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Photographs: David Straight

Farina is the second restaurant of Toto’s owner Sergio Maglione: his food is devastatingly simple and yet full of flavour. (Ironically, we started EHN because of a date involving live opera at Toto, though we’ve long since forgiven them.) Farina is simple: very white with slightly industrial touches, and some unsettling green lights under the bar. We like to sit at the high marble-topped tables down the side of the restaurant and share a few plates.

The place is a homage to Maglione’s home town of Naples – so there’s pizza, pasta and lots of seafood. There’s a big chunk of “streetfood”, of which we can happily recommend the Polipo ($16), beautifully tender pieces of octopus with olive oil, garlic and chilli ­– classic, plain, simple. We love it. We recently ate a simple bresaola salad ($18) and the selection of Italian cured meats ($10 to $20) wasn’t just perfectly executed, it was also ridiculously good value. The pastas are handmade, generous – designed for sharing, rather than a big bowl for one; there is a daily ragu special ($18) and a brilliant octopus tagliatelle ($22). But it’s the spiedini ($36) we love: foot-long skewers of chargrilled meat, slathered with salsa verde – perfect medium-rare steak and a fabulous pork and fennel sausage.

If I have a complaint, it’s the service – at times, it descends to almost farcical Italian. The staff are all good looking and they all have fabulous accents, but sometimes they’re overbearing and sometimes they ignore you and it can be exceptionally hard to get a second drink. A bit like Naples, really. SFG

HOURS Open seven days, 12pm until late

ADDRESS 244 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, ph 302-2665.

IMPORTANT DETAILS Toto’s three-metre pizzas are now also made here – delivery or takeaway.




You might have seen the supper club we ran with Amisfield not so long ago – after a couple of years of hard work, Amisfield and SFG have released Amisfield: Food, Wine and Stories from Central Otago, published by Random House. It’s in stores now and it is very beautiful.

It’s a special book, from one of our favourite bistros, taking in the history and the story of one of the country’s most beloved vineyards – hardback, lovely paper stock, beautiful photographs and some really stunning recipes from chef Jay Sherwood. (We’re happy to report that after many hours of testing, the recipes are almost fool proof.)

We’ve ordered a few copies for EHN readers at a very special price of $50 (RRP is $60), so if you’d like one, drop us an email on or order using this very handy link. (Postage and packaging is $6.50 within Auckland/North Island, or pick it up from EHN HQ. If you ask us really nicely we might drop it off.)





 Photographs: David Straight

 Spicy House calls itself the “spice expert” and, possibly more importantly, it is open late, so if you really need chilli at midnight – coming back from the airport, say – this is the place to go: on a recent visit the place was pleasantly full just before midnight. The walls are tiled white and the tables are bare: there’s a whiteboard with the most popular dishes to order, which is helpful and so is the service.

Some things are very good here, though not everything. They do a good stir fried green bean and the dumplings are excellent, though the pork hock is greasy and not very spicy, with a sticky gravy – best avoided if we’re honest. But there is – all hail – chilli chicken, which is cubes of chicken in a salty chilli Sichuan pepper rub , stir fried with big red dried chillies. It is a addictive: you keep going back, even when you’re full. And at midnight, that is exactly what you need. SFG

HOURS 12pm to midnight, seven days.

ADDRESS 557 Dominion Road, Balmoral, ph 631-5218.







Photographs: David Straight

There are many reasons to go to Panmure: the lagoon, that great sign on the awful roundabout, and increasingly, some brilliant ethnic food. There’s the joint serving some of the best Peking duck in town, and there’s the Sri Lankan supermarket but – most importantly – there is the splendidly named Blossom Court. (There’s another Malaysian that gets a lot of reviews: Blossom is much better.)

It’s plain, as you’d expect: a couple of posters; a map on the wall with a pin in it showing the island of Penang, which is where the chefs come from, and this is very exciting because it means you’ll find that most unheard of thing, an assam laksa – it’s like a curry laksa, only it has a dark sauce and a sweet-sour punch that is utterly addictive. Unfortunately, it’s not the best we’ve ever eaten, but we forgive them. We do this because everything else we’ve eaten was utterly brilliant, and clearly we’re not alone: on a recent Saturday, you couldn’t get a table and we wound up sharing with a woman who crosses town every Saturday to get a special takeout lunch from here.

The menu stretches from the standard Malaysian favourites, through to some much less common dishes. They do one of the city’s best char kuey teow: it is perfectly smoky, and it comes with that particular type of Malaysian sausage that so many CKTs don’t come with, and plenty of chilli. The sambal eggplant is gooey, and the sambal is nicely thick and plenty hot. But the menu also has some surprises, chief among them “marmite chicken”, which is pieces of fried chicken, doused in a dark sauce – it is at once sweet, savoury and tangy, and particularly fabulous. Go now. SFG

HOURS Lunch, 10.30am to 3pm; dinner 5pm to 9pm. Closed Tuesday.

ADDRESS 135 Queens Road, Panmure, ph 527 7022.

IMPORTANT DETAILS Pop across the road to the Sri Lankan supermarket and buy (a) treacle and (b) yoghurt. Breakfast Of Champions.








Photographs: David Straight

A couple of years back, we called this stretch of Ponsonby Road the Chicken District. Now, Boy & Bird has opened. It’s a small piece of genius, in that it is exactly what you want: local free-range chooks, brined and perfectly roasted so they’re still just tender; plenty of salad available; a short but good wine list. (Not surprising: it’s owned by chef Michael Van de Elzen and Marie Colosimo, one of the city’s best maître d’s.)

You might drop by early on a Saturday night on the way to somewhere else, or you might drop by for takeout on the way home from something else, or you might sit here for hours, and it works well for all three. There’s a takeout area on one side, a small dining room on the other – the fitout is bright, almost childlike, with lots of painted steel and wood. Service is polished and fast. And, newsflash: they take bookings.

Recntly, we’ve eaten the Quarter Chook ($12!) with chunkies and slaw, and we’ve topped that up with salad – a huge and very good slaw ($8); the hot bird ($16), with black lentils, feta, chook and sultana; or the sautéed kale ($14) with quinoa, almonds, apple and haloumi. Fresh, good, fast. We like.

HOURS Seven days, 11am until late.

ADDRESS 222 Ponsonby Road, ph 361-3222.

IMPORTANT DETAILS Did we mention they take bookings?