Review: Revelry, Ponsonby

By Phoebe Falconer

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Address: 106 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
Phone: (09) 376 8663
Rating out of 10: Food: 5, Service: 8, Value: 8, Ambience: 8

The Pork Belly from the Revelry Restaurant in Ponsonby, Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker
The Pork Belly from the Revelry Restaurant in Ponsonby, Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker

Revelry, the brain-child of restaurant designer Jason Rosen and bar manager Benjamin Taylor, rests somewhat uneasily beneath the International Food Hall on the corner of Ponsonby Rd and Pollen St.

It's been open since late last year, and the fit-out must have cost a bomb. The interior is European bordello, and the deck resembles Southern antebellum, with flowers and sofas.

Although we had booked, a table was not ready for us on the night we visited, so we waited while staff scurried and cleared and quite quickly we were seated on the deck which, on yet another warm evening, was just fine.

The music, late 80s/early 90s hipster, I was informed, was turned down on request, although the volume increased later.

Armed with beers from a much-reduced selection, and cocktails, on which the management rightly prides itself, we took a look at the menu. And, it must be said, it reads well.

Sesame caesar salad with crispy egg and cubed haloumi, cavalo nero and onion bhaji, chilli pork dumplings with ginger ponzu sauce, sake miso marinated pork belly, and so on.

Inventive and appealing.

We ordered the salad, bhaji, dumplings and a mixed salad in tapas sizes, and two mains-sized dishes, the pork belly and a 10-hour slow-cooked beef short rib, done Sri Lankan style and served on a bed of Israeli couscous.

We were moved to a larger table to accommodate our many plates and platters.

But, oh dear. The caesar salad was dressed with what tasted like milk, and the haloumi was almost imperceptible, although the crispy egg was well executed, not an easy thing to manage.

The beef had been rendered tasteless in its 10-hour ordeal, but the couscous, flavoured with fenugreek, sultanas and almonds, was pleasant. Any chilli in the dumplings was inconsequential, and they were slightly redeemed by the dipping sauce. The bhaji were solid and tasted of very little. The mixed salad was unremarkable.

We felt that the chef was bored by endless orders of bar snacks (fries, breads and dips, and the like) and had decided to branch out, but managed to achieve little of substance or flavour.

We appeared to be the only diners.

Desserts of tiramisu and chocolate pudding went a little way towards assuaging our disappointment.

The service at Revelry is friendly and attentive, although being chased down the street to ask if we had enjoyed ourselves indicated a degree of anxiety.

Revelry is a bar rather than a bistro or restaurant, and there is merit in keeping things simple and manageable.

Our meal: $256 for four shared plates, plus two main meals, two desserts, five beers, four glasses of wine and two cocktails.

Wine list: Extensive, as are the cocktail offerings. The 12,000 Miles sauvignon blanc from Wairarapa was very acceptable. There is a good variety of boutique beers but, unfortunately, several were not available.

Verdict: Here's a clue - there are two pages of food options and six pages of liquor of various kinds. More bar than bistro, then. And although the menu reads well, the execution of most of the dishes falls short.

- NZ Herald

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