In the brick building at the crossroads of Ponsonby Rd and Richmond Rd you'll find the Golden Dawn bar. They're doing food, a whole menu of it, not just bar snacks to go with your drinks, as had been my misguided impression.
Pushing back the heavy forest green wooden gate, you may feel as though you're dropping in on the neighbours' backyard but instead you'll find yourself in the relaxed garden bar of this hipster hangout. The concrete courtyard catches the blazing late afternoon sun and there's a string of old-school coloured lights draped haphazardly over the area to add to the ambience after sundown. Big communal tables are thickly coated in the palest blue paint and offset with bright red chairs and each table is prettied up with a vase of fresh flowers. For one of the coolest bars in town, it is delightfully unpretentious. The staff make it so with their genuine friendliness.
We didn't mess around and ordered eight dishes from the "victuals" (which if you look it up means "a source of materials that nourish the body"). At Golden Dawn it means a menu put together by chef Beckie Pilley (of Scoff catering) listing a total of 15 dishes. We started by tucking into a tray of cute mini brisket pies. They were nothing like the soggy staff room savouries you get at a work leaving do. These were golden nuggets of gloriously crisp buttery pastry, encasing a dark meat filling of peppery brisket and gravy.
Chargrilled bruschetta was served salty, warm and oily and piled high with beetroot and a vivid green broad bean, pea and parmesan smash, with freshly toasted walnuts.A terracotta dish of soft butter beans and tender pork, topped with sharp cheddar and black sausage, were all irresistible. A bowl overflowing with fried potato and corn balls - krokety - spiked with cumin and coriander came alive with the squeeze of lemon juice we applied at the last minute.
The DJ pumped the volume but we didn't mind a bit, happy to be a silent trio while we devoured each morsel of this craftily put together food. Attention was given to all the right details: cut lemons sprinkled with chilli flakes and sea salt, turmeric making a mayo much more magical, freshly toasted walnuts. Impressive.
Plates were cleared and more arrived. This time they were a wooden board with hunks of sourdough slathered with lime aioli and stuffed with chipotle pork and a small dish of braised eggplant and chickpeas, alive with spice and crowned with an impossibly thick dollop of cooling labneh. A slice of moist "Mama's cornbread" completed the picture.
Golden Dawn is more meeting place and bar than a restaurant but they're taking their food seriously, so, though you can't book a table and the music from the guest DJ may drown out any conversation you were thinking of having, I'd suggest you put it on your playlist. You'll find punchy world food that's well-executed, staff who'll make you feel at home even if you don't, and an atmosphere that is splendidly hip without being intimidating.
Note: They change the menu and have done since I was there, but there's no need to fret because the newbies - wood-roasted lamb ribs, crumbed gurnard butties - sound just as irresistible as what they've replaced.
From the menu: Green toast $12, pork belly & butterbeans $15, mini brisket pies $8, pulled pork roll $16, Mama's cornbread & eggplant $14, krokety $12.
Drinks: Fully licensed - creative selection of beer, wine, cocktails