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SECOND HELPINGS: BLUE BREEZE INN

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Photographs: David Straight

When the Blue Breeze Inn opened a couple of years back, we had mixed feelings. We loved the fitout, that glorious rococo combination of shipwreck and Balinese resort. More than anything, we loved the service and the idea of the place: Auckland has a lot of very good Chinese food, but most of it is to be found in less than inspiring spaces and for a long time, we’d been banging on about how someone – someone! – should do a restaurant with good service and decent booze and a nice fitout. And then they did.

But on those first few visits – six to be precise– the food just didn’t always stack up, which was a bit frustrating. We won’t relitigate that, but we’re very happy to say that they’ve resolved most of those issues. In short, Blue Breeze Inn is a delight: you can go for dumplings on a weekday or for a dimly lit dinner on Friday or lunch with the family on Sundays. The service is great and the music is good and there is a good wine list. The seats down the Brown Street side are lovely in the early evening as the sun goes down.

The bao are still amazing; recently we ate a fantastic dish of braised beef shin with mushrooms, slowly cooked, falling apart, served with a sticky-sweet-fragrant stock and topped with mint. We’ve also had the fish, cooked in shaoxing wine and ginger and chilli oil: it’s delicate, beautifully balanced. The dumplings are mostly excellent: they still haven’t mastered the xiao long bao but the prawn har gau are truly magnificent. On Sundays, they do roast duck: you really should go and eat this soon. Because Blue Breeze is turning into a classic, in the way that really good buzzy restaurants do when the shine wears off and they have to work a bit harder, and you suddenly realise that this joint is fucking great. SFG

HOURS Open 12pm until late, seven days.

ADDRESS 146 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, ph 360 0303.

IMPORTANT DETAILS If you get seated on one of the banquettes, you might like to fold the back cushion over and sit on it. They’ve sunk a bit in two years, which leaves you feeling like a midget.

 

 

 

 


TRAVEL: COPENHAGEN


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Bicycles outside Relae

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Assistens Cemetery

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Rugbrod and sourdough from Meyers Bageri

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Torvehallerne

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Geist

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Ol & Brod

Photographs: Laura Forest

Last year, chef Ed Verner and his partner, photographer Laura Forest, decamped to Copenhagen where Ed cooked in some of the city’s best restaurants and Laura took photographs, and when they weren’t doing that they relished the unique food scene that the city has developed in recent years. Naturally, we asked them to write up their favourite joints – the city has more to it than Noma. (About which – even chef/photographer combos writing for websites can’t get in, so we haven’t featured it.)

Geist
A fresh take on fine dining: loud music, candlelight and a dynamic art collection – ask for a seat at the bar overlooking the enigmatically dark kitchen. Chef Bo Bech’s menu has 30 dishes on it, including grilled avocado and almond, lobster tartare with hibiscus, air in air tiramisu. The petit four cloud of candy floss dusted in lemon and licorice was the perfect end to our playful meal.
restaurantgeist.dk

Kadeau
Bornholm in the Baltic Sea is the inspiration for Kadeau’s philosophy, wooden interior, ceramics and ingredients. Experience the ‘New Nordic’ phenomenon through flavours unlocked by fermenting, pickling and smoking. Enjoy foraged elderflower, beach rose, chanterelles, and wild herbs such as beach mustard, coriander grass and spruce, presented like small works of art. Try a juice pairing – handcrafted with complexity and character to stand up to their adventurous wine list.
kadeau.dk

Relae
There are no white tablecloths here, just thoughtful provocation from Christian Puglisi’s daily tasting menus (omnivore or herbivore). The service and ambience are stripped right back to the small things which really matter, and places the food first. Booking is essential.
restaurant-relae.dk

Manfreds & Vin
If you can’t get into Relae, try Manfreds & Vin across the street for a relaxed, rustic and experimental meal designed for sharing – their sourdough bread and tartare are legendary. Both restaurants are dedicated to organic produce and local connections.
manfreds.dk

Torvehallerne Market
Biodynamic and local green grocers, flowers, herbs, cheeses, charcuterie, wines, pasta, butchers and seafood – but we can’t leave without cured meat from Omegn and smoked cheese curd from Ulrika. Best enjoyed as a makeshift picnic with fresh sourdough bread on a bench in the Botanical Gardens a block away.
torvehallernekbh.dk

Meyers Bageri
Line up for kanelsnurrer pastries (a croissant swirl, spun through with cinnamon and marzipan), sourdough and – get this – rugbrod sjokolade, a rye loaf that fits in your hand and bursts with melted dark chocolate, nuts and seeds. Multiple locations but the original, modest bakery at Jaegersborggade is our favourite. For a cosy afternoon, choose several oven-warm treats, pick up a cortado from Coffee Collective across the road and stroll over to a bench at Assistens Cemetry, used as a park by locals, where some of the most famous Danes are laid to rest in beautiful gardens.
clausmeyer.dk

Grød
Devoted to porridge and grains in all its forms: try rye bread porridge cooked in beer and beet juice, topped with hazelnuts, fruit compote and coriander syrup. Located at Torvehallerne and Jaegersborggade.
facebook.com/groed

Ruby
An institution for stellar cocktails and Copenhagen style. Try the Nordic take on a lassi with Icelandic skyr yogurt and rose hips. Or a bramble, zingy with wild blackberries and delicate spice.
rby.dk

Ol & Brod
The best smorrebrod (traditional open-faced rye sandwich) in Copenhagen, paired with some of the best beer in the world by Mikkeller – the beef tartare and tarragon paired with wild yeast beer is epic. The restaurant is beautiful, too.
ologbrod.dk

 

VIET SANDWICH


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Photographs: David Straight

You might remember Viet Sandwich from the Glenfield Night Markets: not long ago, it parked up in a cute little yellow cart outside AUT. And we are very glad it did, since Viet Sandwich is dedicated to one, very simple but very beautiful thing – banh mi, the Vietnamese sandwich, served from small mobile carts all over Vietnam with a pile of baguettes behind a glass screen and a few selections of meat and pickles and herbs.

These banh mi (they’re all $8) are damn close to perfect – the baguettes are light and fluffy, with just enough crunch on the outside to graze the edges of your mouth, but they’re not too chewy either: the whole idea is that they soak up the juices in the meat, and pull apart easily.

There are meatballs and beef stew on the menu, but to be honest we’ve never got past the classics – the pork and chicken are fantastic, falling apart pork with plenty of juices, served with pate and mayo, pickles, cucumber and two types of chilli. The lemongrass chicken is moist and delicately flavoured. But we are singularly obsessed with the grilled pork: falling apart with plenty of juices, there is chilli and savoury and crunch. It is our favourite sandwich right now. SFG

HOURS Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm.

ADDRESS Outside AUT Art & Design Building, St Paul St, City.

IMPORTANT DETAILS No phone.

 

 

MEKONG VIETNAMESE

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Photograph: David Straight

At the moment, it’s a little too easy to get sucked into the lure of the new: something opens every week it seems, and some of these places are very good indeed. Which makes it way too easy to forget about the things we have – like Mekong Vietnamese.

Mekong has been around since 1979: it started as a restaurant, but it’s  been in its corner of the Ponsonby International Food Court for as long as anyone can remember, and it has the clippings from various magazines dating back decades to prove it. They do excellent fresh spring rolls ($8) and the pho ($12.50) is pretty good, and so is the Bun Bo ($17.50) – noodle salad with lemongrass beef.

But there are two dishes that set this place apart, and they’re dishes you don’t often see. To be precise: they’re curry stews. The coco lamb ($20) is a stew of pumpkin and lamb in coconut cream with lemongrass. The cari bo ($16.50), meanwhile, is singularly genius, in the style of northern Vietnam: beef chunks, slow cooked with lemongrass, curry spices, potato and coconut. It is sublime in its simplicity, fragrant and delicate. Don’t ever forget about this one.

HOURS Tuesday to Sunday, 11.45am to 8.45pm.

ADDRESS Shop 2, Ponsonby International Food Court, 106 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby.

IMPORTANT DETAILS Cari bo!

PAASHA

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Photographs: David Straight

Every now and then a reader emails me and suggests I go have a look at a restaurant and when I do,  I wonder how I haven’t heard of it before. Paasha is one of those restaurants: it’s just down from the legendary Mr Zhou’s in the New Lynn shops. It looks like every other Turkish kebab shop in Auckland.

Only here, they have two things that make the heart sing: they cook their meat over charcoal and they offer tahini sauce as well as the usual yoghurt-mint-garlic selection and it is in this way that it is something of a delight to find. The lamb shish kebab ($13/$16) is succulent and tender and beautifully smoky, and the chicken ($13/$16) is juicy. Then you combine it either in a kebab or on a plate and you wonder why something so simple has to be so routinely awful: this is how they all should be. SFG

HOURS Open Monday to Saturday, 11am until late.

ADDRESS 3120 Great North Road, New Lynn, ph 825-9625. paashaturkishkitchen.co.nz

IMPORTANT DETAILS The owners of Paasha are planning a new restaurant in Glenfield. We’ll keep you posted.