Herald on Sunday Rating: 4/5
Address: Imperial Lane, 7 Fort Lane or 44 Queen St
Ph: (09) 929 2701
My rule of thumb is that if an entree costs more than $20, it had better be something I can't stop thinking about the next day.
The entrees at Roxy are $27. But they're worth every cent. What's better is that they constitute the second course of a real four-course meal - assuming you're in the mood for working your way down the page - because the entree list is preceded by four "raw first" options. They do degustations - five-course at $100 and 10-course at $140, wine extra - but they offer the a la carte diner the chance to feel a bit special, too.
Roxy is part of the Imperial Lane development whose bistro, Everybody's, you may remember, was reviewed on this page in January. The review was bylined "by the Professor" and several of you wrote in to say that she was a much better reviewer than me. Naturally, I sacked her immediately.
A fine-dining room next door to Everybody's might have been called Somebody's (or maybe Somebodies) as a way of indicating that they don't let just Anybody - and particularly not Nobodies - in, but Roxy bears the name of the cinema that once occupied the space Imperial Lane has disinterred.
If you enter from Fort Lane, you certainly feel a sense of drama. A jolly Bostonian greeted us and marked off our names before pressing the lift-call button. A broad-shouldered bouncer loomed nearby, a reminder that downtown Auckland after dark can be an unpleasant place.
The lift delivered us into an impressive space. Set into a white-tiled wall is a servery with a plain view of the kitchen. The rest - walls, tables, chairs - is dark wood and the end wall has a racked library of premium wines. The globe lighting forms a hanging forest and the white linen lifts the eye and the spirits.
It's all most salubrious and the waiting staff who ply their trade here are among the best I've ever encountered. If their pace is one notch above brisk, it's a small matter; they are crisply professional, observant without being intrusive and personable without acting as if they think they are having dinner with you.
The sensational crusty but chewy bread comes from Elske in Newmarket, the bakery of chef Sean Marshall's partner Kristina Jensen, and was served with unsalted butter and some beautifully green olive oil. An amuse bouche of a cauliflower and oyster soup - topped with cauli crisps - had us in the mood.
What followed was an almost impeccable display. Kingfish sashimi with grapefruit and radish was a bright salute to the fading summer. My wagyu beef carpaccio was succulently thick and served with a raw quail-egg yolk and a deconstructed baked spud (puree beneath; jacket crisp on the side) and tiny meringues flavoured with Worcestershire sauce. It was a winking homage to steak, egg and chips.
My "whole duck" entree was an array of treatments, complete with advice on how to approach them. Duck consomme poured over a savoury custard, to be stirred and drunk; a duck parfait creamy as mousse, with sweet brioche toast; leg meat; a salty duck bacon; and some crisp skin showed each part of the bird at its best. Duck is poorly done at many places and this was a standout.
The Professor's lamb rack was a sour note. She wasn't asked how she wanted it done (her answer would have been "as the chef wants it done") but it arrived seriously rare, almost raw inside, although the Mediterranean-style vegetable accompaniments were lovely. My pork - shoulder, belly, sausage and crispy ear with a celeriac puree - was a shade dry; some courage with the seasoning would have been welcome. But the desserts redeemed these faults. A passionfruit souffle - into which I was told to dig a hole so I could pour a mix of coconut and lime juice - was the nicest sweet thing I've had this year. And of the Ecuadorian chocolate I can only report that the Professor said "Do you want some? Because you're not getting any" and asked whether we could come back weekly just for dessert.
I can't say this was a flawless experience but it was very, very good - though obviously not cheap. It's occasion dining, all right, but that's all right, on occasion.
Need to know
$ = $20-$40; $$ = 40-60; $$$ = $60+.
(Price guide reflects three courses for one person without drinks)
Everybody's next door. Imperial Lane is a bold addition to Auckland.