[Pictures: Todd Eyre]
Be prepared to leave full. “Ima” means “mother” in Hebrew, and owner Yael Shochat – ever the good Jewish mama – likes to feed her patrons well. She came to Auckland a decade ago from Israel via Britain, and started the Lunchbox, which became Ima, on Shortland Street. There, her shakshuka – spicy slow-cooked tomatoes with merguez sausage and a poached egg – was a revelation.
Now Ima is on Fort Street, an intimate, old-fashioned space. There are wooden tables and cook books; it has an open kitchen. It does a cracking lunch trade, great mezze and drinks in the late afernoon and then it transforms for dinner into the sort of low-key, candlelit bistro Aucklanders have come to like so much. It is one of the great undiscovered dinner spots of Auckland.
It is homely, rustic, robust cooking from all over the Mediterranean; Shochat and her team make most of it from scratch. We like the brikk, a North African pastry with tuna, preserved lemon and egg – you cut it open and the yolk spills out, and the tuna is all lemony. The mezze platter ($25) is enormous, and changes constantly: the roasted cauliflower, with whole florets of cauliflower, is a standout. We’re most fond of the slow-cooked Lebanese lamb shoulder ($26), fragrant with spices, served with ebly and pine nuts with an Arabic salad. Dessert? We can’t go past the homemade ice cream ($12) – the salted caramel especially. SFG
HOURS Monday to Friday, lunch from 11.30am. Tuesday to Saturday, dinner from 5.30pm.
ADDRESS 57 Fort Street, City, ph 300-7252. www.imacuisine.co.nz
IMPORTANT DETAILS Now open Saturday nights for dinner – just make sure you book.