You know that feeling, the one when you just HAVE to have something otherwise you will probably die? Of course you do! Who doesn’t? Usually those feelings (for me) kick in with clothes. Or shoes. Or magazines (ok, ok, everything and anything). But, recently, my inner toddler was screaming for a tasty morsel at new Auckland digs, Federal Delicatessen.
Affectionately named The Fed, this New York style Jewish deli (in both appearance, menu and nifty waitresses) has been full to the brim since it opened a couple of months ago. It’s the latest in (somewhat celebrity chef) Al Brown’s food adventures.
It seems good old Al really has his finger on the pulse of the Auckland food scene, because everything he creates turns to gold. In just over two years he has created Depot (neighbour of The Fed), which has consistently featured in Metro’s Top 50 since (it also continues to be one of the hardest damn restaurants to actually get into). He followed this up with The Best Ugly Bagels, opened earlier this year, which fills a beautiful niche of fast, fun and fantastic food with a big name behind. It has also single-handedly gotten more of Auckland’s pretentious carb restricting dieters (yup, just like me) shoving more bagels in their gobs than ever before. Now comes this little, American influenced, beauty.
Despite its popularity, I have yet to hear of someone unable to be seated (except for myself and my fellow work mates, who decided we needed a breakfast meeting on the one day it was shut for renovations), most people seem to snag the elusive “last table”. Odd right? But good! Because you are always surrounded by a hum of excited diners, without the dreaded wait.
On the sun filled spring Sunday that we popped in, The boy and I got a little star struck, because Al Brown himself was actually serving! Yup, not in the kitchen, but bringing all the pastrami sandwiches and coffee refills (endless coffee – no jokes) to you. Seeing the chef behind Logan Brown (ones of New Zealand’s most fancy restaurants) in his jeans and converse, plonking plates on top of Formica table tops really set the tone. This place isn’t fine ding, it doesn’t pretend to be and it sure as hell doesn’t want to be. It wants to transport you from central Auckland to the heart of East Side New York, and serve you a piece o’ pie like mama used to make (not my mama though… she never really makes pie). And, oh boy, they deliver. I felt instantly like a pickle-eating regular when I walked in (and oddly half expected the uniform clad waitresses to be on roller skates).
I loved it (but not quite as much as the boy, he really, really, really loved it). It was (and is) the perfect brunch spot. I grabbed myself a “breakfast salad” (with haloumi, portobello mushrooms, poached eggs and dukkah), and the boy ordered a pastrami hash with poached eggs and a side of fries with cheese curd and gravy (such Paleo choices). My salad was simply fantastic. It helped that I had been on a 20k run that morning, so was literally starving, but I could probably eat six breakfasts and still polish off that dish. It was simple, but great. Dukkah has been sprinkled on every salad I’ve had since – who knew it could be the perfect lift, giving even the most lifeless leaves a spicy buzz. The boys hash was “hearty” and “morish” (yup, those words are right from his hash stuffed mouth). The fries? Well, they sure aren’t pretty, and are probably horrid for your waistline, but they are damn good (as he put these down in front of us, Al said “here’s your dirty little secret”).
So, I cannot say it enough, you should go. And don’t wait for the hype to die down, because the hype, the people and the vibe is all part of the fun.
Snap to it. It is the cheapest trip to New York around.