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BLACK ESTATE AT MICHAEL LETT – SOLD OUT

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About, oh, 18 months ago, we went down to Waipara to interview Pen Naish and Nicholas Brown from Black Estate, the lovely little vineyard in the Waipara Valley with the very beautiful tasting room and restaurant. More recently, we got talking to them about dinners and we decided we’d throw a party at Michael Lett’s beautiful gallery in Newton.

But not just any dinner party: at our upcoming dinner, we’re bringing chef Alex Davies – you might have heard of him from Shop Eight and cooking in the red zone – along with a whole pile of produce and protein from North Canterbury. There’ll be Canterbury crayfish and “red-zone” mustard seeds and wild flowers, along with venison and asparagus. Alex has requested just two big pots to cook from. This makes us a bit nervous. (Also: did we mention there’s a Martin Creed exhibition on?)

Anyway, it’s going to be a lot of fun. Tickets are $95 for multiple courses and wine, and are available from the handy PayPal link below. Come along – we’d love to see you there.

BREAKFAST: L’OEUF

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Photographs: David Straight

Nestled between its sister restaurant Chinoiserie and a petrol station on Owaikara Road, L’oeuf doesn’t look like much from the outside – just a few old benches and communal tables. Inside, it’s simple: plywood tables, a geometric rug; creepers and hanging plants run across the walls and ceiling. There’s a beautiful tiled bench in the window where you can soak up the morning sun and outside there are long tables with school benches.

This place does a lot of eggs and they are cooked perfectly. The menu is South East Asia meets Europe, meets Australasia – a mishmash that somehow works. The Cambodian ($16.50) is sweet, sticky black rice with a moat of salted coconut milk, zesty kiwifruit and lychee – sweet, sour, salty. The Nordstrom, smoked kahawai with pea puree and spicy radish, is great too: it comes with earthy rye and one of L’oeuf’s signature poached eggs, oozes out to create a mess on your plate, perfect for scooping onto thick toasted bread. There’s the option to add avocado here, and to just about everything else, which in the middle of winter is an oddly unseasonal choice. There is also the Nest, which is possibly Auckland’s most photographed breakfast: crumbed soft-boiled eggs in a pastry “nest” with house-made ketchup and salad. It’s genius.

They change their menu seasonally, so be sure to get the Peasant before the weather warms up, or wait until next year – a hearty cassoulet of cannellini beans, bacon lardons and vegetables cooked in duck fat. It’s gloriously rich, with dense potato bread to mop up the juice. Seemingly effortless – but so is the whole place. KR

ADDRESS 4a Owairaka Road, Mt Albert, ph 971-4155.

HOURS Wednesday to Sunday, 7am to 3.30pm. Monday until 3pm. Closed Tuesday

COFFEE Atomic. Espresso only, which is unfortunate. The iced coffee is best – it comes with a little glass of vanilla syrup.

IMPORTANT DETAILS Weekends are busy: get there after 11:30 and you’ll miss the good stuff. You might have to wait, too – though they run a reasonably efficient waitlist.

 

RECIPE: CHICKEN LIVERS WITH MUSHROOMS & ASPARAGUS

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Photographs: David Straight

We’ve eaten this once a week this winter: a dish that originally came from Dish magazine, via Hannah’s mum. I’ve tweaked it and recently added asparagus – a nice piece of toasted sourdough and maybe a poached egg would be good too. It’s super easy and very fast: the mushrooms add a silkiness, which I really like. This is heaps for two or it could do three or four with a salad.

Packet of organic free-range chicken livers – about 400g for two people
Six Portobello mushrooms sliced into ½ centimetre pieces
A bunch of new-season asparagus (I like the thin stuff)
Olive oil or butter, for frying
Extra virgin olive oil and vinegar of your choosing
Parsley

Rinse and drain the chicken livers in a sieve, then dry completely on a couple of paper towels. (It will make a nice mess on your bench.) Trim off the white bits and slice the larger ones in two.

Make a simple dressing with extra virgin olive oil and either balsamic or maybe a sherry vinegar – two parts olive oil to one part vinegar is a nice mix.

Snap the ends off the asparagus then cut into spears – about 8cm long is ideal. Boil them in salted boiling water for a minute or two (depending on their thickness), but make sure you take them off before they get soft and douse in cold water.

Add a knob of butter and a little extra virgin olive oil to a nice big heavy frying pan and put over a medium-high heat. When the butter is sizzling, add the chicken livers so there is plenty of space around them – you might need to cook them in batches. Don’t mess with them: you want them seared and caramelised, not stewed, so trust that they will cook if you just put them in the pan and leave them. Cook for two minutes and then flip them and cook for another minute or two. You should still be able to see pink bits.

Remove the livers to a bowl and cover. Add the sliced mushrooms to the frying pan with a little extra olive oil if things are looking dry. Cook the mushrooms until they’re sticky and caramelised, then add the chicken livers and the asparagus and shake over the heat for a few seconds.

Divide into bowls, drizzle a bit of dressing over and then add chopped parsley. SFG

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MISS MOONSHINE’S

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Photographs: David Straight

Tucked away down a back alley behind Golden Dawn, what was once a travelling grill has become a permanent fixture of Ponsonby Road. There is a massive open plan kitchen and lots of blackened steel – festooned with fairground bulbs – and saloon-style wooden chairs and raw timber, along with an ominious-looking bull painted on the back wall. It is particularly inviting at night.

For meat like this, though, we’ll forgive the fairground / industrial fit out: the owners have imported an industrial sized smoker from the States. It goes on in the morning and runs late into the evening, creating beautifully tender meat with a subtle pohutukawa smoke. There are other things on the menu – recently we ate freshly shucked Pacific oysters from Kaipara, natural with a shallot dressing and the perfect sort of accompaniment to slow-cooked meat. Other items feel like an afterthought: we weren’t enthused by the buttermilk fried chicken, which was bland, or an undressed salad with pecans and goat’s cheese. We ate some chips but they were just expensive.

Doesn’t matter. Go for barbecue: venison ribs ($26) come plastered in a glossy house made barbecue sauce, rich with honey and thyme. The short rib ($32) is given full flavour by smoking on the bone, and comes with tangy pickles. And the brisket ($32) is a beautifully tender, full-flavoured piece of meat with a subtle red tinge from the charcoal. KR

HOURS Monday to Sunday, 11am until 3pm, 5pm until 11pm.

ADDRESS Lot 3, 130 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, ph 360-4075. missmoonshines.com

IMPORTANT DETAILS Coming soon: meat for breakfast.

ROCKEFELLER

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Photographs: David Straight

Rockefeller is an oyster and champagne bar in in a fantastic old brick warehouse on a windswept expanse of Fanshawe Street, a relic of a former age when this was the edge of the harbour and and there were no buses or cars racing to get to the motorway. It’s classic in the way you’d expect an oyster bar to be – heavy timber beams, exposed brick walls, marble and butcher’s tiles – but there are also mod lights and a touch of industrial punk. There’s also a highly excellent soundtrack: it’s owned by Camilla Martin (bFM, among other things) and Tim Arnold (Pluto).

The service is great and so is the champagne – what a list! – but most importantly, they do an excellent Negroni. You sit in the window and there is a sense of the city rushing and heaving around you: eating oysters is all about time and contemplation of something incredibly simple. We’ve eaten Nelson Bay Kono oysters ($6 a pop) and a mixed dozen ($38) of Kaipara Pacifics and some beautiful, creamy, intense Te Matukus from Waiheke Island. They also do some of the best hand-cut chips in town – they are mammoth, crunchy on the outside and perfectly fluffy inside, great big builder finger chips.

We’ve eaten the “Member of the Board” ($39) platter of seasonal fish and that was pretty good, but after the deathly simple elegance of an oyster, it seemed somehow too complicated. We plan to come here often and eat chips and oysters and drink Negronis. What else do you need? SFG

HOURS Tuesday and Saturday, 4pm until late; Wednesday to Friday, 12pm until late.

ADDRESS 104 Fanshawe Street, City, ph 379-4209. rockefelleroysterbar.co.nz

IMPORTANT DETAILS You can book, and make sure you do – this joint is quickly becoming the local for corporates around the area.