Preserved kohlrabi from Bar Magda

My Year of Magical Eating: A tasty subterranean gem, a fanciful afternoon tea and a fabulous Champagne dinner

In this regular new column, our Editor-in-chief embraces her long-held passion for food, sharing the unexpected, fascinating and delicious experiences from restaurants, bars, pops-up and cheap and cheerful spots all across the country.

I’m informed by my colleague — who knows these sorts of things — that Bar Magda’s location used to be called the Doll House… though I don’t think they sold dolls as such, perhaps more the services of doll like ladies. Anyway, that’s the wonderful thing about life around K’ Road, (Bar Madga is on Cross Street), it’s a continuing evolution of diversity, and of late, it seems to be home to a variety of exceptionally good eateries, Magda being one of them. Embracing his Filipino and Peruvian roots, co-owner Carlo Buenaventura (alongside partners Craig Thompson and Matt Venables) has turned this below-street-level spot into a charming space that feels like it’s straight out of Melbourne. The inimitable Buenaventura has really brought the magic here. After a decade long career at some of the city’s brightest eateries, it’s clear he’s found his footing with his own unique style, which he describes as “seasonal produce through a Filipino lens”. The night we dined, Bar Magda is already buzzing with a varied crowd of old and young, all of whom have clearly cottoned onto this utterly delicious, yet somewhat hidden secret. Cocktails are inventive and creative and the food is nothing short of a gastronomic sensation. The cat is most certainly out of the bag, Bar Magda could well be a contender for one of the city’s best new eateries.

Must order: The lamb ribs ‘pyanggang’ with herbs and green sambal. The ribs are cooked until tender, meltingly soft and slightly charred and topped with a pile of herbs that cut perfectly through the fat.

Auckland’s unequivocal home to the finest of good times, Soul Bar & Bistro has played host to some of the city’s most memorable evenings for decades. Helmed by one of the city’s brightest hospo stars, Olivia Carter, it’s no surprise that French Champagne house G.H. Mumm chose Carter to be the New Zealand ambassador for their exclusive RSRV collection; a reference to the mark used by Cellar Masters to select and identify the best wines only from the Grands Crus during harvest and bottle ageing. The RSRV stands for ‘ReSeRVed’ and is a limited release only for a privileged circle of Maison Mumm’s friends. To celebrate her newly anointed and enviable role, Liv hosted a black tie dinner for some of Soul’s most infamous female patrons. Myself being one. It’s been a long time between glamorous dress-up occasions for some, so no holds were barred for this spectacular affair.

The evening unfolded with an introduction to just how special and exclusive these Champagnes are, an exceptional RSRV Blanc de Blancs 2014 paired with freshly shucked oysters and smoked trevally toasts was a testament to the unique characteristics of the Champagne. It’s times like these when this old hack takes stock of her life-long vocation and appreciates the opportunities it affords her. Yes goddamn it, my life can be truly bloody glamorous at times.

Hot tip: If you want to ignite some serious surprise and raise a few eyebrows on your next visit to Soul, I suggest you order the scotch fillet with a bottle of Mumm RSRV Rosé Foujita non vintage. What, you say? Trust me, the pairing of this pinot-based Champagne with an expertly cooked steak will blow your mind, and convert even the most critical of wine snobs to this unlikely combo.

It’s my daughter’s delayed birthday party, and at the ripe old age of seven, her adventurous mother decided it was a stupendous idea to take her and several of her friends for High Tea at Park Hyatt Auckland to channel their inner Fancy Nancys (if you know, you know). There’s a spectacular array of treats from savoury tomato flavoured marshmallows and black bao buns filled with seared beef to start, to utterly delightful ‘strawberries’ filled with a deliciously creamy filling, the teeniest soft doughnuts and much, much more. This is the sort of fantastical abundance served upon pretty plates that any spiffy Tiffany would devour with utter delight in seconds.

Hot tip: Call ahead and employ the services of the award-winning Executive Pastry Chef Callum Liddicoat to create a masterfully decadent birthday cake, just to make sure the sugar spirits are at their highest peak. You will not be disappointed by his spectacular creations, nor the madness that ensures in children thereafter.

Gastronomy


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