Nine newcomers and three returning favourites make the cut
Auckland’s restaurant scene continues to simmer with the annual Metro Top 50 serving up eight newcomers and a first-timer in the 13th year of the awards.
And just to prove the awards judges recognise restaurants can make a comeback, three of Auckland’s old favourites return to the list this year.
The magazine’s Top 50 restaurants in Auckland released today (10 April) are all in the running for the Metro Restaurant of the Year 2015 to be announced at the Metro Peugeot Restaurant of the Year Awards industry awards dinner on 20 April.
Metro editor Simon Wilson says the magazine’s list highlights four big trends in Auckland dining.
“The continued rise of shared dining is in evidence at many places where ‘dishes to share’ are prominent on the menu,” Wilson says. “The communal nature of dining is being strongly reinforced, and that feels like a good thing.”
The second trend is entrepreneurship, Wilson says while SkyCity has the highest profile for its expansion along Federal St, several of Auckland’s other leading restaurateurs are also branching out.
“Mark Wallbank and chef Che Barrington have recreated their very successful formula of smartly presented Asian-inspired food in exciting surroundings at Woodpecker Hill. Sid Sahrawat now also has the extremely cool ‘modern Indian’ restaurant Cassia, in Fort Lane. In the past few months Mark Keddell has opened both Matterhorn in Freemans Bay and The White Rabbit on Customs St near Britomart.”
Wilson says there’s a third trend he’s not so happy about: a growing gap between the best service and the rest. “Put simply, there are now many more good chefs and otherwise good restaurants that are let down by poor service. Very often, the reason an established name has lost its place on our list is the service. It’s a major challenge for the industry, which they know about, but which it is becoming very hard to overcome.”
Wilson’s fourth point is that it’s getting tough to stay on top in the suburbs.
“On our judging list of 81, we had 13 neighbourhood restaurants. But only six of them made the cut. The others are good – and our judges invariably said they were happy to eat in them – but they’re not good enough for Top 50 status. That’s because the standard in the main dining areas is now pretty high. That’s especially true when it comes to service.”
Returning favourites that failed to make the cut the previous year are Café Hanoi in Britomart, Mt Eden’s Molten and perennial Ponsonby bistro Prego.
The nine new restaurants gracing this year’s Metro Top 50 include successful restaurateur Sid Sahrawat’s new establishment Cassia and Toto offshoot Farina in Ponsonby.
Matterhorn, the Auckland sibling of the successful Wellington restaurant of the same name is also included, as are Odettes in City Works Depot and Pilkingtons in the city.
Completing the new nine are Grey Lynn’s Siostra, The White Rabbit in the former Crown pub in the city and Parnell newcomer Woodpecker Hill. Gusto at The Grand is a first time finalist after missing the cut in 2014.
There has been a range of changes to the Metro Top 50 in 2015 with seven new categories replacing retired awards and a new public voted category, the Peugeot People’s Choice Award for Auckland’s Favourite Dish.
Full details of the awards follow and winners will be announced at 10pm on Monday 20 April.
The Metro Magazine Top 50 Restaurants of the Year 2015 (in alphabetical order)
Gusto at the Grand
Masu by Nic Watt
O’Connell St Bistro
Ponsonby Rd Bistro
The Blue Breeze Inn
The Engine Room
The French Café
The Oyster Inn
The Shed, Te Motu
The Sugar Club
The White Rabbit
Metro Top 50 Restaurants categories
Restaurant of the Year Supreme winner and runner up.
Winners and runners up for five general categories - Best: Fine Dining, Smart Dining, City Bistro, Neighbourhood and Destination.
Winners and runners up for: Restaurateur of the Year, Best Chef, Best New Restaurant, Best Service, Restaurant Personality of the Year, Best Drinks, Best All-Day Restaurant, Best Room, Best Renewal, Best Shared Table and Best Value for Money.
Winner of the public voted Peugeot People’s Choice Award (Auckland’s Favourite Dish)
New categories in 2015
Best City Bistro, Best Neighbourhood, Best Destination, Best All Day Restaurant, Best Room, Best Shared Table, Best Value for Money, Peugeot People’s Choice Award (Auckland’s Favourite Dish).
Peugeot People’s Choice Award for Auckland’s Favourite Dish finalists
Depot: Skirt steak with tobacco onions & habanero mustard
Coco’s Cantina: Potato and ricotta ravioli
Baduzzi: Maltagliate with duck and porcini ragu (torn pasta dish)
Cibo: Salted caramel pavlova with toffee peanut brittle and chocolate dust
Prego: Zuppa di pesce (Mediterranean seafood soup)
The Blue Breeze Inn: pork buns
Ostro: Beef brisket burger with chips
The Engine Room: Veal Holstein (schnitzel with anchovies and an egg on top)
Newcomers & first timer
Cassia, Farina, Gusto at the Grand (first time in Top 50) Matterhorn, Odettes, Pilkingtons, Siostra, The White Rabbit, Woodpecker Hill.
Café Hanoi, Molten, Prego.
About the Metro Magazine Restaurant of the Year Awards
The Metro Restaurant of the Year Awards were established in 2002 to recognise excellence in Auckland dining. The judging panel comprises Metro editor and restaurant critic Simon Wilson and a team of experienced food writers and people from the hospitality industry. As much as is possible, they judge restaurants anonymously and pay for the meals. Restaurants are scored out of 100 and the Top 50 and all the category winners are chosen after extensive discussion. This year, the judges compiled a list of close to 200 restaurants in the Auckland region, then whittled it down to 81 places they thought had a reasonably strong claim to be in the Top 50. Judging has taken place over the earlier part of this year.