This year (this month, in fact) marks 10 years for Tom Hishon and Josh Helm’s Ponsonby Road institution, Orphans Kitchen. Widely beloved for its cosy neighbourhood vibe, friendly service and food that reimagines classic brunch and lunch fare with a flavourful, purposeful and sustainable edge, Orphans Kitchen has built a legion of loyal followers who relish its reliably delicious menu and perfectly made coffee. In fact, I can’t count how many times I’ve parked up at one of Orphans Kitchen’s beautiful wooden tables to tuck into a crumpet with honey and a hazelnut flat white. (Or, if the mood hits, one of its famous Southland cheese rolls.) It is a time-honoured dining destination for a reason, which is why we were very excited to hear that it was set to make some new moves.
Back when Orphans Kitchen first opened, it was evening only, before slowly morphing into an all-day offering. Then, a few years ago, the decision to close Orphans’ night service was made, to give Hishon more time to open his new restaurant at the base of Hotel Britomart — Kingi.
After a few years of building Orphans’ daytime offering (and having heard from a number of enthusiastic regulars who were pining for something more), Hishon decided to reimagine what evenings at Orphans could look like, going back to the drawing board and working with his new business partner, Dan Gillet (of Wine Diamonds and Everyday Wine), to create a wine bar that took the relaxed, neighbourhood vibe of the day and translated it into a slightly more elevated, but altogether welcoming nighttime affair. “What we do really well during the day is create an environment where our regulars want to pop in two or three times a week, or sometimes more,” Hishon explains, “so we sought to bring that same idea into Orphans’ new evening service too, where people can come in for a glass of wine, a small nibble or a full meal, whatever they want.”
The menu, Hishon explains, is fuss-free and was designed with wine in mind. “It’s been a different approach for me to think about a wine list first and then to build a menu around it,” Hishon explains. “But this is the kind of food I love to cook and eat myself, and the flavours will elevate and complement our wines.” As a result, the dishes on offer in Orphans’ new evening menu are purpose-made to pair with its extensive wine list, which spans Australasian favourites alongside delicious European drops, and a number of Champagnes too.
Food-wise, diners can expect a series of nibbles, bite-sized starters, sharing plates and a few sweet treats for good measure, with the overarching idea being food that will work with a number of wines and vice versa. Dishes such as a Délice de Bourgogne with endive serve as a simple but fresh starter, followed by the likes of Ortiz anchovy and Myer lemon toasts, a buckwheat waffle (gluten-free) served with crème fraiche and spring herbs, and chicken liver pâté, with calvados jelly and Granny Smith.
Slightly larger options include organic fried chicken with koji mayo and black lime (a serious highlight), a unique smoked-Kahawai Scotch egg with nduja and radicchio, and a pork hock cassoulet, served with fennel, butter bean and preserved lemon.
Those with a hankering for dessert can indulge in tiramisu, black cardamom truffles or a delicious Comté with honeycomb. And for anyone seeking a more elevated experience, 15g-tins of Oscietra caviar can be added to any meal (we are told this is particularly delicious paired with the fried chicken and a crisp flute of Ruinart Champagne).
“I’m really excited to expand and elevate our offering once again,” Hishon says, “and to take Orphans Kitchen to the next level.” From Dan Gillet’s expertise driving the impressive wine list to Tom Hishon’s unique, culinary flair, Orphans’ new evening service is shaping up to be just as popular as its daytime one. Officially kicking off tonight, we suggest getting in there as soon as possible to experience it for yourself.
Orphans Kitchen Evening Hours:
Wednesday – Sunday, 5pm until late
118 Ponsonby Road