A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent
A recent business trip took us to Auckland in New Zealand. Having failed to get a booking at our first choice of The French Café on Saturday night, we decided to opt for Sidart in Ponsonby, based on the fact that they had just won The Metro Best New Restaurant 2010. Ponsonby, for those of you that don’t know it is a hip suburb of Auckland with a strip crammed full for cafés, bars and restaurants. After several trips around the one way system in our taxi, we eventually found Sidart. At this point I was beginning to think that we had made a serious error in our selection of restaurant. Not only did the restaurant have no street presence at all, it appeared to be crammed upstairs in a rather tatty looking shopping centre. After picking our way past the chemist, we ascended the escalator to what did appear to be the entrance to a modern, and trendy restaurant. On arrival, through the sliding (to save space) door, we were issued a warm welcome by the staff. The room was a little cramped, but beautifully decorated and very modern, if a little dark. We started with a glass of champagne while perusing the menu. A lucky break landed us with a table by the window, which had fabulous views across the City.
We eventually opted for the tasting menu, with matching wines, which left the staff delighted. The tasting menu, appears to be deceptively simple, but in fact we were presented with a series of spectacularly complex and beautiful dishes matched with superb wines from France and New Zealand.
The entire menu was delicious. A dish worthy of mention was the Salmon. This appeared to be two dishes on one plate, Salmon served with Mascarpone ice cream in the centre, which was amazing, with a second crumbed piece of salmon, served with goats cheese and liquorice served on the side of the plate. I was quite pleased by this, because the liquorice was not to my taste at all. The couple at the table next to us, just loved it, however. We also learned from our neighbours, that the shopping centre we were in was of historic significance, having previously been an ice rink, cinema and Spanish restaurant. It seems the Alhambra Shopping Centre, is a much loved local landmark! We were entertained by stories of how our neighbours used to visit the cinema in their courting days over 40 years ago….I did say it was intimate, didn’t I?
The Duck with Chocolate and Avocado proved to be an amazing combination, and a joy to eat. I was slightly perplexed by the small piece of Pork Belly on the plate. It was perfectly cooked, but didn’t really seem to belong with the rest of this dish. My favourite dish of the night had to be Lamb loin with a smoked beetroot foam, with a yogurt sauce, cashew nuts and sprinkled with Nigella seeds. This dish was obviously inspired by chef Sid Sahrawat’s Indian heritage, and was a sheer delight to eat, evoking memories of my childhood visits to our local in Indian. A perfect example of modern cooking, borrowing Asian flavours.
Service was friendly, warm and good, but perhaps not quite as polished as you might expect from a restaurant serving this quality of food. The staff were extremely passionate and seemed genuinely enthusiastic and excited by the food and wine that they were serving, making it an enjoyable evening over all. The food is inspired and innovative, and incredibly technical. Complex flavours were well matched with the wine, and our visit to Sidart has to rate as my best Gourmet experience of 2010 (so far). The restaurant is quirky, and very, very intimate, but well worth a visit for it’s exceptional food. Sid Sahrawat is a rising star to watch closely!
Marks out of 10