GPK, Ponsonby

By Peter Calder

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Herald on Sunday rating: * * * * ½
Address: 262 Ponsonby Road
Phone: (09) 360 1113
Website: gpk.co.nz

At one of those massive three-day rock festivals years ago, some bright spark among the organisers came up with the idea of requiring all the food stalls to be meat-free. It was doubtless well-meaning in a be-kind-to-the-planet way, but when the crowds turned up, the headbangers outnumbered the hippies. Serving soybean patties was just asking for trouble.

On one grey morning, I watched a savagely hungover Cold Chisel fan almost weep with rage in front of a tofu-burger stand as he tried to order an early-afternoon breakfast. "I. Just. Want. Some. Meat!" he bellowed hoarsely as he sank to his knees in the mud, although to be precise there was another word between "some" and "meat".

I know how he feels sometimes. I am not, whatever the Professor would have you believe, a meatarian so rabid that I pose a danger to stock when I go walking in the country. Neither do I adopt the hard line of Anthony Bourdain, who takes the view that vegetarians "are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit".

What's more, I know all that stuff about meat-eating being unsustainably wasteful of Earth's resources, which is why I hardly ever spit-roast my morning tea these days. But there are times when nothing other than a bloody good steak will do.

GPK stands for Gourmet Pizza Kitchen but the menu has long extended beyond pizzas. Now, a new steak menu at the Ponsonby restaurant celebrates an enduring association with Neat Meat, the boutique butcher in the Strand in Parnell, where I am fond of shopping although the Professor won't let me enter unless I'm on a leash.

The menu offers three options, really, although different cuts and portion sizes add to the variety: grass-fed Angus from the North Island; grain-fed from the Wakanui feedlot near Ashburton; and, the most expensive, some Hawkes Bay wagyu, the heavily-marbled Japanese-style beef that is pasture-raised and grain-finished. In the interests of research, we tried one of each and shared bits around.

I don't want to buy an endless fight with the beef industry about grain-fed meat so I will limit myself to saying that it has an unhappy history, and a suspect political economy (I recommend Michael Pollan's An Omnivore's Dilemma as required reading for anyone who eats) and I don't know why anyone would eat feedlot-raised beef in this country whose pasture-raised beef and lamb are among the glories of civilisation.

I'll also say that the grain-fed was conspicuously the worst of the three GPK options - bland, oily and almost textureless.

The 60mm-thick Angus Pure rib-eye, cooked (as it should be) on the bone, was the triumph of the evening and proof that this cut, too seldom seen on local menus, will always be the prince of steaks. It trumped the wagyu which, though delicious, seems to me an overpriced fad that will (and should) not catch on here.

Needless to say that all three steaks were perfectly cooked and rested, and the accompanying sauces - there is a wide choice - superb. The recommended red - an Aussie cab sav called Angus the Bull, specially created to suit a steak - was a cracker and very well-priced. As autumn shortens the evenings, this is a fine way to eat out. I'll be back there the next time the Professor is out of town.

Wine list: We just asked for Angus.
Vegetarians: Would be better off checking the main menu.
Watch out for: Stampedes.
Bottom line: So does this make it GMK?

- Herald on Sunday

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