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DISTRICT 5

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Photographs: David Straight

District 5 is two small sheds around a deck on Shortland Street, in the lee of corporate office towers and we presume they’re referring to District 5 in Ho Chi Minh City rather than Panem in the Hunger Games. It’s very bright and it’s painted colours you find all over Vietnam – a soft, washed-out yellow and a bleached sort of teal. It opened a month or so back and was quickly adopted by local office workers.

They serve classic Vietanamese streetfood here: the menu is short and changes often but there is usually a pho ($12) and a banh mi ($12) and some fresh spring rolls ($10) and a noodle salad ($13). The pho is great – beefy and rich and tangy. The banh mi is a thing of beauty – we recommend the spicy pork, a crunchy-airy Vietnamese baguette, pate, with plenty of chilli and pickled vegetables.

It is fresh, simple street food with zest, and this is made all that much better by the fact that they serve Vietnamese coffee: thick and strong and a bit tarry, with a slug of sweetened condensed milk. Amen. SFG

HOURS 7am to 3pm, Monday to Friday

ADDRESS 28 Shortland Street, City.

IMPORTANT DETAILS The pork and chicken is “free-farmed”. Not quite free range, but great to see a cheap eat doing this.

EHN X MN MARKET BAG

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Photographs: David Straight

Introducing EHN’s special new project – the Market Bag, a collaboration with Matt Nash Uniform. Matt is a friend and he makes great bags, and recently branched out into making uniforms for some of Auckland’s best new cafes and restaurants. We decided what we really needed was the perfect market bag.

And here it is. It’s made from 15-oz canvas, with leather trim that will develop a beautiful patina over time. The handles are made from heavyweight webbed cotton, securely sewn for heavy loads. There’s a handy pouch for your wallet and phone in the front – if you’re anything like us, these always disappear to an unreachable back pocket, or down the very bottom under the lemons. Similarly, there’s a canvas loop for your keys. There’s also the all-important pouch for a wine bottle, so the bag transitions to picnic bag with ease. And – get this – it’s lined with nylon with to contain hummus spills and muddy potatoes.

Available in three colours – a lovely vivid mid blue, light grey and black – it is a most elegant thing and it will last you a very long time. Just quietly, we can see this making an excellent overnight or day bag after it’s done duty at the farmers’ market.

It’s $125 and if you order by December 15, we can guarantee delivery by Christmas.

To be specific:

36 h x  36 w x 18d

15oz canvas main body

Water-based screen-print detail

Heavy weight cotton webbing handles

Front and side pocket

Russett leather trim will develop a patina over time

Nylon lined with canvas loop for keys


COLOUR




SHIPPING



CASSIA

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Photographs: David Straight

Cassia opened a few months back in the space that Mandarin – a beautiful restaurant that should have been a hit but somehow wasn’t – vacated last year in ignominious circumstances. Then Sid Sahrawat (who owns Sidart in Ponsonby) and wife Chand took over the space and announced their intention to do a “modern Indian restaurant”. And we got excited.

The room is beautiful – all brick and concrete and festooned with pendant lights, you step down off the street into a warm, bright, brick bunker. The service is brilliant – pacey, knowledgeable – and the cocktails are better and I have always loved the fact that you feel a world away from Auckland, and yet so distinctly in it. Though on our first visit, something was off: too many things in sauce, not enough modern, though we loved the fennel brioche ($8).

The thing about the Sahrawats, though, is that they never rest and so we left it for a while to let the place settle in. In short: it’s perfect. The menu is split into to start and to follow – the starters are dry and the follows are sauced – and there is a dish of “beans foogath” ($10) with shaved coconut that is one of the simplest, most elegant things we’ve eaten this year. We ate pani puri ($2), or a version of it: delicate little containers made of chickpea flour, filled with cool tamarind water. Not just clever – they taste brilliant.

We also ate the roasted cauliflower and potato with burrata and spinach ($17), and marvelled. We loved a fabulous tandoori chicken leg with Kadhai spices ($32). The Bengali-style fish, meanwhile, is a triumph: marinated, then cooked with mustard seeds and coconut cream and curry leaves, all sticky and rich yet somehow balanced – and served with crispy kale. Which says everything, really. SFG

HOURS Lunch Wednesday to Friday, 3pm to 5pm; Dinner Tuesday to Saturday from 5.30pm.

ADDRESS 5 Fort Lane, City, ph 379-9702. cassiarestaurant.co.nz

IMPORTANT DETAILS They’ve just started taking bookings.

MY FRIDGE: MORVEN MCAULEY

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Photographs: David Straight

Morven Mcauley is the irrepressible sales and marketing manager for Antipodes Water: she used to work for Negociants NZ. She knows about food and booze and she is funny and enthusiastic and she once shouted us the most enormous platter of sashimi at Cocoro, for which we are eternally grateful. She also sells some very, very nice water.

Antipodes water “It goes without saying.”

Almonds. “They’re my saving grace when I get home and it’s late and I’m hungry. The almonds are what I eat while I try to work out what to cook.” Morven keeps them in the fridge to preserve all their natural oils.

She has a weakness for proper Greek haloumi. “Whenever there is haloumi on the menu I don’t see the rest of the menu. A couple of pieces of haloumi and some tomatoes and a dinner you have.”

It’s either Ceres or Pics peanut butter – it used to be Eta (crunchy, naturally). “Then I read some fairly hairy ingredients – I’m just trying to reduce preservatives. The more natural ingredients the better.”

Gonzalez Byass Sherry Vinegar. “It’s absolutely divine.” There’s also usually a bottle of Tio Pepe sherry “for consumption and cooking.” Morven recommends frying prawns with butter and garlic, and then adding sherry and – what else – haloumi.

The day we visited, there was a bottle of Huia Pinot Gris in the fridge. “They’re organic and they don’t do too much mucking around,” she says of Huia. “Their whole range is in a dry, old-world style. If you want wine with food, then it’s perfect.”

Morven eats quinoa three or four times a week instead of rice or pasta. “Pasta is for dining out when I can get it made by someone who really knows what they’re doing.”

 

 

sabato

FRIDAY NIGHT OYSTERS

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Photographs: David Straight

We had such a good night on Friday night. EHN readers managed to scoff their way through a full 40 dozen oysters – impressive stuff, and some of you even shucked your own, without injury as far as we can tell.

 Thank you to our friends Mahurangi Oysters, Catalina Sounds for the wine, Sabato for the exquisite vinegars – and Michael Lett, of course, for having us. See you at the next event!