Herald rating: * * * 1/2
Address: 215 Dominion Rd
Phone: (09) 630 6474
You will," Jude said, "have to eat your words," which is an unappetising meal for someone who does this job.
We were across the table at two fifteen, Jeremy Schmid's new bar and bistro, and she was reminding me about a recent column in which I'd wittered - oh, all right, ranted - that it was deuced difficult to find a decent, mid-priced bistro these days.
You will find two fifteen - and if you have had one of those days at work, and don't feel like cooking, and happen to live in those parts, you probably should - at the Valley Rd shops, two doors up from the big blue stereo shop that isn't there anymore, over the road from the Dominion, that used to be GPK and is closed for renovation, and not too many steps from Meredith's, where you'll have to wait three weeks for a table.
It has been converted from the fantastical Pho and Vietnamese sandwich shop, Banh Mi Bale, now in Lorne St, and still highly recommended. (See The Dish, page 12.)
You may recognise the chef-part-owner's name in the second paragraph. As in, or previously in, the kitchens at Gault's On Quay, Euro, Vinnies, Red, the George, Palazzo Roma and Orbit on top of the big concrete spike. As in Hell's Kitchen, the 2003 Lewisham Award for most innovative chef, Culinary Fare medals, yada yada. And the brains of Little Boys sausages, which won a skinful of awards.
Schmid quit Orbit a year ago to hang with the crew who own Degree, Basalt, Garrison and more. All the while he was looking for a site: he found it a quarter-way down Dominion Rd.
"I wanted to start a place from scratch, a place where we in the kitchen could make everything we serve. Like the cold smoked salmon, bread, sausages and stocks. That the customers could come in and have a meal, small plates and a good glass of wine in a nice setting and feel comfortable.
"I like a suburban setting. Where I am we have parking, enough space to make a private room in the future.
"Dominion Rd, it to me seems like a place that's only getting better" (enough, Jeremy: that's two Don McGlashan references in one column).
"Meredith's is a few blocks down the road and he is catering for a higher end than me. I think there is room along here for a few more places to make it an area to go to, like Kingsland or Mt Eden Village."
In which Schmid's right. If you've driven - it's more fun on a scooter - along the Dominion boulevard of late, you may have noticed it's taking on a new character. Dare I say gentrified? No. I have too many mates there whose liberal tendencies shy from that thought. (Except when their valuations come in.)
Schmid has gathered bright young talents around him - Jean Wan, whose father is also a chef, from Meredith; Malcolm Reeve, from Palazzo Roma and Orbit. More familiar faces are front-of-house. Cameron Douglas, the master sommelier, uncorks an appropriate, approachable and stylish wine list.
Honest food made interesting by neat twists. Lashings of cold smoked salmon, tasty blini, cress salad dressed with peppered creme fraiche. Soft tacos, confit duck, black bean puree, avocado, coriander and spiced tomato sauces bounce from Mexico to China and emerge as a Tex-Mex Peking duck.
Pork, fennel and cheese sausage. Wonder where that idea came from? Pleasantly peasant companions in mustard puree, lentils and slow baked tomato. The ultimate bistro treat is played with: pork loin with white beans, chorizo compote and a jus is lighter years from classic cassoulet.
Think the Engine Room or Pure, though the food is played with a touch less panache, and the word needs to get out so two fifteen has the diners to generate bistro buzz.
From the menu: Mussel, corn, spring onion fritter, tomato salsa $14.50; Rosemary, apricot, cardamom-spiced lamb shank, potato puree, braise $27.50; Pear and blackberry crumble, anise mascarpone $13.50.
Vegetarian: Own menu.
Wine list: Top marques.