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A young hospo couple with fine-dining pedigrees are taking a casual approach to Kiwi food at Lillius, their new restaurant in central Auckland. / THOMAS HEATON

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SHANNON VANDY and Fraser McCarthy are bringing fine-dining backgrounds to their new restaurant Lillius, but they’re going for something a little more casual. The chef couple have been wanting to set up their own place for a few years and in early November, they opened Lillius on central Auckland’s Khyber Pass Rd.

Having cooked under top chefs Ben Bayly and Michael Meredith, they’re serving what they see as New Zealand food. That could be a little different to what others have in mind, but that’s OK, because it’s their interpretation. “I’m just trying to give you my view on what New Zealand cuisine is. It’s not one thing,” Fraser, 28, says. “Everyone thinks it’s all in the produce, but I think it’s in the culture.”

Current dishes on the menu (Lillius offers three courses for $70, or a five-course set menu for $110) include a raw vegetable plate with a cashew cream dip inspired by a childhood snack – “when our parents would cut up carrots and celery with a dip, and that would tide you over till dinner time”, explains Shannon, 27. In larger dishes territory, you might have potatoes cooked two ways, with a cheese sauce made from New Zealand parmesan and some wholemeal pikelets on the side. The ingredients are sourced from small producers, in line with the couple’s sustainable values. “We want to utilise more of the vegetables, because we find in fine dining there is a lot of wastage,” Shannon says.

Shannon, who is also a trained chef, is taking charge of front-of-house at Lillius. She has had stints both in the kitchen and out front at Ben Bayly’s restaurants The Grove and Baduzzi and at the former she met Fraser, who has also cooked at Merediths.

With a contemporary interior of marble, concrete and velvet, the 40-seater is “not just for a fine-dining occasion,” says Shannon. “We want to cater to people who just want to go out to eat, who might not want to cook or do the dishes,” Shannon says.

The restaurant’s name, which comes from the Latin for “pure”, reflects those values too, Shannon says. They tinkered with the word, which is actually spelled lillias, to make it about them – or “us”, she says. “The meaning is there for what we do and how we serve the food.”





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