Phone: (09) 638 7243
At Onslow, a car parked at my elbow. It was on the other side of a pane of glass but it was the most striking element of the expansive vista afforded by our position on a little hillock of volcanic rock. ("I can see Nando's from here," the Professor said; she's such a wag).
The cars streaming by silently on Dominion Rd add a city buzz, but the echoing glass-box design of the building, which was home for 18 months to the chic, sort-of-Vietnamese Peasant, gave me an idea of what life is like for our pet frog and it seemed colder than it probably was.
We'd booked early but the maitre d' rang to ask if we could come earlier still. I assumed he wanted to head off, on our behalf, an expected rush, but the place was barely one-third full.
Perhaps he was allowing for the capacity of the kitchen, which was almost surrealistically slow. Nothing on our bill would have taken more than a few minutes to cook (except perhaps the lamb rump, but only because it was overcooked) and some dishes required nothing more than moving food from a container to a plate. Yet it took half an hour to get chargrilled squid, pan-fried chicken livers and deep-fried artichokes to the table and another 40 minutes for the rest. God alone knows what it must be like when it's busy, but I will say that if you've got tickets for the footy, Nando's may be the better bet if you want to be there for kickoff.
The Professor adored the food, which is scarcely remarkable since the chef, Pip Wylie, is a five-year veteran of Ripe, the Richmond Rd deli which is the Professor's lunchroom. Her CV goes all the way back to Jafa predecessor Craft, and her food is accessible and brightly tasty, with touches of North Africa: the sauce on the fish is chermoula, on the meatballs shakshuka. The pork shoulder has been rubbed with ras-el-hanout. If these words are new to you, you should definitely get out more and Wylie's kitchen would be a good place to start.
I was particularly impressed with chicken livers, rich and juicy in sherry and cream, and crumbed artichokes (even if they were from a bottle) on a bed of deliciously lumpy avo. But I never found a wow factor; there was not a single dish that left me aching to return as soon as possible.
The wait staff - one too attentive, the other far too beautiful to need to give a damn - have yet to pitch it right, though. The place needs a looser, less self-regarding feel to be truly enjoyable.
And it's really quite expensive: our trio had no trouble racking up a $200 bill without drinks. But that's the reason sharing plates - half the size of a decent main course, but 80 per cent of the price - were invented, of course.
Why we put up with it I don't know.
Small plates $7-$16; sharing plates $18-$32; sides $9-$14; sweets $14
VERDICT: Bright and tasty but pretty pricey.