Address: Imperial Lane, 44 Queen St, Auckland
Ph: (09) 929 2702
Calling a restaurant Everybody's is something of a hostage to fortune. The temptation to rebut the implied claim is almost irresistible, particularly for reviewers who, sadly, earn their reputations more for putting the boot in than for delivering praise.
But I can't actually build any name for savagery here because this establishment, part of the Imperial Lane complex, undermines the notion you can't please everybody. The customers were a varied lot, apart from sharing a compulsion to wear black, and all seemed to having a fine time and that included us.
It's hardly surprising. The premises, in an artfully transformed Victorian building, are visually interesting with a whitewashed exposed brick wall and cafe-style wooden chairs and little tables on one side and on the other, very comfortable upholstered banquettes with a backing of crazed mirrors.
There is a pleasant bar area and the open kitchen showcases a staff who exude an air of well-organised competence. The service is smooth, knowledgeable and engaging.
So far so good. All it needs is good food and here Everybody's also delivers. The menu is not huge but the dishes are well constructed, modern and interesting without being bravura displays of technique.
We started with a twice-baked gorgonzola souffle, which looked a little solid but turned out to be light and the cheese flavour delicate without being overpowering. The grilled endive, pear and walnuts provided a thoughtful contrast in sharpness of flavour and in texture. My grilled swordfish was succulent with a vegetable compote arrangement that pointed up the sweetness of the fish.
The pseudo-homespun pitch of the "plate of pig", with savoy cabbage and turnip cream was impossible to avoid and I was glad I hadn't. The constituents of pork belly, shoulder, cheek, black pudding, crackling were all terrific and I would have welcomed more although the portion was not niggardly. The cabbage and the sauce added piquancy to an excellent dish.
Our other main of merino lamb - which sneaked in as the choice ahead of the fish stew featuring hapuku, smoked octopus and mussels - was similarly good. Tender but still tasty lamb was well matched with beans and peppers and topped with a pissaladiere tart.
We had turned down the offered opportunity of mash and gravy, duck fat chips and green beans and almonds to leave space for dessert - a good move.
"So many lovely flavours," was the comment on the poached meringue, fromage blanc, rhubarb, ginger and rosewater. It echoed by my pleasure in the perfectly wobbly and subtle flavours of the coconut panna cotta. This latter was accompanied by spiced pineapple, a treatment that completely changed the nature of the fruit, and a vibrant passionfruit sorbet.
The wine list is strong, particularly on wines by the glass and half-bottle, welcome in a place that styles itself a bar and bistro. It offers bar snacks and you can see why city workers are tempted to stay on for an hour or three and we found it well worth the effort of tripping in to sample the full works.
Rating out of 10
Our meal: $208 for two first courses, two mains, two desserts, and five glasses of wine.
Our wine: An excellent list with our 2011 Dog Point Marlborough sauvignon blanc being a welcome start to the evening and the 2011 Mt Difficulty Central Otago pinot noir and the 2009 Kaesler Stonehorse Barossa shiraz going well with our meals. The sauterne provided a perfect finish.
Verdict: A fine combination of comfort and bustle. Stylish but unpretentious food and slick service complete a well-rounded, relaxed act.