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We’re pretty excited about this one.

Our latest supper club is at Masu by Nic Watt on September 3. It’s a sake degustation, which matches five exquisite spring-inspired courses from the Masu kitchen with some rare and unusual sake. We say it’s at the private table: you’ll find out on the night where you’re sitting and that’s a little bit special too.

We are only doing one evening for this dinner, and there are just 18 tickets available – so it will be a really intimate event. Tickets are $150 including sake matching, and can be purchased just below with your credit card. Looking forward to it!

Sake Degusation at Masu by Nic Watt




Orphans Kitchen reminds you just how delightful breakfast can be. You might have eaten dinner there since it opened a couple of years back – chef Tom Hishon takes a devilishly clever approach to simple and secondary ingredients, and the place is nicely casual without being sloppy. It’s lovely at night – small, with tongue-and-groove paneling and macrocarpa benchtops and stools with sheepskins on them – but by morning the place is awash with soft yellow light, which bounces off the walls and over your table. Of a weekday morning it could even be described as sedate.

The breakfast menu here doesn’t feature eggs benedict, and there is no chia seed bircher. Instead, Hishon takes the same approach to breakfast as he does to dinner – there are no rules, and very few things that are obviously breakfast but all of it is genius – as seen with the tenderly cooked sardine, served with horseradish and microgreens and a side of spelt toast that we ate recently: there was something faintly Swedish-ish about it. We also love the mushrooms with quark – multiple types of mushroom in a sticky dark broth with the tiniest blobs of quark and chervil. We should all eat soup for breakfast more often.

And there are some of the finest house-made crumpets ever produced, anywhere – they are big and almost cake like: chewy and slightly yeasty and they come with honey from the restaurant’s hives. And, there is a dish of poached eggs on brioche toast with meyer lemon curd and an anchovy, the dish artfully darting between salty and sweet, crunchy and smooth. Genius. SFG

 HOURS Wednesday to Friday from 7am, weekends from 8am.

ADDRESS 118 Ponsonby Road, Auckland, ph 378 7979.

COFFEE Supreme, naturally. There’s an espresso machine but they also serve a changing selection of single origin roasts in a Fetco filter, in a custom-made ceramic mug from Taus.



Photographs: David Straight

We’re not quite sure why they called it Dumpling Ace. Don’t get us wrong, the dumplings here are very good indeed – we’ll get to them in a moment – but they’re not quite the star attraction. Dumpling Ace is a simple little restaurant in the Northcote Town Centre: bare timber-veneer tables, wooden chairs, slightly frazzled service – recently we waited 45 minutes for takeaways. You’ll find it next to the dodgy TAB bar and just along from Jiale Bun Shop (which isn’t as good as it used to be, but anyway).

There’s a – hurrah – short menu, which reflects the owners origins in Shaanxi just north of Sichuan in the west of China below Shanxi, which means there’s lamb and green peppercorns and chilli and barbecue. Be sure to try the chargrilled skewers dusted with chilli: they’re salty and spicy and tenderly smoky – the chicken “gizzards” ($12 for 10) and the lamb ($12 for 10) are particularly good. The stir-fried celery with black mushroom ($10) is pretty good too, and the dumplings are big and lumpy and juicy – we like the pork with cabbage ($10). But the handmade “shaved” or knife-cut noodles are the reason to come here – they’re a specialty of the region, long and thick and lumpy. They are very good simply wok-fried ($12) or served with sesame and chilli ($9), or in a salty mutton broth with seaweed and coriander ($8.50), and even better with pork, chilli and pepper ($12).

But our favourite dish? The fish fillet cooked with hot pepper and hot chilli in Sichuan style ($19.80), which is a beautiful broth with plenty of green pepper corns, salty and spicy and sour – it tickles the tastebuds and gets the shoulders going. Apparently, they told us last time – after we’d eaten, sadly – that it’s great with a side of those noodles. We’ll be back soon. SFG

HOURS 10am to 9pm, seven days

ADDRESS Northcote Town Centre, 39 Pearn Place, Northcote, ph 480 4898.

IMPORTANT DETAILS Noodles! Make sure you order noodles!




Photographs: David Straight

We found Dak Hanmari when we went looking for Dak Galbi – a classic working-class Korean fried chicken dish: we can’t find it anywhere else. It’s a small joint up the top of Queen Street, reached a few steps down off the street: there are burners in the middle of the table – always a good sign – and a lot of neutrally coloured formica, so it looks a bit like a departure lounge somewhere in provincial Asia.

Dak means chicken: there’s a stylised chook in the window and the best dishes are poultry here, like the fried chicken ($11 for six pieces), which is luscious and tender on the inside with a beautifully crunchy, though slightly dark, batter. The Dak Galbi ($30) comes out in a frying pan, a plate of chicken thighs in chilli sauce with cabbage and egg roll. You leave it to fry and get sticky and then at some point – usually, after you’ve eaten the chicken, but here they do it as you’re eating the chicken – the waiter will add rice with nori, which then gets sticky and caramelised and sticks to the bottom: the burned bits at the end are possibly the best.

But Dak Hanmari is named after a type of “world famous” chicken soup and you really need to go and eat this. The stock arrives with half a chicken ($35) in a big pot with a side plate of noodles, cabbage, fish ball and dumplings, and you cook it all up. It starts out plain, but by the end of it, you’ve got a rich, nourishing broth: we advise you to hold off as long as possible – maybe by ordering a plate of fried chicken, say – until the chicken is falling off the bone and the potato has started to break up through the stock, adding a pleasant starchiness. Then dredge your chicken through the chilli sauce, scoop up some noodles and enjoy your soup.

HOURS Tuesday to Saturday, 11.30am to 10pm; Sundays 5pm to 10pm.

ADDRESS 490D Queen Street, ph 369-5656.

IMPORTANT DETAILS Dak Hanmari Queen Street is no relation to the buffet restaurant in Takapuna, though they’re both named after a famous Korean chain.



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Photographs: David Straight

Quite often, the pleasure in fish and chips is circumstantial: eating them on a wharf, say, fending off seagulls or sitting on a beach as the sun goes down. As long as the fish isn’t too overdone and the batter isn’t undercooked, you’re happy.

Sometimes, though, it’s about the fish and the batter, and this is where Marsic Brothers comes in. You’ll find them in a 1960s strip mall development in Glen Innes, which isn’t exactly the most auspicious of places – you could, at a stretch, make a quick trip from here to Mission Bay or St Heliers, but then your greasies might get cold.

There are daily specials on the fish – once, we had hapuku, which we can heartily recommend despite feeling slightly guilty at using such a fine fish for such a prosaic purpose. The batter is that perfect shade of gold between bronze and yellow and there is just enough of it, and the fish doesn’t slide out of its batter casing: there is serious technical skill in all of this. The chips, meanwhile, are hand cut. We can also highly recommend the smoked fish, particularly the smoked fish roe: they take superbly fresh fish and smoke it so it’s still tender and not too smoky; there is no leather here. Then – and I am assured that you may do this – you sneak out to your car, rip the paper apart and eat it right there in the parking lot. The beach can wait. SFG

HOURS Monday to Friday, 6am to 6.30pm; Saturday until 1.30pm.
ADDRESS 47 Mayfair Place, ph 528 9556.
IMPORTANT DETAILS Take in your own catch and they’ll smoke the fish for you.