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SECOND HELPINGS: THE ENGINE ROOM

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Photographs: David Straight

The Engine Room has always been brilliant. Now it’s better. It opened eight years ago in a 1930s post office and when it did it caused a sea change in Auckland dining – you could have some of the best eating in town, but it didn’t need to be somewhere posh: you could have steak frites and it could be the best thing you’d eaten that month and the service would be thoughtful and bouncy and somehow both casual and not. There was – and is – a beautifully hand-written blackboard menu that changed often.

Then last year, owners Natalia Schamroth and Carl Koppenhagen – she’s front of house, he slings the pots though they’re both chefs – finally bought the building from their landlord, closed for five weeks, and got Fearon Hay to redesign the place, taking over the 1970s office space next door and doubling the size of the restaurant. All the good things are the same: dark wooden floors, bistro chairs, that thoughtful food, an open kitchen and the same sense of being somewhere easy and yet refined. They’ve added lots of timber and dark metal and Portuguese tiles and a big long bar that connects new and old. It’s mellowed – it feels more sedate.

The food hasn’t changed, and that’s good. Koppenhagen and Schamroth take a dish and tweak it, then continue to play until it is how it should have been in the first place. Middle Eastern, Thai, German – it doesn’t matter. Their steak is still among the best in town. The schnitzel ($34) is legendary. We recently ate a Middle Easternish lamb rump ($35) with bulghar, baba ghanoush and pomegranate, slightly smoky and spicy and sweet all at the same time. So was the Sri Lankan duck salad ($24) with curry leaves and coconut. There was a panna cotta ($16) that was just held together, wobbly and silky. It’s a place for both special occasions and rainy weeknights and Auckland is lucky to have it. SFG

HOURS Tuesday to Saturday, dinner from 6pm. Friday lunch 12 to 2.30pm.

ADDRESS 115 Queen Street, Northcote Point, ph 480-9502. engineroom.net.nz

IMPORTANT DETAILS Limited parking around the back.

EHN x Golden Dawn Harvest Lunch

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NEWS FLASH! This event has been postponed to Sunday March 23 due to the forecast cyclone. Our apologies for the inconvenience. All tickets purchased for March 16 will automatically transfer to March 23. 

We’re very excited to announce the return of lunch at Golden Dawn. This time, we’re having a very special harvest lunch in the courtyard – as with all these events, it will be a special afternoon. There will be wine and music and plenty of bonhomie and as ever we’d love nothing more than for you to come and help celebrate the end of summer.

Chef Becks Pillay has produced a fabulous menu, a classic mix of her rustic, ingredient driven food. There is pheasant and eel, toulouse sausage and autumn vegetables. It celebrates everything that is good about this time of year. Oh yeah, and it also just happens to be gluten free. You won’t want to miss this one – tickets are $59.50 and available over here at Under the Radar.

Here’s the menu:

Smashed broad beans & goat cheese spread

Warm buckwheat bread w/ garlic nettle butter

Smoked eel, beetroot & horseradish w/ beet greens

Corned tongue w/ baby potatoes, cornichons, mustard dressing & frisee

 

Coal roasted pheasant w/ prunes

Toulouse sausage w/ cherry tomato preserve

Autumn slaw w/ brussel sprouts, fennel, mint & hazelnuts

Roasted root vegetables & tarragon aioli

 

Eton mess w/ rosewater cream & pistachios

[Wellington] The Larder

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Photographs: David Straight

Jacob Brown is a bit of a genius. At The Larder, he cooks food that is at once comforting and filling, yet which also looks glorious, and which combines unusual flavours: not long ago we ate a salad of watermelon, seasonal berries, mint and feta – with just a sprinkle of sumac. So simple, but so perfectly balanced.

You’ll find it on a quiet corner in Miramar, the Eastern Wellington suburb that is home to Peter Jackson’s film empire. By day it serves coffee and sandwiches (the Louise slice is excellent), but by night it is small, cosy. Service is brilliant, led by Brown’s ebullient and knowledgeable wife Sarah Bullock. The wine list is small and cleverly selected – many are available by the glass.

But it is meat – and offal, and nose-to-tail dining in particular – that The Larder excels at. At Brown’s assured hand, it is transformed into something that seems totally natural, rather than anything ghoulish; it becomes simply another delicious thing to eat. An entree dish of lamb’s brains in a gremolata crumb ($17) is an unexpected triumph, even if it is hard to pass up the pork belly main with fennel, apple puree, sage and caramelised Granny Smith ($35). Genius. JT

HOURS Tuesday to Saturday, 8am to 3pm; Sunday, 9am to 3pm. Dunner Thursday to Saturday, from 6pm.

ADDRESS 133 Darlington Road, Miramar, Wellington, ph (04) 891-0354. thelarder.co.nz

IMPORTANT DETAILS Specialty dinners are an occasional treat. Keep an eye on the website for details.

 

MR ZHOU’S DUMPLINGS

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Photographs: David Straight

You’ll recognise the menu. Last year, the owners of New Flavour – that of the rustic dumplings and the terrible service – sold the legendary restaurant to new owners and frankly, it’s never been the same since. Then word came by email from a kind reader. Mr Zhou, the former owner of New Flavour, had opened in New Lynn.

Naturally, we hustled out for lunch and so we can announce: Mr Zhou’s Dumplings is brilliant. It occupies a former takeaway joint, all plywood and formica and big windows, set off by handmade wooden signs. An art director couldn’t have done it better. Best of all, there’s an open kitchen, where you can see the chefs working the dough and cooking your dumplings. You order and pay at the counter – somehow it’s friendlier than it used to be.

The menu is comfortingly, wonderfully the same, only for some reason the food tastes better this time around – fresher somehow. Dumplings, cold dishes, a few mains; everything comes in takeout containers, which we quite like. We ate the pork and fennel dumplings – handmade, a little lumpy and bright with fennel ($10 for 20) and we slathered them with chilli. And we ate the cucumber salad ($8), which they half-chop, half-smash – you can hear them out the back chopping away and you know there is goodness on the way – and then scatter with chilli and sesame oil. Remember the shredded potato salad ($8)? That’s here too and it is brilliant. My. SFG

HOURS Monday to Saturday, 11am to 10pm; Sunday, 4pm to 10pm.

ADDRESS 3130 Great North Road, New Lynn, ph 827-8800

IMPORTANT DETAILS Word has it Mr Zhou isn’t as busy as he expected to be. So go now. Please?

FRIENDS: JEREMY TAYLOR ON PETONE

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Photographs: David Straight

You might know him from Radio New Zealand National, where he talks about music, or for his writing about rugby, or for being a fixture at Slow Boat Records on Cuba Street. But Jeremy Taylor is just as obsessive about lunch: he used to blog – as The Omnivore – for stuff.co.nz and he once got up at 4am to drive from Wellington to one of our lunches at Golden Dawn. (He made it on time.) Since we met at a dinner in Wellington a couple of years ago, he’s become a good friend and so when it came to choosing EHN’s new Wellington correspondent, there was only one person I rang. Welcome to the fold. SFG

Before we moved here in 2005, trips to Petone were like excursions to the seaside: op shops, a decent cafe or two, but it still held a bit of stigma over from when it was home to the freezing works, and the water ran blood red from the works and silty-grainy from the saw mills in Seaview.

But Petone was one of the first settlements in New Zealand and is home to some of the oldest wooden villas in the country. And lately, it’s become a bit of a food destination. This is seen best at On Trays Fine Foods Emporium, run by ebullient South African Steven Scheckter and his wife Valda. Nothing can quite prepare you for the sheer volume of stuff that it contains: it spans the gamut of consumables, from jamon iberico to $2 candy bars. It is the source of many of my staple foods: parmegiano reggiano, capers in salt, olive oil, dried wild oregano, balsamic vinegar, kalamata olives. They also have a French brie called Amadeus, which in our house is referred to as “crack cheese”. Too much is never enough.

Just across Jackson Street is The Dutch Shop, which also stocks a lot of cheese – a creamy gouda with cumin seeds, a hard cheddar with nettles, as well as a vast array of Dutch sweets; the salty liquorice takes a bit of getting used to, but once you are hooked, it is curiously addictive.

Further along Jackson Street and just in on Nelson Street is Indian supplies store Ankur’s Nice ‘n’ Spice. It sells a heap of dried grains, beans and pulses, along with spices, rice, oil, paneer and yoghurt. There is always fresh coriander and ginger, and turmeric, and curry leaves.

If you stray a little beyond Petone’s immediate vicinity, near neighbour Alicetown yields the area’s best fish and chips – the Alicetown Fish Supply serves big scoops of hand-cut chips, fresh terakihi fillets, and deep-fried raspberry donuts whose scalding hot jam filling will burn the roof of your mouth. They also do deep-fried Mars bars – I am yet to try one of these. 436 Cuba Street, Alicetown, ph (04) 589-9756.

Heading a little further towards the Wainui hills, down Randwick Road lies the Zany Zeus shop. Impeccable organic feta, milk, thick Greek yoghurt and, best of all, the best icecream I have ever tasted: try the raspberry and greek yoghurt, or the liquorice, or the coconut and rosewater. They also do a soft-serve so creamy and delicious it makes me want to weep.

Just a little further down the road and over the bridge onto Whites Line East is the Real Meat Pies shop. They have properly lardy pastry, their steak and cheese is a classic, and their SCOT (steak, cheese, onion and sundried tomato) is even better.

There is precious little chance of my fading away while living in Petone, and I love that we have made a home here. Fortunately, there is an outdoor pool (McKenzie Pool, Udy Street, behind the Petone Rec Ground), and an indoor pool (Huia Pool, just up the motorway in Lower Hutt). You need just a little yin to offset all that delicious yang.