Thursday, July 16

Moving Over!

New blog, looking better.

Find all my existing content, and newest posts at:

https://lifeasamutt.com

Tuesday, July 14

Food Review: St Pierre's Sushi

If making sushi is an art, then at St Pierre's it's the equivalent of a chimpanzee flinging mud at a blank canvas. Stale rice, slimy fish and disgusting nouveau combinations await you at this prolific chain.

Break your sushi chastity at any of the other sushi options, for not one of them could be worse.

1/10

167 Karangahape Road, Auckland
Under $10 for most sushi packs
http://www.stpierres.co.nz/

Thursday, July 9

Food Review: Mexican Cafe

Cuisine: Mexican/Tex Mex
Price: $15-20 most mains
Location:  67 Victoria St West, Auckland Central, Auckland
Website: http://www.mexicancafe.co.nz/

Another day, another bland ‘Mexican’ restaurant. The wooden décor has some character, and portions give you bang for your bucket. The prawn tacos are the only noteworthy item, the rest of the menu you could cook yourself, blindfolded and with one hand.

5/10

Wednesday, July 1

Food Review: Meet Fresh

Cuisine: Taiwanese/dessert
Price: Under $10 a dish
Location:  6-8 Lorne Street, Auckland CBD, Auckland
Website: http://meetfresh.net/

Doughy starch. Sweet starch. Bean starch. Sweet, thick milk. Jelly!

Such describes the predominant ingredients of the concoctions at Meet Fresh. Serving Taiwanese desserts, the café features various hot/cold dishes and drinks, which almost all feature some kind of heavy starch. The execution of the dishes isn’t impressive, with most of the ingredients coming from a bucket, but the sugary variety of textures can be enjoyable. The herbal jelly (No.4) and red bean porridge, either hot or cold, are some of the better items. The hot version served in warmed milk, the cold with ice. Red bean is a favourite of mine, so the porridge is a no brainer, though it pales in comparison to the similar Malaysian dish: pulut hitam.
The café is frequently busy, so take away may be your only choice.


Starchy and sweet, Meet Fresh is a one of a kind dessert café. Your enjoyment will hinge on appreciation of its limited choice.

6/10

Thursday, June 25

Food Review: Loco Pizza

Cuisine: Pizza/pasta
Price: $20 a large pizza
Location: 407 Parnell Road, Parnell, Auckland
Website: http://www.locopizzanz.com/

With the strikingly macabre skull silhouetted on the window, and streaks of red inside, you might mistake this pizza parlour as a Hell Pizza chain. Instead Loco Pizza stands on its own, serving some of the better pizza in Auckland. This ain’t a cheap joint, no $5 pizzas here, a deal for two large pizzas costs $35. There are a multitude of topping choices between the seventeen pizzas, to the point of overlap. Less is more for me, but at least you’ll be spoilt for choice.

The pizza comes out fast, within twenty minutes. What’s striking is the doughy treat resembles actual food, as opposed to conveyor belt factory fare from the large pizza chains. The toppings are delicious and light, you could scoop them off the pizza and eat them individually. Succulent ham, cheese, mushrooms…it’s all extremely welcoming. The dough is mostly soft, with a slight crunch, just the way I like. Clearly the food is cooked with a little love.

A large pizza per person is more than enough, and we struggled to finish our dinner. The pasta is also worth a look, and home delivery is also a much appreciated for those late night hunger pangs.

Loco Pizza serves the freshest pizza I’ve yet tasted in Auckland Central, it’s now my home delivery preference. Order a large pizza per person, and you’ll have a luxurious feast.

8/10

Wednesday, June 24

Food Review: Thai Me Up

Cuisine: Thai
Price: Around $15 a curry main
Location: 244 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, Auckland
Website: http://www.thaimeup.co.nz/

Eating good Thai food in Auckland sometimes seems as probable as chasing rainbows and discovering leprechauns guarding pots of gold. Thai Me Up is another disaster, this time on the fetching Ponsonby Road. Decor is fine, food tastes like it was prepared from a packet.

Curries are bland, watery and choked with heavy Western vegetables. Malaysian/Indonesian food is served under the umbrella of 'Thai' to those unaware of the differences. The place is at least clean, but you'd get tastier dishes at a food court.

At least it’s BYOB so you can drink on the cheap!

4/10

Tuesday, June 23

Food Reviw: Xi'an Food Bar

Cuisine: Chinese
Price: $11 for noodles
Location: 11 Anzac Avenue, Auckland Central, Auckland (multiple locations)
Website: N/A

Xi'an Food Bar is another hole in wall Chinese, serving more authentic dishes than your average restaurant. The food is tasty, cheap and comes in large quantities. Downsides; no charm, no service to speak of and it's slightly dirty.

Xi'an Food Bar plates up Central/North Western Chinese food, which features lots of pork and lamb, tripe, 'burgers' and hand pulled noodles. The Anzac Avenue menu is truncated compared to Xi'an's sister restaurants, though the choice that's left is more than enough. Between two people, you can't go wrong with some noodles, cold dishes and tripe to share. The noodles can be tough and chewy, but the slightly sour, oily sauce more than makes up for it. The 'burgers' are composed of a piece of Chinese pan bread, filled with juice dripping meat. Adding chilli makes me forget about Western style burgers.
Oh, did I mention that you place your orders using a device that looks like it came direct from the 80's?


Xi'an Food Bar serves up warming, cheap eats. It ain't fancy, or pretty, but you can be rest assured of a good meal for your dollar.

7/10

Friday, June 19

Food Review: The Zookeeper's Son

Cuisine: European/gastro pub
Price: Around $25 a main
Location: 715 Mt Albert Road, Royal Oak, Auckland
Website: http://www.zookeepersson.co.nz/

Zookeeper's Son has the honour as being one of the few 'gastro pubs' in the area. It's the kind of place where there's ample room, beers a plenty to be drunk and a full menu to order from. It can certainly be a great combination when the components line up, but this gastropub fails on the food front.

The menu has a little bit of everything, without any kind of cohesive theme. So called 'Szechuan pepper squid', hamburgers, Thai salad, fish and chips and many other disorientated items are on the menu to tempt you. They all sound delicious, but I'm sceptical of any restaurant that tries to do so many dishes, from multiple cuisines and cultures well, it's an extremely tall task. Suffice to say The Zookeeper's Son isn't up to the challenge!



All the items I've had were mediocre, though at least the chips were done well. The herb pizza almost dusty, the Texas baby back ribs tough. The eye fillet was particularly disappointing. The steak itself was cooked fine, though underseasoned. The oddly paired potato gratin was dry, lacking the creaminess I'd expect. The bacon...was just bacon. Why?

Consistently average food in a nice pub. You could be locked in worse places during a zombie apocalypse.

5/10

Sunday, June 14

Food Review: Mikano

Cuisine: European/Fusion
Price: Around $35 a main
Location: 1 Solent Street, Mechanics Bay, Auckland
Website: http://www.mikano.co.nz/

On a cold midweek night, me and several other Zomato reviewers were invited to dinner at Mikano.
The restaurant feels remote if travelled to on foot, but the distance from the city centre grants a spacious dining room and a splendid sea view.

Our host, Sai, started our evening with an introduction to some Moët & Chandon Ice Imperial, which we were told was crafted to be drunk with ice. It made for a interesting story and the bubbly liquid, touched with mint and strawberry, was refreshing to the point and I had to restrain myself from gulping it down. If you were in the mood for something a little bit fancy, I'd heartily recommend this, but personally I'd be just as happy with sparkling rose.

We were seated and browsed the menu. The emphasis was clearly on seafood, with an entire selection of mains dedicated to fish. You could chose one of four fish, cooked in one of four ways, for a total of sixteen combinations! Spoilt for choice!
I decided to try the snapper, cooked with coconut chilli sambal and a side of crisp fried cauliflower.



Amidst the lively story telling of Sai, our many starters arrived. Soups, seafood and bacon topped ravioli were placed in front us.
The seafood selection impressed with perfectly cooked squid, neither chewy nor soft, the light brushing of chilli tasting irresistible. The garlic prawns were bliss, also cooked excellently with their delicate texture. The salmon sashimi was fresh and the sharp wasabi tinged mayonnaise was a choice addition.

There were some let downs. The lasagne was a bland mush and the duck ravioli was enjoyable, but nothing more. The much loved soups I found uninspired, with a thin chowder and a weak crayfish soup. The mains soon followed, and also had their ups and downs.



My snapper's texture was perfect, with succulent flaky chunks, but the flavour was drab. I expected the brushing of sambal to be poignant, and perhaps fiery, instead it was coconut milk mellow. The complimentary serving of coconut heavy slaw, made for coconut overkill. 
The fried cauliflower's coating was too thick and heavy to work with fish. Perhaps it would have better complimented another one of the mains, but it was mismatched for my choice.

A fellow eater had chosen a meaty pork belly. I took my knife to it, and carved chunks of succulent, but soggy meat. The skin was extremely chewy, as opposed to crispy, and it took some strong gnashing to be able to swallow it.
I had mixed feelings about the mains, with their big portions and inconsistent quality. Was this fine dining or hearty unpretentious food? For me it was neither and that was a problem.
And finally came the desserts. Perhaps unexpectedly, they were also a mixed basket.

The chocolate pudding was baked to perfection, the crust breaking with a delicate stab, to reveal gooey chocolate heaven. Kudos to the chef and highly recommended. The creme brulee was enjoyable, the tiramisu and pavlova mediocre.
One aspect that was consistent throughout the night, was the excellent service. The staff were friendly, attentive and clearly enjoyed interacting with customers.


I very much enjoyed my night, but had mixed feelings about the food. There were some real gems, and its clear there is some passion and talent in the kitchen of Mikano. However with prices on the higher end of dining, my expectations were equally high. Mikano failed to deliver, with the competition offering better meals, often for less. 
Mikano serves enjoyable, albeit disappointing dishes, resulting in a restaurant I would be unlikely to revisit.

6/10

Saturday, May 23

Food Review: Ramen Takara

Cuisine: Japanese/Ramen
Price: Around $14 a bowl
Location: 272 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, Auckland
Website: http://ramentakara.co.nz/ponsonby.php

Ramen Takara Ponsonby is the newest site, of the original Browns Bay restaurant. Specialising in ramen (the hint is in the name), and ramen being wonderous thing, I went to try this newest Ponsonby eatery.

The restaurant was somewhat small but cosy, and was decorated in the ubiquitously Ponsonby style of wood and brick. The staff were very friendly, and we were shown to our tables quickly.
Takara's menu is small, with a clear emphasis on ramen, with several variations of the soup available. We ordered the quintessential tonkotsu ramen (pork broth), karaage chicken, steamed gyoza, edamame and tsukemono (pickled vegetables) as well as a couple of alcoholic drinks.



The karaage chicken arrived first. The light crust on the fried chicken was surprisingly thin, yet gave a satisfying crunch which yielded the incredible filling. The chicken inside was moist and juicy, the mayonnaise and lemon taking the fatty edge off. One of the best karaage chickens I've had the pleasure of eating.
The rest of the dishes shortly arrived, but they never reached the highs of the chicken.


The delicate gyoza were enjoyable, the waitress showing us how to make the dipping sauce (cheat code: it's half soy sauce and half vinegar). The tsukemono were lacking any hint of the sour, fermented flavour I'd associated with pickled vegetables. Instead tasting like they had been soaked in water.
Meh.
Then it was onto to the much anticipated ramen.


The bowl was filled with variety of ingredients including black fungus and one perfectly cooked egg, with an almost gelatinous yolk. The toppings helped fill out the bowl and provide variety of flavours and textures. The pork had a hint of juiciness to it, without losing its firm texture. The soup though...was on the thinner and blander side. The consistency and level of fattiness kept the broth light, but it tasted rather flat, lacking that flavour punch. As a result what could have been a memorable, unique soup, was very much unremarkable.

Aside from the excellent karaage chicken, the rest of the meal at Ramen Takara was rather flat. Most disappointing was the ramen, which was entirely forgettable. The atmosphere was relaxed, and the staff very friendly. I can see Takara being a good place for a small bite, and drinks in Ponsonby, but for a Japanese feast you'll have to look elsewhere.

7/10

Thursday, May 14

Food Review: Patisserie Vaniye

Cuisine: Patisserie/desserts
Price: $9 a dessert
Location: 1/7 Windsor Street, Parnell, Auckland
Website: http://www.vaniye.com/

I've never found Parnell a particularly compelling place to eat, so I was sceptical about this near mythical patisserie which was situated there. Patisserie Vaniye was the place and it entirely lived up to its glowing reputation.
The premises are rather unassuming, with an appreciable lack of pomp. The vivid, sculpted, cakes are in full view as you walk in the patisserie. They're priced at $9 each, which may be higher than other dessert centric cafes, but those at Vaniye are worth their weight and then some.
The patisserie offers a selection of cakes, baguettes, quiches and macaroons. All the desserts look sublime, and feature ingredients such as chocolate hazelnut layers and vanilla creme brulee, which create a conundrum on where to start. 



Whatever choice you make, you will soon be in bliss. The dreamy Black Forest cake's chocolate base and luxurious thick kirsch cream, is balanced by bursts of tart cherry. The Coco Mango's slightly fibrous coconut mousse, with gloopy passion fruit coulis and crunchy praline made for an irresistible combination of textures.
The cakes are never overtly sweet and every one has been sublime. It's a necessity for dessert and cake lovers to make a pilgrimage to Vaniye.



And lets not forget the savoury items. The quiches are worth a brief mention for their light, crumbly crusts. The biggest surprise at Patisserie Vaniye were the baguettes. Composed of a few simple ingredients, they are everything a sandwich and baguette should be.
A supreme crunch is needed to break through the crust, every bite true satisfaction. The three or four ingredients that await your palate are expertly chosen: Perfectly ripe tomatoes, mellow cheese, and salty, fatty prosciutto are just one of the combinations you can choose. 
The bread is without a doubt the best in Auckland and I know that I'll be buying Vaniye baguettes exclusively from now on. 

The only slight blemish on this otherwise decadent patisserie, is the rather average service. 



Otherwise Patisserie Vaniye is a beacon of decadence in New Zealand.
The best cakes in New Zealand, bar none.
The best baguette in New Zealand, bar none.

9/10

Food Review: Wok'N Noodle

Cuisine: Asian
Price: Around $15 a main
Location: 53 Shortland Street, Auckland Central, Auckland
Website: http://woknnoodle.com/

Satay..Reasonable.
Noodles...Reasonable.
Curry...Reasonable.

Reasonable/10 (otherwise known as 6/10)

Tuesday, May 5

Food Review: La Noisette

Cuisine: Cafe/chocolaterie
Price: $5 to $8 for most pastries and desserts
Location: 518 Karangahape Road, Auckland
Website: https://www.facebook.com/lanoisette.chocolats

Patisseries and cafes seem to have taken over Auckland, popping up like weeds on almost every street. But despite the overflow of generic, 'chic' cafes, you occasionally find somewhere a little bit special like La Noisette.

Located on the culturally fluid Karangahape (K) Road, the cafe is a nice respite from the blaring traffic outside. It's small and somewhat quaint, but the interior is appealing and you feel as if you could lounge there for a comfortable few hours, sipping coffee and eating freshly baked croissant.



The menu includes the necessities; muffins, croissants, pan au chocolat and sandwiches. The sandwiches are rather passe, but La Noisettes croissants are soul nourishing. Buttery, flaky, slightly moist slivers of pastry make for the perfect petit dejeuner.
Where La Noisette adds that little bit extra, is the range of chocolate goods. From their four varieties of hot chocolate, to the hand made bars, chocolate lovers will find themselves spoilt for choice. With the weather turning to the wet, windy and cold variety this is the perfect time to indulge in La Noisettes hot chocolates! Their brownies are another treat, laced with almond slices and cranberries, the latter adding a sweet, tart note and breaking up the rich monotony.
Several desserts such as gateau and frangipane tarts, are also on offer. I didn't find these quite as enjoyable, with the heavy frangipane eclipsing the fruits strewn through out.

Chocolate, yes! Viennoiserie, yes! Sandwiches and others, meh! La Noisette makes an amicable effort, with some truly delicious pastries. The cafe is inviting and the staff friendly. Try not to get addicted to all their chocolate offerings!

7/10

Monday, May 4

Food Review: Chinese Hot Pot Buffet Restaurant

Cuisine: Hot Pot/Chinese
Price: $25 all you can eat
Location: 72 Dominion Road, Auckland
Website: NA

It's winter time and that means that one type of cuisine is at the forefront of my mind: hot pot! Located on the auspicious Dominion Road, the imaginatively named Chinese Hot Pot Buffet is one of the best around.

The premise is simple. You have a pot, split in two, with soup in each half (typically one spicy and one plain). You chuck raw ingredients such as sliced beef, lamb, squid, seawood etc into the pot, wait for it to cook, then scoop it out and eat! There are a variety of sauces for you to mix into your own perfect concoction, lots of free soda and soy milk (the good Asian variety!) and some cooked dishes.

At Chinese Hotpot Buffet there's the added bonus of $25 all you can eat, which is really how hot pot should be. There was a surprisingly wide selection of raw and cooked ingredients. Cooked dishes like chilli chicken, seaweed salad, fried chicken wings, and pan bread meant we were able to gorge ourselves while the food cooked. On top of the wide variety, the cooked food tasted fresh, and could have stood on its own in an a la carte Chinese restaurant.
As for the raw ingredients, they were well stocked, and noticeably non frozen which was appreciated. The restaurant was quite clean and hygienic, and the staff were friendly making for a pleasant atmosphere.

During our languid meal, we ate for over three hours, enjoying the mix of raw and cooked dishes. The fare was fresh and the variety meant we were spoilt for choice. Hot pot is a simple pleasure, and Chinese Hot Pot Buffet definitely hit the spot.

7/10

Tuesday, April 28

Food Review: Masu

Cuisine: Japanese/Fusion
Price: Around $20-40 a dish
Location: 90 Federal Street, Auckland
Website: https://www.skycityauckland.co.nz/restaurants/masu/

Masu is one of the tightly packaged, casual smart restaurants that epitomise Sky City. Masu serves Japanese, with a just a hint of European fusion from its three section kitchen: sushi and sashimi, the grill and the kitchen.
The wooden heavy decor is tinged with a hint of glitz. It's very much Sky City, and borders on the uppity. The bar greets you on your way in, with its impressive choice of drinks. There are dozens of varieties of saki, not to mention Japanese fruit liqueurs and whiskys.


As mentioned the kitchen is split into three. The sushi bar serves classic as well as traditional sushi and sashimi, the kitchen includes tempura and soups and finally the grill plates beef fillet and aubergine. I found the menu to be somewhat convoluted, with it unclear what items complement each other. That said, ordering at random will serve, though you'll find there is definitely a disparity in the quality.

Starting from the top, the sushi and sashimi are some of the best in Auckland, and due to Masu's central location and relaxed atmosphere it is my favourite spot for sushi. The Deluxe Nigiri Selection is a conduit for the chefs to experiment, with nigiri such as lightly grilled beef with shreds of liver, filling your hungry soul with surprised glee. The choice fish is incredibly delicate on the tongue and almost melts in the mouth. I've eaten an entire meal only from the sushi bar and been left mesmerised.



The selection from the kitchen reads the most uninspired. Despite this the cloudy bay clams were refreshing, with the buttery juices lifted with a hint of lime. The tempura was a real gem. Imagine fish from your local chippy, fried in little crispy rice parcels, without a hint of oiliness and all the freshness of the fish intact. We couldn't get enough of these perfect parcels.

The grill is perhaps the most eye catching part of the menu, and perhaps for good reason. The glazed aubergine was perfect. I have a love affair with aubergine, and Masu took me to heaven. The flesh was almost creamy, the skin slightly burnt lending a phantom of bitterness to the sweet glaze.
The hearty pork ribs were also glazed well, but unfortunately the flesh was noticeably dry.



If I was to rate Masu only on the food, I'd easily rate it as one of my favourite restaurants. However it falters on two points.
The restaurant is distractingly loud during evenings, with the dozens of diners packed into the restaurant and distressingly bland rock music in the background. At my last dinner there, I found it hard to hear my dining companion.
Another casualty of the packed restaurant are the staff, who are more inattentive than is reasonable. Though this is noticeably due to them rushing around, trying to satisfy the large number of diners. Please hire more servers Masu!

The food at Masu is top notch, making it my favourite sushi haunt. The majority of the food is inspired, and some is even exceptional. Unfortunately due to the din of insipid rock music, the crowded restaurant and inattentive staff means Masu falls slightly short.

8/10

Thursday, April 23

Food Review: New Inn Pizza

Cuisine: Pizza
Price: $5-15 most pizzas
Location: 117 Beach Road, Auckland CBD, Auckland
Website: http://www.newinnpizza.co.nz/

Fast food taste at fast food prices. Delivery took around 40 minutes. The pizza dough was entirely soft, without any crunch, and the topping was bereft of the meat we expected. The vegetables were pleasant, as was the spicy sauce.

The word "edible" would best describe this experience.

5/10

Sunday, April 19

Food Review: Eden Noodle

Cuisine: Chinese/Sichaun
Price: Under $15 most mains
Location: 105 Dominion Road, Mt Eden, Auckland
Website: NA

If you've eaten 'Chinese' food, what you most likely ate is Cantonese cooking, which originates from just one area of the massive country that is China. Sichuan cuisine is another regional flavour, and Eden Noodle is a great place to dig into it.

Like most of the restaurants on Dominion Road, Eden Noodle is unassuming from the outside, as well as the inside. It's a cramped restaurant, with lines consistently out the door. Expect to wait 15 minutes for a seat, any time of day, so getting a takeaway may be preferable. The restaurant is not particularly hospital, with the stuffy hot air and manic front of staff, who tries to juggle orders as well as the kitchen. It's not unpleasant, but nor is it a particularly comfortable.


The menu is expansive, though most of the items are one of dozens of noodle variations, either hand or pre made. There are cold dishes as well, which may not be to everyone's taste. I've particularly enjoyed the dandan noodles, the pork and chive dumplings in spicy sauce and the slobbery chicken (cold). As mentioned there are numerous noodle dishes to choose from, which are all pretty similar, so don't get too caught up in the details!
Additionally the portions are large, and the prices low, so you can eat generously without denting your wallet.


The signature Sichuan flavours of pepper and chilli are ever present, as a result the food will quickly deaden your tongue. If you are not a chilli enthusiast, avoid Eden Noodle. And if you are, then enjoy these incredibly morish dishes.
The food tends to be slightly oily, slightly salty and very chilli. The meat is tender, the sauces tinged with garlic and it all comes together in a mouth watering feast.

Eden Noodles is a slice of chilli heaven. Heat tolerance is a necessity, and if you can survive, then you are in for a beautiful piece of niche Chinese cuisine. Service and quarters are standard for this kind of eatery, the food is unforgettable. Get here pronto!

8/10

Wednesday, April 15

Food Review: El Sizzling Chorizo

Cuisine: Argentinian
Price: Under $25 most mains
Location: Ponsonby Central, 4 Brown St, Auckland
Website: http://www.elsizzlingchorizo.co.nz/

El Sizzling Chorizo is another notable eatery, within the slightly pompous Ponsonby Central. Its claim to fame are mouth watering barbecued meats, with an Argentinian flavour. Vegetarians beware, this is your worst nightmare.

The menu is delightfully simple; chorizo, short ribs, chicken thighs and other well recognised meats are on the menu, as well as empanadas and a small choice of sides. If you've the stomach for it, I suggest the orejano platter or the parrillada, which feature a selection of meats that come in at over 600 grams each. Either makes for a sumptuous meal, and utterly captures the essence of El Sizzling Chorizo.


With such a concise, meat centric, menu the pressure is on to provide excellent quality despite its simplicity. El Sizzling Chorizo rises to the challenge. The chorizo, made by the owner Corra, are some of the best sausages you'll find in Auckland. The short ribs have a slightly gelatinous quality to them, delivering indulgent mouthfuls. The chicken thigh is tender, with sheets of crispy skin, good enough to tempt you to theft if your dining partner has some.
The empanadas are the best I've tried in New Zealand. Dipped in beef tallow, their shell has a satisfying crunch to it. Even the bread stands out: with its chewy, salty, slightly burned goodness.

The wine list, mostly Argentinian red, is also worth a mention. The Septimo Obra Malbec is incredibly fragrant and is the perfect accompaniment to a hearty evening meal at El Sizzling Chorizo.

The simplicity of El Sizzling Chorizo, belies the level of quality and thought afforded to the menu. The meats are sumptuous, making it one of the premier carnivorous restaurants in Auckland. 

8/10

Monday, April 6

Food Review: Little Bread and Butter

Cuisine: Bakery/Cafe
Price: Typically under $10 a pastry/loaf
Location: Ponsonby Central, Market 7, Richmond Road, Auckland
Website: http://www.breadandbutterbakery.co.nz/

If looking for a freshly baked loaf in Ponsonby, you'll most likely find yourself in Little Bread and Butter at some time. As its name implies, their claim to fame is baked goods. The premises also doubles as a cafe and you can grab coffees and smoothies, as well as their breads and pastries.

Like all of Ponsonby Central, the décor is very agreeable (though this could also be interpreted as unoriginal), and the service is tidy. The glass cabinet displays dozens of delicious looking goods such as carrot cake, brownies, quiches and doughnuts. If you decide to try one of every item, you would certainly be at Bread and Butter a while.

The baked goods are definitely the highlight. The carrot cake is moist and the smidgen of slightly sour cream cheese completes the richly satisfying experience. The doughnuts are lightly crisp on the outside, the brownies fudgy. Perhaps the only sub par food I've tried was their pretzel. The dough was soft (as was the exterior), and was so incredibly salty I could barely finish it.
Bread and Butter's loaves are also impressive. They offer enticing tasters of a bread at the counter, which is appreciated. If you are near Ponsonby and need a loaf for an excursion or meal, I'd suggest you go here.

Unfortunately, however nice the baked goods are, the coffees are rather poor. The cappuccinos are flat, while the mochaccinos are the most devoid of chocolate I've tasted in Auckland. If you are looking for a complete breakfast/coffee experience, this is not the place to go.

If out for baked goods for a treat, picnic, lunch or whatever else you need, then Little Bread and Butter is the place to go. You'll be spoilt for choice with the breads, and the sweeter options comfort the soul. Just don't bother with the coffee, or awful pretzels.

7/10

Thursday, April 2

Food Review: Mamak

Cuisine: Malaysian
Price: Around $15 per main
Location: Chancery Square, 50 Kitchner Street, Auckland CBD
Website: https://www.facebook.com/mamak.nz

Summing up Mamak forces me to consider the importance of expectations. When Malaysia is as far away as a 9 hour direct flight, from a country with next to no Malaysian immigrants, can one expect good Malaysian food in New Zealand?
When you grown up cooking and eating authentic dishes with your mother, and eating in Malaysia many times, how do you rate a cuisine outside its home?


Critique quandaries aside, Mamak is located in the cosy Chancery Square where several affordable eateries jostle for your attention. At Mamak the mostly swift service, the earth bound seating and the choice of quintessential Malaysian dishes enable the restaurant to stand out.


The food itself is...reasonable. It is no where near as good as you would get in Malaysian, but perhaps that is an unreasonable expectation. Suffice to say, at Mamak the curries have depth of flavour, the rice is fragrant and the roti crisp. Beef rendang, chicken curry and laksa are all very enjoyable, and will satisfy your South East Asian curry lust.
If you haven't tried the popular Malaysian teh tarik yet, then Mamak will fix you right up.

It's perhaps unreasonable to expect authentic Malaysian food in New Zealand, but nonetheless Mamak does a pretty earnest job of it. You won't go wrong with any of the classics here.

7/10

Monday, March 30

Food Review: Odettes

Cuisine: European
Price: Around $30 per main
Location: Shed 5, City Works Depot, 90 Wellesley St, Auckland
Website: http://www.odettes.co.nz/

Odettes is smack bang in the middle of the city, surrounded by stiff competition from other lauded eateries. However Odettes easily edges them out, and takes the cake as the best balance of casual and fine dining in the city. The menu is focused, yet offers variety through they day. I would heartily recommend breakfast there, as well as lunch and dinner.
The décor is understate and clean, the waiters smart casual taking the edge off. On a warmer day, sitting outside is the perfect place to enjoy your meal.


The dishes mainly takes their inspiration from Europe, so you'll find a mix of pasta, pork belly, crepes and chorizo. What makes Odettes truly stand out is how fresh and vibrant everything tastes. I ordered the heirloom tomato and buffalo milk burrata salad on a risk, knowing that the potential excellence of the dish rested on the tomatoes. I was not disappointed. The tomatoes had a tart sweetness to them, and a crisp bite. Unfortunately many restaurants serve under ripe tomatoes, but here the kitchen had served up the dish with confidence in the ingredients.
Other stand out dishes included the wood fire camembert, which is a portion big enough for two. The humongous camembert was rich and gooey. The roast peaches providing a hint of saccharine respite from the luscious fat.


The eye catching black angus eye rib was cooked to perfection, with the streaks of fat melting to provide a more textured mouthful. The rouille managed to keep the dish light and refreshing, which meant I wanted more and more.

Perhaps the only downside to Odettes is the irregular portion sizes. The crepes for instance, are enough that one person may struggle to finish them. Yet some of the salads are teensy, such as the stone fruit salad. A bit more consistency please!


Odettes has become my any time of day European food choice. It manages to create precise wonders, while still being approachable and unpretentious.
If you are in the city looking for something a little bit special, get over to Odettes pronto.

9/10

Tuesday, March 17

Food Review: Milse

Cuisine: Dessert
Price: $60 for 4 courses and wine pairing
Location: 27 Tyler Street, Britomart, Auckland
Website: http://britomart.org/milse

Milse has a stellar reputation as the dessert capital of Auckland. It doesn't quite make the grade, but it does make for an indulgent visit.

Located in the heart of Britomart, its accessibility makes it perfect to at least stroll past. Upon entering you'll discover that Milse is a cramped little place, with cabinets jam packed with dozens of desserts. There are innovative cheesecakes, ice creams, gateaus and more on display. You can take food away, or sit down for a 'dessert' meal.


Sitting down for dinner at Milse is a rather 'intimate' affair, with diners squeezed into a space barely larger than small bedroom. There is both an ala carte and more extravagant, but very reasonably priced, set menu.

The presentation at Milse makes for the highlight of the meal. You won't see many desserts as lavish as what the staff plate in front of you. Unfortunately the taste doesn't quite reach the same dizzying heights. Of all the food I've tried at Milse, it's all looked fantastic but merely tasted good.


I'd suggest the dessert set menu, paired with wine, merely for the novelty. Aside from the charm, and the large selection of desserts on offer, Milse provides a rather lack lustre front when it comes to taste.

6/10

Monday, March 16

Food Review: Little Mexico Cantina

Cuisine: Tex Mex
Price: Around $25 a main
Location: 31 Wellesley St, Auckland CBD
Website: http://littlemexico.co.nz/

Woe to those expecting an exciting meal at Little Mexico Cantina. Its inviting, yet cliché Mexican interior, contrasts with the bland and over priced menu.
You’ll pay $14+ for nachos and quesadillas, which you could make at home for half the price and most likely tastier too. The ubiquitous guacamole tasted like it was made hours earlier, and contained unappealingly large chunks of onion.


The staff made a couple of mistakes that night, forgetting part of our order and presenting an incorrect bill. They at least were apologetic and friendly throughout the night.
The main course of enchiladas was surprisingly enjoyable, after our expectations were tempered by the poor entrees. With a side of wholesome beans, and succulent chicken wraps, it was addicting and we polished the dish off quickly. It was on the smaller size for $26 though.

While the restaurant is somewhat charming, and the staff friendly, Little Mexico Cantina serves bland, overpriced Tex Mex. Stay away, unless you have an allergy to home cooking, and a thirst for the generic.

5/10

Friday, March 6

Useless

How is it possible for the New Zealand Postal Service to be so fucking incompetent?!
Last year I sent half a dozen cards to Singapore which never made it.
I posted a bunch of Christmas cards locally and I have no idea how many of them made it.
Recently a doctors note took 7 days to reach me.
Now I've posted another letter locally and it hasn't reached 3 days later.

Never going to use these shit birds again, I'll travel 2 hours to deliver postage myself if I have to.

Food Review: Kintaro On Fuji

Cuisine: Japanese
Price: $29.90 for large sushi platter
Location: 17 Swanson St, Auckland
Website: http://www.kintaroonfuji.co.nz/

Ah Kintaro. You were the first Japanese restaurant that I truly enjoyed in Auckland. The first that excited me. And while you've been supplanted as my favourite Japanese restaurant by others, you still hold a special place in my heart.
Your tacky decor and music are endearing, your staff earnest and friendly. Many of your dishes are delicious such as the comforting, rich, umami tonkotsu ramen. The sushi is always fresh and affordable.
Okay sure, your menu is a bit crazy and unfocused. Some of the items are bizarre, hair brained creations. But I can forgive, for there are real gems in there. Dishes made with passion, by a talented team. Karaage chicken, ho!

You're the best casual dining Japanese restaurant Kintaro, and I'll never forget you.

8/10.

Tuesday, March 3

Food Review: Grand Park

Cuisine: Chinese
Price: Extremely varied!
Location: Gate B, Alexandra Park Raceway, Green Lane West, Epsom, Auckland
Website: http://www.grandparkrestaurant.co.nz/

Grand Park is one of a handful of premier Chinese restaurants in Auckland. With its packed, red abundant dining room and chaotic service it certainly leaves a lasting impression. At peak times, weekend brunch (for yum char) and dinners, the restaurant is busy to the point that even if you book, you'll have to wait for your table. Like many Chinese restaurants the service is awful, so be forewarned. 
The yum char is undeniably tasty, with a wide selection of dishes including the favourites. Of the many dishes I tried included belly pork, siumai, har gow and carrot cake, all were delicious and fresh. Like in Hong Kong, the food is wheeled out on carts and you simply pick your fancy. Don't see what you want? You can ask one of the staff and you may get it...Or you may have to wait for the requisite card to come by. The outcome seems to be depending on the direction the wind is blowing.
While the dim sum charmed, the dinner is another story.

On my last visit, we went for dinner on Chinese New Year's Eve. The food took extremely long to come out, to the point that we were portioned one dish every 20 minutes. When Chinese food is best shared generously, having to ration while you wait for dishes sucks! 
What was perhaps more offensive was the blandness of the food. As it was Chinese New Year, the dishes were of the more exuberant variety, but were tasteless at best. The salmon sashimi was squishy and decidedly fishy. The fried squid meat was clearly cooked from frozen. The sea cucumber dish; gloopy and banal.
Adding to the frustration of these delayed, dull dishes, we were still limited by the two hour table allocation. Yes, this is a restaurant where you are only allowed to use the table for a set amount of time! Despite the restaurant failing to provide us with all our food, we were still rushed out after our allotted time. In fact they were clearing away everything I didn't have my hands on (including my glass), as I finished eating!
While it was Chinese New Year, and it was extremely busy, surely a veteran Chinese restaurant would be able to cope with demand and plan accordingly? The ridiculously slow service, as well as inattentive staff, was insulting. The biggest slap in the face was that this meal cost in the high three figures. We could have gone to any number of high class, excellent, restaurants for the same price.

While Grand Park serves an enjoyable yum char brunch, the last dinner service was completely insulting and amateur. I certainly won't be going there for dinner again.

6/10

Food Review: Hulu Cut (Wellesley Street)

Cuisine: Bubble Tea
Price: $6.5 for bubble milk tea
Location: 16 Wellesley Street West, Auckland CBD, Auckland
Website: http://www.hulucat.co.nz/

Bubble tea. The real drink of champions. After I  discovered this gem in Singapore, I found myself unable to survive more than a few weeks without the best of Taiwanese exports.
With multiple bubble tea cafes in the city, you're generally never more than a ten minute walk from pearly goodness. Hulu Cat is one of these cafes, with three stores in Auckland, my haunt being the one on Wellesley Street. 

Hulu serves concoctions of milk teas, slushies, fruit teas and others. There is a wide choice of toppings, such as grape jelly and the unusual wheat powder. I'll stick to my tapioca pearls though. This variety enables Hulu Cat to stand out among its many competitors. The combinations of teas and toppings are addictive, and are distinct enough that you'll enjoy trying many of them.
Otherwise the staff are friendly enough and Hulu has its own seating area, though you'll find that ordering can be a cramped affair. 

Bubble tea isn't complicated and Hulu Cat makes its acquisition very painless. The best bubble tea is still at Hulu Cat.

8/10

Food Review: Mad Mex

Cuisine: Mexican (Tex Mex)
Price: $12 for a burrito
Location: 16 Fort Street, Auckland
Website: http://www.madmex.co.nz/

Mad Mex's menu consists of the usual ‘Mexican’ staples such as burritos, nachos and quesadillas. Don’t expect anything unique or authentic from the menu. Unimpressed, I ordered a simple beef burrito with beans and the hottest sauce they had. The burrito was served room temperature, which was ridiculous. It was pretty big, so in that sense it was satisfying. However the burrito was under heated, under seasoned and completely bland. Despite ordering the hottest sauce, it was pretty mild. I found myself pouring on extra hot sauce just to give it some flavour. My friends dishes didn’t look any better.

Mad Mex is yet another bland and uninspired Mexican conveyor belt, serving food only fit for those who like imitations of actual food. It’s like McDonalds with a veneer of class.

4/10

Saturday, February 7

"There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self." - Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, February 5

Organised Chaos (A Trip To Thailand): Part Two

Over the next few days we hung out with my friend’s Thai acquaintances. With their ability to speak Thai, and navigate the city, we were able to cover much more ground than before. We went to many a museum and cultural site, making that easy small talk that occurs among travellers, even when none of you can communicate well in one particular language. The time we spent together was certainly valuable, we saw many sites a day, but these Thais were…quite Asian. It was a quiet and studious affair. I did very much appreciate their help, and would wonder how I could repay their kindness when they had selflessly acted as our guides and asked for nothing in return.

My mission to try a wide variety of fantastic Thai food wasn't going well either. Not being a local, I had no idea where to eat good Thai food, neither did my friend nor apparently the Thais. Right outside our hotel where some food stalls, serving dishes such as chicken rice and congee. Now these dishes were extremely tasty, fresh and cheap. However, they were Thai appropriations of established Chinese dishes. So while I would have enjoyed eating Thai style chicken rice any day of the year, it wasn't exactly special. In the entire week in Bangkok, I think I only ate two meals that really excited me.

Congee, Thai style


Monday, February 2

Food Review: Sautee Cafe Bistro & Bar

Cuisine: Middle Eastern/Turkish
Price: Around $20 per main
Location: 27/2 Nuffield Street, Newmarket, Auckland
Website: http://www.sautee.co.nz/


My interest in Sautee was peaked when a friend mentioned it served great Middle Eastern food and belly dancing. I love Turkish cuisine, but rarely eat it, due to it being hard to find quality restaurants. So off I went to Sautee with three friends.

The restaurant was extremely spacious, to the point I wondered why they didn't fit more seating into the place. Still, it was to our benefit as we had a bit of privacy and the large glass windows let in plenty of light. The menu was expansive with many smaller and large option including seafood, meat and vegetable focused dishes. If you are a vegetarian, you could easily cope at Sautee.




Food Review: Orleans

Cuisine: American/Southern
Price: <$20 per portion
Location: 48 Customs Street East, Britomart, Auckland
Website: http://www.orleans.co.nz/

Orleans is a popular place, especially on Friday nights. I arrived well in advance of my friends, in order to secure a table for us. Unfortunately Orleans doesn't take reservations, unless it’s over ten people! The waitress was helpful though, and we had our table when we needed it (however after I arrived and waiting forty minutes earlier).
The restaurant itself strikes a tasteful balance between bar and restaurant, with high tables, bar stools and cushy benches, creating a laid back vibe. The wall's wooden panelling was another detail that I appreciated, adding to the character and originality of Orleans. Few restaurants in Auckland capture this elusive mix of sophisticated casual.
Sitting down at our table, I was also overjoyed by another sight; three bottles of hot sauce for the taking! I love hot sauce and apply it generously, so I love it when a restaurant provides it to use at your liberty.


We decided to order a couple of sides to start with; the curly fries and cornbread. The service was swift and the items arrived quickly. I enjoyed the mealy cornbread, though one friend thought it quite average. The curly fries were crispy outside, airy and fluffy inside. The chipotle mayonnaise had a slight smoky taste, which made it all the better. The final touch of light seasoning on the fries, created an incredible morish dish.
For mains we decided to share several dishes, which seems like the Orleans way. So we went for the chicken waffle, crispy NZ pork belly, low country gumbo, southern swine plate and sweet potato gnocchi.
Some of the items arrived promptly and others...not so promptly. Two of our dishes arrived fifteen minutes apart. Isn't it restaurant 101 to serve everyone their food within a few minutes of each other? In both cases I had to ask the waitress where our food was, as it was taking so long. The staff were otherwise pleasant and jovial, but they whizzing around so fast, that I had to make effort to get their attention, otherwise they would just ignore us. Not ideal.