

Kokako Organic cafĂ© in Grey Lynn is the number one place in town for celeb spotting right now, in case you’re in the mood for some light stalking but don’t really care who. I popped in for coffee the other day and saw an All Black, a newsreader and a model/actress (mattress?). The food is great too – so good you won’t notice it’s organic and vegetarian. I recommend the pumpkin fritters and the baked eggs with spicy beans and cornbread (pictured).

Once you’ve got your takeout, pop a couple of doors down to Grey Lynn butcher, which has I think the best selection of different meats in the city. Wallaby anyone? Goat? Crocodile? The proprietor Lucia is definitely the loveliest meat purveyor in Auckland; she’s worth the visit alone.

Things are bloody good too at the former Kokako Newmarket, now known as Domain and Ayr. Not vegetarian this one but still lots of good whole food - check out lunch today, a roast eggplant with quinoa salad and soba noodle salad, and a potato hash with free range hammy eggy happiness on top.

If you’re looking for a delicious, interesting but safe place to have dinner with some buddies, Ponsonby Road Bistro is one of my favourites right now. How good does this tiramisu look? Amazing! And go for the Malaysian spiced lamb shank. Ooh, and these amazing little Turkish dumplings called mantis, they’re one of the best new dishes in the city.

And Clooney, wow. Go there some time soon. After a weird year for them (Clooney + AA GILL is among the top Google searches that find my site) they’re on fire at the moment, and the food is so very good. That room is very special too – if you’ve never been, book it immediately. Or if you know someone who hasn’t been, take them and seal the (business/real estate/intercourse) deal.

That enough? I’m off to LA to eat my way through the city, so I won’t be at the Metro/Audi Restaurant of the Year Awards ceremony on Monday night. Actually, maybe that’s not such a bad thing – grumpy chefs are as bad than grumpy actors, and no matter who wins what there’ll always be some left unhappy. Look out for the next issue of the magazine on sale Tuesday 24th to get your copy of the Top 50 booklet and to peruse all the award winners in your own time.