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[Photographs: David Straight]

Some restaurants take a while to come of age. We like that. After a stint cooking at The Grove, Sid Sahrawat opened up here in 2009, in possibly the most unprepossessing location in Auckland: up a flight of stairs in the Alhambra Arcade in Three Lamps. We like this too. You walk through the overlit arcade past the pharmacy, up the stairs and into a very dark, very small room, and someone takes your coat.

For a while, Sahrawat’s restaurant was good – it won a host of awards – but it didn’t set the world on fire. We went a couple of times, and we found that Sahrawat’s food didn’t suit the pedestrian progression of entrée-main-dessert: it suits multiple courses, ebb and flow, balance and texture and playfulness. Then, he decided – admirably – that he’d change the degustation menu weekly, and run a test kitchen on Tuesdays. It was so popular he extended it to Wednesday. It’s $80 for eight courses, with wine matching for $65. You can still get a la carte, but why would you?

You eat there, and you eat in a restaurant that has worked out what it wants to do. There is theatre – the kitchen is now open to the restaurant – but not too much. You turn up and they give you the menu in a brown paper envelope and you choose whether or not to open it. (We didn’t.) The service is great and the wine matches are perfect. You get the sense he’s thrown the book out and just started cooking. There was a gorgeous “salad” of minced clams and mussels very early on that has stayed in our memory because it was delicate and sweet, and a deconstructed “samosa”, all of it clever and assured and thoughtful and beautifully plated. But it will have changed by now, and that’s mostly what we like about it. SFG

HOURS Tuesday to Saturday, dinner from 6pm. Friday, lunch from 12pm.

CONTACT DETAILS Three Lamps Plaza, 283 Ponsonby Road, ph 360-2122.


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