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NANAM

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Photographs: David Straight

Nanam is a small suburban Filipino restaurant just off that really big roundabout in Royal Oak, only it’s not really what you expect. Inside, it’s a riot of industrial lights and half-stripped brick walls and mad splattery paint. Any night of the week, and Sunday lunch too, it’s fabulously busy with mix of Filipino families and locals; the service is low-key, super-friendly and very, very helpful. There is a short list of beer and wine – cleverly chosen – and a short bistro-style menu which they’re happy to explain to you in some detail. A huge dinner for two costs about $75. In other words: this is what suburban Auckland eating should be like.

The food’s great. It’s Filipino, but as their website warns you, this could mean anything thanks to the regionality and different colonial influences, and they’ve also twisted and tweaked some classics. This is a good thing. It’s loosely Asian, but there are Spanish-ish touches: the TacoPao ($12), for instance, which are sticky pork buns – the bun is bright red – served with pickles and peanuts and pork chicaroon, which is basically crackling. There are lamb “croquettas” ($12), crispy on the outside and falling apart inside with a zesty mint and craime-fraiche dip. We loved the relyenong squid ($18), grilled squid stuffed with vigan longanisa which is a spiced pork mixture with loads of onion and garlic: it comes with roasted tomatoes and onions. We also liked the pinaputok na isda ($20), fish cooked in banana leaf with curry lentils and beans. It was weird, but in a good way.

Desserts are fabulous: be sure to have the halo halo ($11), which means “mix mix” – a sickeningly sweet trifle-like confection of purple yam pudding, caramel and about a thousand other sweet things. But you really need to go for the roast chicken sinigang ($22): beautifully tender, the skin rubbed with tamarind; the chook comes with a grilled eggplant salsa and watercress puree. It is delicate and yet still zesty. Exactly the kind of thing you want from a local. SFG

HOURS Dinner, Tuesday to Saturday from 4.30pm. Lunch, Sunday from 11.30.

ADDRESS 126 Symonds Street, Royal Oak, ph 625-6558. nanamrepublic.co.nz

IMPORTANT DETAILS No bookings, but there’s a bar and they’re usually bang on with wait times.

 

MATTERHORN


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Photographs: David Straight 

You might be familiar with the Matterhorn in Wellington: a restaurant that took a strange little coffee lounge and turned it into a legend. It feels like a bar where anything could happen and that might be kind of dangerous. Auckland’s version opened a couple of months back in a big beautiful bricky warehouse that used to be Libertine in Victoria Park.

The food is really good. (Just don’t bother if you’re vegetarian – there’s a lot of meat.) We loved a recent starter of salted cod with a bantam egg and Spanish ham ($20) – the egg bled all over the cod and the ham. The duck Wellington ($22) is a dish of singular genius – perfectly flaky pastry with perfectly medium rare duck: a classic, beautifully tweaked. The plate of pig ($34) is a fabulous combination of flavours and textures – salty blood pudding, unctuous roasted pork belly, crackling and a beautiful pork and fennel sausage, served with sour cabbage and quince. It could be a mess: it isn’t. The lamb rump with curried sweetbreads and cauliflower ($34) was a rare misstep: beautifully cooked, but somehow not tied together, and we’ve also eaten the snapper with a scampi roll, charred lettuce hears and umami broth, which was beautifully cooked, though we couldn’t find the broth. Dessert: recently we had a plate of figs with white chocolate, candied brioche, licorice and tobacco ice cream – complex and almost slightly savoury.

They call it “fine dining with your shoes off” and the service is good – they’re happy to talk you through the menu at great length, which we like, and the wine matches are excellent – but you don’t feel like you’ve walked into the middle of something exciting. It’s tucked away in Victoria Park, for a start – rather than raucous Cuba Street, but there’s also a limited beer list exclusively featuring Lion brands, and while the fitout is nice, it verges on the pan-industrial, which we’ve seen a lot of lately. In short, it’s a restaurant that hasn’t yet found its zing. Which is a shame, because we do like the plate of pig. SFG

HOURS Monday to Saturday, 3pm until late; Sunday 1pm until late.

ADDRESS 37 Drake Street, Victoria Park. matterhorn.co.nz

IMPORTANT DETAILS There’s a very large, quite lovely private room. Go on.

HAPPY JAPANESE

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New Lynn continues to excite: across the road from the highly excellent Paasha and Mr Zhou’s Dumplings is Happy Japanese. Its name is brilliant, of course, but it does follow through: this is indeed happy, a great local joint serving Japanese classic comfort food.

It’s simple inside, with a slightly ritzy 1970s feel – gold wallpaper, lots of dark red paint. It’s shadowy and calm and there are Japanese prints on the walls. We highly recommend the curry chicken special – Japanese curry with rice and a pork cutlet, the curry silky and lightly flavoured. Which made us very happy indeed. SFG

HOURS Lunch 11.30 to 2.30; dinner 5.30pm to 9.30pm. Closed Tuesday.

ADDRESS 3113 Great North Road, New Lynn, ph 827 8283. happyrestaurant.co.nz

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