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Cuisine - 2018-01-01

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AUCKLAND

RESTAURANTS

The Halcyon 14/20 194 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay 09 378 7811, thehalcyon.co.nz Lunch, dinner & drinks TuesSat, brunch Sat-Sun Mains $19-50-$32.50 AT A TIME WHEN pared-back, sophisticated interiors seem to be the norm of the modern eatery, The Halcyon’s block colours are a welcome surprise. At first glance it seems half finished, perhaps in need of paintings on the walls, but then you notice the details – those fabulous Mathieu Challières birdcage light shades, the clever use of strip lighting across the banquettes that give a warming glow, those luminous, airy curtains that do double duty creating mood as well as marking off private dining areas. The Halcyon’s location is, of course, wonderful. On the old Andiamo site, it makes full use of its sun-drenched corner position on the ridge of Herne Bay. It’s the kind of place to pop into for a drink, have a snack, maybe move on to a meal. It’s relaxed enough to bring your children or your grandparents, and each generation would find something suitable to eat. The Halcyon is owned by Melissa Morrow and Blair Russell, who also run Ponsonby Road Bistro, and they’ve poached Nick Gallagher (ex Depot and Culprit) to manage the front of house, so the service is exemplary. Chef Sarah Conway, whose cooking at Ponsonby Road Bistro is always en pointe, oversees the food here too. The Halcyon’s offerings are casual, international and with a little bit of everything. The cocktail list is superb – a sugar snap southside tastes of spring, while the negroni blanco is the epitome of sophistication. The wine list is considered and thoughtful, there are interesting and not-sointeresting beers on tap and a fuller range of craft beers by the bottle. The snacks are strong – try the vegetable samosas with crunchy pastry, a well-spiced filling and luxurious yoghurt, offset with deep-fried curry leaves and a piquant mango chutney; or go for the crisp fried beef spring rolls with vermicelli, served on baby gem leaves with plenty of southeast Asian herbs and some seriously hot chilli in the nuoc cham sauce. Main dishes cover most bases. The snapper and prawn ravioli with asparagus and lemon mascarpone was well-flavoured, the filling dense but packed with fish, while the pasta was delicately cooked. The intriguing spicy black peppercorn tofu was off the menu, but its vegetarian replacement of mascarpone and cherry tomato risotto was deliciously balanced. Any ex-Melburnians homesick for a “pot and parma” should head here immediately for the chicken breast marinara, its crisp coating revealing moist chicken breast. It’s accompanied by a light tomato sauce and plenty of rocket and parmesan. Desserts tread a classic path. We had a chocolate pecan brownie with some delectable Duck Island peppermint ice cream and a rhubarb, lemon curd and sherry trifle that was short on sherry but rich and tart and really rather moreish – a good one for sharing. The Halcyon is fun, relaxed and informal, with food that is flavoursome, comfortable and familiar. On a lazy afternoon, there are few places I’d rather while away the hours than here, perched at the bar or outside in the sun. GINNY GRANT

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