Hallucinations, banoffie pie and the worlds tallest building.

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Image from Concrete Playground

As you picked up from the post of all my noms last week, I made a trip to Tom Hishon’s haunt, Orphans Kitchen. To be completely honest, I was disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, the food was tasty, the service was great, the place was buzzing, but the thing was, my expectations were high. Seriously high. Like Burj Khalifa high.

Having been on this sugar free detox for the last four and a half weeks (yes I made it four and a half weeks*), it has been tough for us (the boy and myself) to eat out. Or at least we thought it would be, and not wanting to be “those” people in a nice restaurant, we had largely avoided it. So this place was not only at the tipy top of our restaurants to try list, but it was also breaking our (read: the boy’s) long slog in the kitchen.

It’s a little hard to spot, and with a gammy front door that almost had us walking away, you can tell this is the hip place to be by how damn difficult it is to actually get inside.

Once perched at our table we went straight for it and just ordered a large pile of mains (to share).

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First to the table was their homemade flax-seed sourdough with burnt butter. I love that “burnt” has become cool. “Burnt” used to be bad. But this, my friends, was the furthest from bad anything has even been. It smelt like caramel and even had a distant tinge of sugary taste (or maybe my tongue was hallucinating). We demolished it. So fast, in fact, the waitress commented (saying something like “I am glad you enjoyed it so much”, where as you know what she wanted to do was jump up and down on the bleach wood bench pointing and yelling “fatty, fatty, fatty”).

We had requested all our dishes to come at once. And come they did. In hindsight we probably should have staggered them a little, just so we could actually fit our knives and forks on the table! What arrived was a brussel sprout salad with goats curd and baby beets, friend rye gnocchi with parmesan, sage, hazelnuts and a poached egg, kumera chips with sour cream and the ‘Boil Up’ of boiled boar, dough dumplings and sweet potato.

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It was a fantastic feast and, despite our best efforts to savor each mouthful, we (much like the bread) wolfed it down. My top pick was the gnocchi. I mean what crazy person doesn’t like gnocchi anyway? Now try it fried! Yeah I thought so. The thing that stood out in every dish was simplicity. These flavours weren’t big, and they weren’t meant to be. The delicate dots of curd through the brussel sprout salad was enough to have me diving in for more and the subtle sweetness of the kumera in the boil up gravy got the boy so hooked he literally drank from the bowl (you can’t take him anywhere).

Now, it doesn’t sound too much like I was disappointed does it? Maybe more what I mean is that I had a dream in my head, and it was that I was going to go out and be blown away. But Orphans Kitchen is a small, unrefined, rough at the edges eatery that serves up neat little flavours in a gorgeous (and surprisingly unpretentious) way. Those kind of places just don’t have you screaming from the hill tops. They have you wandering back to your car think hmmm that was pleasant. Which is what we did.

Also, I think in a small way, it is a testament to the boy. He is an incredible cook. And although he is too modest to admit it, I am served up dish after dish of amazing food right at home. Any restaurant we go to would have a seriously hard time beating some of the creations that he can whip up on a random weekday night in our tiny kitchen (with a mere two hobs).

So, no, Orphan’s Kitchen didn’t get me jumping with joy, but I would definitely go back nce my detox is over. Man, that banoffie pie sounded good. (Maybe this review would be different if I actually had hoped off my bar stool and stealthy swiped the dessert off the lady in front of me. But she looked like she would’ve won in a fistfight.)

*Although last night I made a cake for the boys mum, a spiced sponge cake with vanilla meringue icing and I did lick the icing spoon. Twice. But THAT WAS IT. The boy then stole the bowl from me and poured water in it. And I am glad he did because although my eyes said “I could punch you right now” my heart said “thank you for saving me”. That, my friends, is what a real knight in shining armour looks like.

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Drunk or not, Sunday Painters is a good idea.

If you haven’t been to Sunday Painters yet, you need to go. I know I say that about most of the places that I eat (probably because I am a big fatty and I love everything and anything I can chow down on). But Sunday Painters really is great.

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Images from EAT HERE NOW

It’s a modest little place with mismatched vintage glassware, pristine linen napkins and black boards on easels. It had a warm feel with, with a classic edge. I felt instantly at home when I stepped in.

The menu was piled high with gorgeous sounding French cuisine. The boy felt adventurous and went for lamb rump, beetroot gratin, creamed spinach and crumbed lamb’s brain. I test tasted this (my second favourite thing, after eating, is eating other peoples food) and the brains were actually quite good! They were perfectly crispy on the outside and almost gooey on the inside. Another favourite from this dish was the beetroot gratin – yum.

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Mother opted for the confit duck leg with parsnip pommes dauphine, brussel sprout puree and blackcurrant jus. Having had memories of brussel sprouts in her childhood over Christmas dinner, she was hesitant on the puree, but really liked it.

Dad and I tried the fish of the day, which was a baked snapper with a potato and celeriac croquette, pureed parsnip and blood orange salad. It was amazingly light and I loved the citrus kick from the salad. I always try ordering fish when I am out. It is something we don’t have that much of at home, and at great restaurants they always buy the most amazing produce.

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Although the dessert menu was very tantalizing, we were heading home to the boys sugar free, dairy free, grain free carrot cake. Next time however, I have my eye on the chocolate tart with hazelnut meringue and toast parfait!

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I think I may have been a little bias, because when I visited it was not only my birthday, but I helped polish of a rather lovely bottle of Chablis. Drunk on not, I would go back. And back. And back.

Ortolana. Go. Now.

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Ortolana is a restaurant nestled in Auckand CBD. It has been right at the very top of my “places that I really, really, really want to eat at” list for forever! And hey presto, I managed to answer my foodie dreams and popped in for an amazing lunch with the boy and my folks on Saturday.

If you haven’t seen it, you must visit (or at least google it), not only does it have an outstanding menu, it is simply beautiful. Think exposed brick, billowing plant pots, contemporary chandeliers and a kitchen on full view. The brilliant bistro prides itself on “food fresh from the garden” and regularly updates its menu with the season.

But you know what excited me most? I ordered Paleo. Let me repeat that… I went out and ordered an amazing, fresh, colourful and immensely satisfying dish that fit completely into my strange lady eating plan. I don’t know I have ever been so excited (that may or may not be a complete exaggeration).

So, what did you order Miss Paleo (I hear you cry)? I grabbed soft folded egg with house-smoked mackerel, capers and greens. It usually comes on toast, but I asked the waiter to skip that for me and he was more than happy to help.

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Soft folded egg with house smoked mackerel, capers and greens

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Hereford carpaccio with celeriac and truffle

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Dry cured pork with almonds, olives and ciabatta

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The special of fish of the day (John Dory) on a bed of couscous, swede puree and radishes

Everyone loved the food. It was a great setting, a great menu and I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed it.

Seriously, go. Like right now.

What are you still doing here?

Euro.

Usually the boy’s obsession with buying vouchers online is bad, he buys every food related thing he can find on Grabone or Groupon. We not only have a backlog of degustations to book, we also have hundreds of cheap meals at odd cafes you’ve never heard of and an abundance of two for one deals at fast food joints. It feels like an ever-owing debt to every food outlet in Auckland. But this one was good, really good (shhhh), it was for a ten course tasting menu at the chefs table (think teppanyaki – but ridiculously fancy) at Euro.

Here are my pictures and menu notes.

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Wagu with osceitra cavier A melt in the mouth beef that was lovely, but it wasn’t a wow dish. Maybe not the best start (always good to start with a bang).

Regal salmon tartare with saffron yoghurt & wasabi crunch Looked fairly unattractive but tasted sweet and had an interesting egg yolk style sauce (the saffron and yoghurt) that ran all over the tartare when “cracked”.

Crayfish salad with apple & capsicum Simple, fresh and gorgeous, I love the combo of apple and seafood.

Paua & crab with cucumber & mango This was my first experience of paua – and it was seriously yum. A completely amazing plate of food.

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Venison carpaccio with horseradish custard & crispy capers Those crispy capers were one of the best things I have ever eaten. Ever.

Kiwi rubbed mahi mahi with avocado slaw & brioche slider The brioche really added a nice sweetness to this slider, and it was very tasty, but not the best I’ve had.

Canned peas with lamb rump & mint sauce Best dish of the night – a quirky take on tradition. The lamb was by far the best I have ever eaten. So beautifully cooked. Note to self, must buy sous-vide.

Lychee spoon Nice little refresher after a heavy course.

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Ricotta cheese cake with plum & balsamic This was just what I had been waiting for to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Honey taco with mascarpone & honeyed shake I love the play of this cute taco and milkshake. If you put it all in your mouth at once it tasted like a sophisticated brandy snap. Yum.

At the end of the day, this was perfect for the boy and me. I ‘m sure we annoyed other diners around our table with our nagging questions on how to make olive oil caviar, the temperature the lamp was sous-vide at (57.5 degrees Celcius) and where on earth you can buy liquid Nitrogen (for food related activities – of course). But being foodies, and eager to learn, it was more than fascinating for us. I think the ability to be involved in the process helped to remove all of the pretension that can come with restaurants like that.

I completely loved it, the food was amazing and even the horrific advertising pitch for Simon Gault’s new food rub was bearable because the chef was enchanting.

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