The return of Robots and Dinosaurs

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As local Mt Edenites, CLB reviewers Matt and Alex took on the dual-review of this establishment.

Matt

RAD, the newest café in Mt Eden village, is by all accounts living up to its name. Table numbers are constructed with lego, tap water comes in the form of rosewater green tea and the hipster/cool wait staff circuit the narrow café in faux denim aprons. And while the menu speaks evolution more than revolution, it’s good to see something a little bit different.

RAD

I went with the Vietnamese pork roll which was a fun Mt Eden interpretation of this Asian street food fave. The crisp pickled cucumber and newborn bun was well balanced by soft fragrant pork and creamy pâté. And though it tasted great from end to end, the toasted bun does start to scrape the roof of your mouth. If you’re not willing to eat it upside down, it’s a good idea to order one of their jar-served smoothies, or in my case, a hot chocolate, to ease the rawness.

The hot chocolate was smooth and brimming with foam, but probably not sweet enough – especially for a sweet tooth like me. And at $4.50, RAD’s hot choc fails the marshmallow test with a single cheap rubbery offering. A small quibble, but it really does betray the funky flavour of this soon-to-be staple of the Mt Eden brunch scene.

Alex

I overheard a fellow bruncher mention to his friend that RAD  stands for Robots and Dinosaurs. I’m not sure how true this is but I would agree that RAD is a perfect paradox of old meets new culinary goodness. While the name, the aprons and the upbeat hipster staff verge on being a bit wanker-ish, the overarching greatness of this joint saves the day.

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Having failed to worship my body in the slightest over the weekend, I decided to go green and order the kale, spinach and orange smoothie. Matt looked disgusted at my choice while my taste buds and inner being revelled in my choice.

My meal wasn’t quite so virtuous but was worth every creamy hollandaise calorie. Taking the classic Eggs Bene, RAD serves two beautifully poached eggs on top of a melt-in-the-mouth potato mash, served with free-range bacon and of course the ever wonderful hollandaise sauce. The mash is a small twist but really quite transformative.

I will be returning to spend some time with the Robots and Dinosaurs.

  • Overall rating: 9/10
  • Location: 8
  • Value: 6
  • Service: 10
  • Quality: 9
  • Environment: 9
  • X-Factor: 10

RAD, 997 Mount Eden Rd, Mt Eden

09 6315128

Posted in Auckland, Gluten Free, Highly recommended | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Mezze Bar

Tucked away on the High St. accessible side of Durham Lane, Mezze Bar is a sanctuary of quiet relief from the ever-bustling Auckland inner city centre pace.

Mezze Bar was created 20 years ago by three globetrotting Kiwis, Sal, Ed and Clare. Originally named the Merchant Mezze Bar, the establishment is named after the stall holders peddling their wares at markets, roadside bazaars and souks.

Although perhaps best known for its tapas and shared plates, it was brunch that I was after on the two occasions that I’ve visited Mezze in the past month.

With an array of the usual brunch fare available it was the Huevos Flamencos that I chose on my first visit. This dish is quite literally a melting pot of potato, spinach, chorizo sausage fried with an egg served in a pan with crusty ciabatta bread.

I cannot recommend highly enough the Huevos Flamencos. This traditional Spanish dish with a baked egg component can come in many forms, but this is one of the best I have tried. The meal was chaotically yet appealingly enclosed in a beautiful cast iron skillet with a  ‘very hot’ warning from the waitress. Spinach is a new favourite brunch addition for me (and gosh is it healthy), sitting at the base of pan the spinach soaked up the flavour of the chorizo and provided that little bit of moisture that many brunches fail to deliver, without cascading the meal in hollandaise. The chorizo provided a delightful kick and the potato was pleasingly crispy.

Mezze Bar

I could go on and on singing my praises for this dish. Please try it.

I only wish my most recent Mezze experience lived up to the former. In need of nourishment in preparation for Lanway 2013, I headed to what I thought would be a ‘sure thing’ on the satisfaction scale. Alas, I was bitterly disappointed.

I ordered a staple Eggs Benedict but switched out the english muffin for wholegrain toast, requested eggs fully cooked through (no runny yoke) and asked for the removal of the tomato. I fail to understand the appeal of the mushy, wilted cooked tomato as part of a breakfast – yuck.

When the food arrived approximately 15 minutes later, I immediately saw a rosy tomato on the plate. No biggie – the said tomato was pushed to the side. As I cut into the egg, silky, liquid yolk burst under the pressure of my knife and fork. Oh dear. Call me a drama queen, call me crazy but I can’t stomach liquid yolk. My very kind and wise fellow bruncher had ordered the beloved Huevos Flamencos, so we played switch-a-roo with the eggs. To add insult to injury my bread came with no butter. Humph.

So here I am with one glowing review and one rotten egg review. Does Mezze have a saving grace for this inconsistent performance? Yes – damn good coffee.

Along with the great coffee (and don’t forget the amazing Huevos Flamencos) the environment and interior of Mezze channels the vibe of a European restaurant on a hot  summer day. This would also be a great place to host a small group of clients for after work drinks and tapas.

  • Overall rating: 7.5/10
  • Location: 10
  • Value: 6
  • Service: 5
  • Quality: 6
  • Environment: 10
  • X-Factor: 8

Mezze Bar, 9 Durham St. East, Auckland City

Posted in Auckland, Gluten Free, Over $20, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Olaf’s. Oh no.

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Credit: Olafs.co.nz

Olaf’s Artisan Bakery Café is one of the newer additions to the Mt Eden café scene. Blessed with a prime location that acts as suntrap, Olaf’s potentially holds claim to the sunniest café on the block.

On a glorious New Zealand winter day of recent my boyfriend and myself found ourselves hungry and in need of a coffee after a long afternoon walk. As a Mt Eden local I must disclose that I am a devout Frasers fan but on this particular day the appeal of Olaf’s sun-drenched outdoor tables won us over.

We had been to Olaf’s on a former occasion and were served salt-saturated salmon with a side of questionable service. The un-palatable experience had put us off returning but with the spirit of second chances in tow we thought let’s give Olaf’s another shot.

Olaf’s boasts an award winning bakery with a range of European artisan breads from French Pain au Levain to German Vollkorn. Counter cabinets are stacked with sandwiches featuring the freshly baked bread, along with quiches and sweet baked goods. A delicious aroma of fresh croissants and bread permeates the café. Carbohydrate junkies beware…

We managed to grab a table outside scattered with dirty dishes and fetched some menus inside. The table remained un-cleared for some time while we mulled over what to order. After some time we left the un-cleared table and decided to go inside and order from the counter.

Just after ordering, a pleasant member of staff came over and apologised for the mess on the table and brought over some water. Things were looking up.

When our omelette with prosciutto, goat cheese and a seasonal salad arrived, perhaps our growing hunger had skewed our expectations to dangerous levels, but I’m sad to report the omelette was at best average to bland.

Oh well – at least the English breakfast tea will be OK. But wait! I pour only hot water from my lovely little white teapot. Upon further investigation I discover the all-important tea bag is MIA. Oh dear.

More apologies. Short staffed. Busy day…

Olaf’s. Oh no.

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The Corporate Lunchbox shares its top gastronomic secrets

I was recently interviewed by Hotel Club on New Zealand’s Gastronomic Secrets and the where and what to eat.

Spending the majority of my time eating, drinking and dining in Auckland, I’m not entirely sure I could credibly give an opinion of the best eats across the length and breadth of NZ. Below is the Q+A that appeared on the blog along with the opinions of  21 other NZ food bloggers.

I am as always interested in hearing about hidden gems in both Auckland and beyond – if you know of the best fish and chips, the juiciest steak, or the most decadent dessert in town – hit me up.

1  In your opinion what is New Zealand’s best kept secret restaurant?
Haro No yu Me – a fabulous little Japanese restaurant in Auckland.

2  What do you see as New Zealand’s most exciting food trend of 2013?
One stop shop gourmet food courts like Ponsonby Central and Elliot Stables.

3  What’s the best foodie destination in New Zealand?
Wellington.

4  What would you say is the best hotel restaurant (worldwide) you have visited?
It would have to be Villa Gallici Hotel in Aix-en-Provence, France – I actually travelled there as a child but the memory of chocolate mousse with poached pear (for breakfast) in the hotel restaurant was unforgettable.

5  What’s your number 1 secret to dining for less $ in NZ?
Cheap eats in NZ are in abundance – veer off the beaten track and try many of the great Asian joints on Dominion Road in Auckland, hit up some of the great food courts like Ponsonby Road Food Court, or get some good old fashioned fish and chips from a local takeaway establishment.

6  What’s the hottest cuisine of 2013 in New Zealand?
South American/Mexican.

7  What foodie advice can you share for first time visitors to NZ? Is there any particular ‘must try’ NZ dish or produce?
Fish, fish, fish. Fresh fish is so good in NZ. Try whitebait fritters, and of course fish and chips.

8  Where can one find the best coffee in New Zealand?
Anywhere in Wellington. Shaky Isles and Salta in Auckland are great.

9  What’s your favourite NZ Food blog right now?
Auckland food blog.

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Dumplings of desire?

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Dumplings. The very word evokes deliciousness in its simplest and utmost tasty form. Upon hearing of Mandarin Dumpling & Bar it became pressing business that these dumplings must be sampled.

I unashamedly and happily could eat dumplings seven days a week – even Barilla Dumplings D level Hygiene grade didn’t keep me away from enjoying their tasty parcels of joy. But Mandarin has elevated this much-loved street food to the fine dining table of a restaurant in the heart of Auckland central. I was very interested to see what these ‘upmarket’ dumplings had to offer.

I visited Mandarin Dumpling & Bar on a Friday afternoon a month after it first opened. Plenty of tables were available and we were quickly seated by a member of staff. The underground space was long, narrow and maybe a tad too dim for my liking. The décor was a combination of Asian fused with modern fine dining – overall a pleasant environment but perhaps the not the best place to take clients for a business lunch given the close proximity of tables and booths. Let’s just say we had the pleasure of enjoying word for word the scintillating conversation of a table next door to us.

A colourful and somewhat over familiar member of staff took my table through the menu. My dining partner and myself decided on pork & shiitake mushroom dumplings; prawn, crab and squid ink dumplings; salad of prawn with salted peanut, celery & Szechuan pepper oil; and shredded chicken breast with baby cos lettuce, lemongrass, white sesame & Laoganma chilli sauce all washed down with two ice cold Asahi’s.

Unfortunately the pork bun with cucumber & spring onion was off the menu that day much to my disappointment.

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The plates arrived, as they were ready, accommodating a dining philosophy of sharing. First to arrive was the shredded chicken along with the salad of prawn. One hit one miss on this front. The cold shredded chicken salad wasn’t what we had expected but was spicy, refreshing and utterly moreish. The plate was a generous serving, perfect to two people to share or for one greedy person to give their full attention to. The prawn salad on the other hand was in one word: bland.

The dumplings arrived. With only four on each plate I hoped these dumplings were set to impress.

The inky black seafood dumplings were nothing short of fantastic. A pleasantly elastic dumpling exterior substantiated the delicate trio of seafood filling.  Good stuff. The pork and shiitake, I could take or leave. There was nothing wrong with them but there nothing great about them. In short, I’ve had same quality pork and mushroom dumplings on Dominion Road where 20 of em’ go for an easy $12.

Will I come back to Mandarin Dumpling & Bar? Probably. Will I come back for the dumplings? Based on the price and comparison with the many street food dumpling options, the answer is probably not.

Overall rating: 6.5/10
Location: 8
Value: 6
Service: 6
Quality: 7
Environment: 6
X-Factor: 6

Mandarin Dumpling & Bar, The Basement 5 Fort Lane, Auckland
Phone: +64 9 300 7551 (no reservations)

Posted in Auckland, Over $20, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Mmmmm Milse

MattThe Corporate Lunchbox is thrilled to announce its latest contributor, Mr Matthew NWS. Check out his first review of the much talked about Milse in Britomart. Matt has a consummate sweet-tooth but was Milse sweet enough for him?

Milse.

Since opening, I had been dying to try gourmet dessert house Milse (rhymes with Still Dre). Wary of its already infamous queues, we rode there straight after work for a prompt 6pm start. Every sweet tooth in my mouth was tingling as I passed under the fairy light canopies of the fancy new Britomart Pavilions.

The urban patisserie is nestled beside sister restaurant Ortolana – you could be forgiven for thinking it was just another hole-in-the-wall coffee stop but this would be far from the truth.

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We were ushered through a narrow corridor, passing by a display of rainbow of macaroons and other audacious treats from Gelato Pops to mini Bombe Alaskas. The corridor opened up into an intimate wooden igloo, mapped with triangular tessellations. The four small tables were all occupied, leaving us at the bar. Seating is cramped and scarce, “but that’s how I like it” defends the chef in front of us as he spins sorbet-filled passion fruit balls in a bubbling pot of liquid nitrogen.

Milse 2

The kitchen is open and teeming with staff who easily outnumber patrons. Resisting the cabinet delights, we browse the a la carte menu which identifies dishes only by flavour groupings. It is a mysterious ploy, endearing us to take a leap of faith; especially when each item is an indulgent $16-$21. I choose ‘Mandarin’ after ‘Passionfruit’ and ‘Vanilla’ are whipped off the list by my friends.

The desserts are formed articulately and look precious on their matte black platters. Even the complimentary water is sparkling. Bold, decadent and exclusive is the chosen ethos of  Milse.

Unfortunately, in the case of my ‘Mandarin’, boldness is where it let itself down. The membrane of the cheesecake bubble was overly gelatinous and reminded me of an economy class dessert. The crystallised pecans, candied kumquats and end-of-day sponge wrought an overly ambitious array of textures and flavours that clashed more than they harmonised. The popcorn wafers, while fun, were more partitions than participants in the dish.  Individually, the buttermilk and mandarin sorbet sung, but as a whole, the dish felt fussy and discordant.

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However, to my left, my fellow dessert aficionados were raving. ‘Passionfruit’ featured the frozen balls we saw earlier, revealing a trove of pistachio sorbet when cracked open,  encircled by cubes of green tea sponge touched in lemon balm. ‘Vanilla’ had a nice blend of textures as the soft moist brûlée balanced the dry, coarse shortbread pebbles. While the others were left wanting more of theirs, I couldn’t help wanting more from mine.

Milse 4

By the time 7pm rolled around, the queue was swelling, and we felt obliged to leave. An hour long wait here is considered usual and with demand like that, who can blame them for not accepting reservations. Would I wait in line for an hour for this place? Not a chance. Would I come back? Sure. But next time, I better sink my teeth into something worthy of the hype.

Overall rating: 7/10
• Location: 8
• Value: 5
• Service: 6
• Quality: 7
• Environment: 6
• X-Factor: 9

Milse, 27 Tyler St, Britomart, Auckland
Phone: 09-368 9487 (no reservations)

Posted in After hours, Auckland, Under $20 | 3 Comments

A Ducking Great Burger: The Villager

The Villager 2The Villager located in the heart of Remuera has been positioned as a gastropub. Gastropub is a term I feel is used somewhat liberally when describing food served in pub establishments. The lines between pub grub and gastropub fare can be blurry and sometimes a bit greasy.

Walking into The Villager a normal to up-market pub set-up greets you. In fact look and feel of the Villager is akin to many of the Monteith’s bars – a muddle of a traditional pub with a twist of modern quirky and eclectic. Beyond the bar area and high bar tables and stools is a dining area for punters looking for a proper sit-down affair.

I found myself in The Villager following an invitation to try a “A Ducking Great Burger”. Admittedly, the thought of a duck burger wasn’t instantly appealing but as a semi-finalist in the Monteith’s Wild Food Challenge, the tasting of this burger deserved to take flight.

The Ducking Great Burger comprises of a confit duck patty, peanut slaw, a crispy duck egg, purple potato rosti all held between a sour dough bun and served with poutine (hand-cut chips with homemade cheese and duck gravy) on the side. The Monteith’s Brewers Series IPA is the suggested accompanying brew to wash it all down.

Villager

When the burger, poutine and IPA arrived on a customised wooden board, it looked incredible – rustic yet fancy.

The poutine was the first thing to reach my mouth – it was good. Potato, gravy and cheese is a comfort food of highest order in my books.

A rather scary serrated knife was plunged into the middle of the duck burger. While cutting it in half the contents of the burger slopped and slided out the sides but due to the sheer size of the burger it needs to be eaten with a knife and fork rather than picked up in your hands. The confit of duck was straight up delicious. The peanut slaw with red cabbage was a hit and the sour dough bun surprisingly soft and un-chewy.

The Villager

The IPA was very hoppy and certainly cut through the richness of the meal but I don’t think I’d drink the beer otherwise.

A sneak-peak at the regular Villager menu showed an extensive offering of brunch, lunch, pub grub, dinner mains, pizzas and desserts. The Villager is a gastropub well worth giving a go.

Overall rating: 7/10
• Location: 6
• Value: 6
• Service: 9
• Quality: 9
• Environment: 6
• X-Factor: 6

606 Remuera Road, Remuera
Phone: 09 523 3505

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