[Photographs: David Straight]
The Hip Group has a habit of opening cafes and restaurants that fit so well you wonder why they didn’t exist before. Now, they’ve cracked St Heliers. It’s a bold move: great views, expensive property, a well-heeled population – and until now, nowhere to eat. Not for want of trying – but inexplicably, nothing has ever stuck.
In short, the bistro is great and pleasingly, it’s full most of the time. You’ll recognise certain elements – a woodsy interior with Scandinavian touches, smart service, carbonated water. The view is beautiful. There is a striking green tiled wall. They take no bookings but they promise to look after you – though some extra seating in the courtyard while you wait could be nice, we think. It’s open from 7am to 11pm and the kitchen is open the whole time and we like that a lot too.
Fans of Ortolana will recognise head chef Jo Pearson’s hand here. There’s a similar loose plating and the same hearty-intelligent combinations, only it’s slightly meatier and portions are bigger – classic bistro fare with indulgent touches, though there still isn’t a main over $30, which is pretty good going in this location. There’s even beer-battered terakihi and chips ($25), though why you’d order this when there’s a meltingly tender duck leg with green lentils and smoked beetroot ($27) on the menu is beyond us. Other highlights? A terrific “plate of pork” ($28), with pork three ways and savoy cabbage, wood-roasted fish with preserved lemon and dates ($28) or slow-roasted lamb shoulder with white beans, the meat tender and falling apart ($28). Other suburbs should be so lucky. SFG
HOURS Open 7am to 11pm, seven days.
ADDRESS 387 Tamaki Drive, St Heliers, ph 575-6995. stheliersbaybistro.co.nz
IMPORTANT DETAILS Go about 8pm on a night when the rugby’s and you won’t have any trouble getting a table. Amazing!