[Photographs: David Straight of course]
The Grill’s been open a year, and in that time I’ve eaten there four times. Twice for lunch, twice for dinner. Conclusions? It’s expensive – mains are $38 to $44 and the most expensive steak costs more than $100, sides ($10) not included – and it’s formal, despite chef-owner Sean Connolly’s stated ambition for it to be simple. I like it – but it’s not right yet.
There’s the room, designed by Andrew Lister, which reportedly cost many millions of dollars. It is all brown leather and dark wood, with the tiled kitchen front and centre – it feels like you’re sitting in an expensive piece of luggage. Only, there is a ghost in the electrics and the lighting gets lighter and darker over the course of dinner, as if someone was slowly twiddling the dimmer switch, which makes you feel drunker than you are. There is no bathroom – you have to traipse through the lobby of the SkyCity Grand, which just seems counter to everything a restaurant like this should do. And it doesn’t have a standalone website, which reminds you you’re really eating in a casino complex. Surely they could stretch to that?
Service can be great, but it can be unsure – sometimes you feel like the staff are reading from a script. The food is indeed simple, and can be brilliant – there is an extensive raw bar, which always makes me happy, and recently there was a terrific Caesar salad ($22) dressed by an egg, just cooked at 62ºC, although be sure to avoid the crab on toast ($24), which is bland, with leathery toast. The duck fat chips ($10) are brilliant. But mainly, I like the steak: this is the best in town. I’ve eaten Wagyu rump ($35) – perfectly cooked to medium rare, tender and full of flavour. I ate short rib on the bone as part of Auckland Restaurant Month, and it was exquisite, as was everything else we ate that night. And twice, I’ve eaten the 560g rib eye on the bone ($48), beautifully charred on the outside and still pink on the inside, the perfect steak made better only by a handmade Lorimer knife the size of your head. If you like steak, you will want to eat here, and you should. If only they could sort out everything else. SFG
HOURS Open seven days for dinner and Monday to Friday for lunch.
ADDRESS 90 Federal St, City, ph 363-7067. skycityauckland.co.nz/restaurants/the-grill.html
IMPORTANT DETAILS The Grill will validate your parking for across the road in the SkyCity carpark.