Since my husband and I first met, some eight-odd years ago, we’ve been frequent visitors to SKYCITY for the food. So frequent, in fact, that we know the valet parking attendant by name. Navigating your way through the plethora of options can be no easy task, however, as someone who has legitimately put in the time — time and time again — I feel somewhat qualified to arm you with some purpose-driven advice on dining in the precinct.
Gusto at the Grand — Sunday night family dinner
On Sunday evenings, we make like the Italians and gather together a group of friends or family to transport our taste buds to Italy. Our order remains the same every time we visit; starting with scampi crudi and octopus carpaccio, followed by the aptly named ‘orgy of mushrooms’ with ricotta gnocchi, a vongole of Cloudy Bay clams with spaghetti and chilli, and the not-to-be-missed veal Milanese. This is as close as you’ll get to authentic Italian food this side of the equator.
Huami — When we’re feeling the effects of the night before
Nothing beats dumplings when you’re down in the dumps, and Huami’s renditions are spot on. While you’ll still find the likes of har gau on the menu, it’s the more adventurous flavours with crab and chestnut that we crave. Not for the faint of heart, nor vegetarians, is the expertly prepared Peking duck. My kids get an absolute kick out of seeing them transported from their fate in the drying room, to having their heads ceremoniously chopped off before being delivered to the table replete with pancakes. I challenge you to find a better duck in town.
MASU by Nic Watt — Sunday brunch with the children in tow
A long-standing favourite, on Sunday’s we take the kids for their popular Nichiyo brunch. From 11am until 3pm, the kids can enjoy a bento box with all the beloved Japanese delicacies while my husband and I gorge ourselves on the endless supply of sushi, sashimi and small dishes on offer at the robata counter. It’s a pretty relaxed environment, where the kids spend most of their time in the private dining room that is converted into a dedicated playroom for the cherubs to enjoy while the adults savour every moment of their sanity.
The Grill by Sean Connolly — When the husband needs to feel some love
Sean Connolly’s celebrated steakhouse is always high on my husband’s dining agenda. While it’s kind of a no-brainer that most men like their meat, I have to say that the deliciously prepared tender cuts are equally appealing to this gal. Dining here always kicks off with the steak tartare, prepared to our liking at the table, and the spicy, fresh scampi sashimi. The main event typically involves the Florentine T Bone for two — you just can’t beat the tenderness of meat cooked on the bone — served with ample (read: far too many) sides including, mac ‘n’ cheese, onion rings and creamed spinach.
The Sugar Club — When we want to feel good about living in Auckland
There’s no doubt that the view from this elegant 53rd-floor restaurant has the wow factor, but new Executive Chef Josh Barlow has been stealing the limelight with his innovative and inspiring cuisine. It’s hard not to be romanced by Barlow’s passion, commitment and enthusiasm for his work. Foraging many of the more peculiar items on the menu himself, Barlow is known to go bush on Saturday mornings, deep into the Waitakere Ranges in search of wild garlic, or the fallen bark that he uses to adorn the plates for presentation. The Sugar Club, under Barlow’s deft palate, delivers the type of innovative cuisine that beautifully harnesses the iconic flavours of New Zealand. The likes of the wild shot venison, and Perigord truffles harvested from Yaldhurst in Canterbury, served with a delicate chicken custard, are treated with the sort of respect that doesn’t distract from the taste that nature intended. A visit to The Sugar Club is a gastronomic journey of discovery into our country’s cuisine.