Restaurant review: Mr Toms, Ponsonby

By Kim Knight

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Address: 151 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
Phone: (09) 360 9138
Rating out of 10: Food: 8, Service: 8.5, Value: 7, Ambience: 8

Mr Toms, 151 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby. Photo / Getty Images
Mr Toms, 151 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby. Photo / Getty Images

This just in: crusts do not make your hair curly.

According to science, it's the symmetry of your follicles, not the dry, chewy ends of a loaf of toast-sliced, that will determine the twist in your tresses.

But those childhood lectures run deep. And so I find myself staring at my plate, feeling deep, unresolved guilt. The pizza was delicious. The delicious did not extend to the edges, and those edges have been left uneaten. Grandma would not have approved.

Of course, Grandma probably didn't desert her husband and kids to sink wine with a bunch of girlfriends on a Monday night. Viva la middle-class feminista. Ponsonby Rd is her spiritual home and she particularly likes a bar-meets-restaurant where the lighting is so forgiving a latecomer might reach into a bowl of discarded olive pips thinking her friends have ordered almonds.

Actually, those olives ($9) are delicious, sharpened with a splash of vinegar that is best balanced with an order of triple-cooked chips ($10) with an excellent smoked aioli.

Much of Mr Toms' menu is snackable, as befitting a place that has an easy after-work feel and a regular "Sunday sessions" music offering. The wine list is standard, rather than remarkable, but the by-the-glass option includes a $9 low-alcohol Brancott Flight pinot gris. Viva la sensible feminista.

On that note, we ordered greens. A large bowl of tiny brussels sprouts with walnuts ($10) that one of our group liked much better once she realised they were not gnocchi. (That lighting!)

Other "small plate" options included a tempura soft-shell crab ($22), pork belly, kimchi and white beans ($18) and a $16 market fish ceviche that, on the night we visited, was - big tick for sustainability - trevally. The super-creamy duck liver parfait ($14) is highly recommended, though we needed extra walnut bread to finish it. The $16 saffron arancini comprised three decent-sized crisp-fried balls of chalky rice wrapped around melting fontina cheese. It was texturally good, but the taste was more about the accompanying romesco sauce and peperonata topping.

Mr Toms does five pizzas ($18-$26) and a small handful of mains, including a beef short-rib pappardelle ($26) that divided opinion. The sauce was meaty and the pasta well-cooked, but from across the table there were calls for extra oil.

Smoked mushroom pizza. Photo / Getty Images
Smoked mushroom pizza. Photo / Getty Images

A smoked mushroom, truffle and bocconcini pizza smelled, in the best possible way, like a deep inhalation of earth. Butternut squash, pancetta, gorgonzola and crispy sage was not visually inspiring (yellow on pink on cream) but the salty-sweet flavour combo was great - if only the tide hadn't been out on that topping.

The service here is perfectly pitched. We'd booked, but there was no urgency to shift from bar stools to the dining room proper. Shared plates require group consensus and our wait-person happily accommodated ordering delays and an off-menu salad request. She also recommended the creme brulee and the chocolate fondant (both $15). Five spoons dutifully scraped two plates clean. Because, as Grandma might have said, waste not, want not.

We spent: $351.50 for five.

- Canvas

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