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Photographs: David Straight 

We need more restaurants like this. Two years ago, Dariush Lolaiy and Rebecca Smidt – son and daughter-in-law of original owners Tony and Barbara – bought Cazador from the family and set about making it their own. We always had a soft spot for the place, which started in 1987, but boy do we love it now.

Lolaiy cooked solo for a couple of years while Smidt worked the floor and they sunk money into new chairs, new tables, decent glasses and a delightful collection of vintage and Japanese ceramics. They evolved a short, seasonal menu that changes every two weeks and brought in a fabulous collection of sherries. Now, after a five-week refit over summer, it is really, properly theirs: a casual, light-filled space with pacey, friendly service to match. The taxidermy still takes pride of place, as does the game-centric menu – only now there are freshly painted walls, a brilliant green banquette, wooden floors and a new front door, along with a cute bar out the back. A courtyard garden is on the way.

It’s meaty, but in all the right ways: they’re careful with their sourcing, plus there’s a good amount of offal and plenty of seasonal produce. Recently, we ate a game terrine ($16.50) that was somehow dense and light at the same time, a plate of calf tongue chips (crumbed and deep-fried: the wonder) and a delicate – get this – veal heart tartare. We’ve also eaten char-grilled quail ($33.50) on a middle-eastern salad of beans and eggplant and tomatoes served with labneh and sumac – smoky and magnificent, the quail juicy and crisp – as well as roast boar ($33) with zuchini, hazelnut and spaetzle, which was a textured, balanced dish. The rabbit parpadelle ($33) is a triumph, while the char-grilled venison ($33) with a potato and anchovy gratin and broccoli came in a saladish sort of pile with salsa verde: a classic updated. For the love of Auckland, go now. SFG

HOURS Monday to Saturday from 6pm.

ADDRESS 854 Dominion Road, Balmoral, ph 620-8730.

IMPORTANT DETAILS Read the old review here.

One Comment

  1. Brendon wrote:

    Further to the article –
    Cazador is a game meat eaters paradise but the vegetarians are well looked after too :)

    Monday, February 17, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

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