Sunday, March 30, 2014

Geraldine Johns reviews RAD

WHAT ARE ALL these people doing here? Do they not have a job to go to? Or classes to attend? Or friends to visit?
   At 10.45 on a Friday morning – a reasonable hour, you would think, to be able to grab a perch between the thrust of breakfast and the throng of lunch, RAD is positively chocka. By the looks of the lucky lot who have secured a seat they are conducting the activities outlined above on these very premises.
   It will soon be easy to understand why. RAD is the kind of place which attracts them all: the suits, the students, the parents with prams, the ladies who clearly don’t want to wait any longer for lunch. We feel lucky to find ourselves a place at which to park among them.
   RAD has been many restaurant guises before. It is difficult to think of one that wears it as well as this. That has something to do with the snappy fit-out. But moreso, it’s something to do with the pedigree it brings. It’s a family affair, with many years of restaurant experience behind them. The handsome brothers Duke and Hugh Tran do a splendid job out front; Mum Trinny is in the kitchen. 
   Why, we ask them, the name. “Because we wanted to make something of a radical shift,” explains Duke. And indeed they have. Consider the menu. It’s got a zest-filled Vietnamese touch, but not to the exclusion of more regular café offerings. Which is why you’ll be dithering over their version of eggs benedict (eggs benny), which is competing with the Vietnamese sandwich. 
   And then there’s the touches like the Lego table identifiers, which, surprisingly, fit without seeming twee.
   So what do we get at table 16? A red and white quinoa salad of gorgeous proportions and flavour for my sponsor; Grandma’s pork bánh mì for me. Oh, we are so very pleased with all that is before us. We like the little touches, like the rosewater-flavoured water too.
   There is room for a thunderously good ginger crunch. A perfect partner to the First Flight coffee.
   RAD has a vivacity and a grooviness to it that is not often enjoyed in a place so young. It manages to keep a very delicate balance by merging the traditional with the, er, more radical.
   It is, clearly, a place that does breakfast as beautifully as it does lunch  as well as the bit in between. And it has staff who make you feel like you are welcome. You can’t get much of a better mix.  

397 Mt Eden Road, Mt Eden, Auckland.
Phone (09) 631 5218
Open seven days

Monday, March 10, 2014

Geraldine Johns reviews Petit Bocal

THERE’S NOTHING LIKE a rapid response to put you in a kindly frame of mind. And that is what we will receive – and achieve – when we park ourselves at Petit Bocal.
   It is the not-indecent hour of 10am on a Monday. We claim ourselves a window seat and let the sun pat our backs while we absorb the view within. A woman finds herself remarking she likes the place already, and we haven’t even been fed yet.
   That’s as much to do with the fact we like what we see, as much as that our immediate needs are attended to with alacrity. The delivery of an assertive Supreme flat white does wonders, as does the tea for my sponsor. A generous nod to the perspicacious wait woman is warranted here.
   There’s a lot of black and white going on at Petit Bocal: the fit-out, the photographs, the wait staff kits. There are, not surprisingly, many French connections – but thankfully an absence of accordions, berets or striped shirts. The bocal (it means ‘jar’ in France) theme is reflected  in the use of inverted preserving jars as light shades, and mini terrariums on the tables. Fear not, it works. We like the lightness and simplicity.

   We like the look of the menu too. Tempted as we are by a fellow diner’s salmon gravlax scrambled eggs – with a croissant – we’ll eventually settle for crepes (lemon and sugar, $12.00) for me and Shashi’s eggs ($18.00) for him. Had we been more adventurous, we might have gone for the marinated sardines.
   His Master’s choice comes all exuberant in both flavour and size - baked in a dish with tomato, capsicum and Puy lentils; the crepes are as light and as gorgeous as had been dreamed of.
   Petit Bocal is unusual in a number of respects. It’s in a nondescript bit of Sandringham Road, squeezed in between a selection of tired old shops. That fact, it will transpire, offers a pleasant break from the usual boulevard of eateries that pepper more popular strips. And it has an air abundant of good cheer and welcome. 
   It’s also open seven days – and it does lunch and dinner too. That is enough to strike dread in the heart of any diner (how can they accommodate so much?) but if the breakfast treatment is anything to go by, they do so with a finesse.
   We like this address. Too many pretenders seem to think all it takes to succeed is a cute accent. Petit Bocal, however, thrives on its ample and legitimate merits.

177 Sandringham Road, 
Phone: (09) 815 6992
Hours: 7am – 10pm, seven days

Saturday, March 8, 2014

In Praise of Pasifika 2014

A celebration of the biggest Polynesian city in New Zealand.
Saturday 8 March 2014 at Western Springs.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Geraldine Johns passes verdict on Giles Luncheonette

CLEARLY, this is the launching pad for the Corporate-ati. It’s where the suited sorts fuel up before ascending Shortland Street for another important day. It’s where young women with heels as high as their calves manage to stand up straight.
   What a marvellous start for the lawyerly brigade. For that matter, what a marvellous opportunity – for anyone at any time – to relish in the delights that await at the base of the big city hill.
   Welcome to Giles. And welcome back Peter Chichester and Rekha Dayal: benchmark-setters of the food scene (Gala, Benediction, Metropole, Veranda Bar & Grill and Orleans). We have missed you. 
   Have they still got the right touch? They’ve certainly chosen a lovely spot: one at which we can gaze as much upon the goings-on outside as we can at the offerings within. 
   There is considerable relief to be had in the re-appearance of our old faves: the mother-in-law’s eggs ($14.50); the cute takes on the standard that elevate it beyond the norm without making it look stupid. Consider, for example, the side offering of a poached egg with an Ortiz anchovy ($4.50).

   A hungry woman is tempted by the latter but falls instead for the goats cheese and chive omelette ($16.50). Her sponsor opts for the aforementioned eggs. Had we not been so ambitious we could have happily scoffed any of the cabinet offerings: the freshest of breads stuffed with a zingy array of fillings. Or just supped on something from the coolest smoothie and juice selection.
   The main plates more than meet expectations. We are indeed a happy duo, as are the office escapees who surround us. There’s the likes of the guy next door who has just bought a book from Unity round the corner and is now devouring both it and his extraordinarily hearty lamb mince on toast ($16.50). A lovely combination.
   More buoyancy to this outing is added by the coffee: a wallopingly good example of Supreme. It’s so good we’ll have another. We pass on the sweetest temptation of chocolate fudge cake that beckons.
   Coming to Giles is like being back in the company of an old friend who greets you and treats you as such, but who has kept the relationship alive by adding a newness and freshness to their life, in the form of food. You, like its habitues, would do yourself justice by attending.

21 Shortland Street,
Auckland CBD
Phone: (09) 309 6056
Hours: 7 – 4 Mon to Fri; 8 – 3 Sat