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Herald on Sunday Rating: 4.5/5
Address: 7 Fort Lane/44 Queen St, Auckland
Ph: (09) 929 2702
With the regular reviewer (Peter Calder) on holiday, I'm in charge this week*.
Makes a change. In seven years of dining out with him, it's been hard for me to get a word in edgeways, although you'd be surprised how much of what he writes quotes me - directly and without attribution. You know the old saying: Behind every good man is a better woman.
These days he refers to me as the Professor, although he used to make a habit of calling me the Blonde. The problem was that it was not strictly accurate. The owner of one terrible restaurant ended an hour-long telephone call complaining about a review with the triumphant announcement that "the woman was not blonde". He had a point; I'll say no more than that.
Most of the other things he says about me are true, though. I do get irritated with waitresses who ask how my day has been and waiters who refill my wine glass. And I do like a menu to have vegetarian dishes that are not just spaghetti carbonara with the bacon bits picked out.
Anyway, just before Christmas we went out to the new place called Everybody's, down the bottom of Queen St.
He insists I add a few facts at this point. So, it's the bistro operation inside the Imperial Laneway, a $13-million makeover of two 100-year-old buildings in between Queen St and Fort Lane. They once contained cinemas, one of which was called Everybody's. The Fort Lane entrance has been refitted as part of the city's inspired "shared spaces" programme.
It's a good-looking fitout they've done. The old warehouse walls contrast with the polished wood floor and there are padded banquettes for more intimate groupings. It is a bit noisy, but not unbearable.
As we arrived and were shown to our table, we were asked by three people how our day had been. This cost the place half a star, but when they put just one staff member in charge of meaningless banalities it will be perfect.
My bald and chubby companion - sorry, I mean "your regular reviewer" - had a carnivorous gleam in his eye but I, true to form, put my bid in for the two vegetarian options. My entree was a warm tart, a square of luxurious pastry topped with caramelised onion, then draped with red peppers that had been roasted long and slowly and served with a dollop of goat cheese curd on the side. You may have gained the impression over the years that butter wouldn't melt in my mouth; all I will say is that those peppers did.
For my main course, I chose a cheese souffle, made with delightfully smelly gorgonzola and served with witloof. The souffle was wonderful, golden on top and creamy inside, just the way I like it.
Over the other side of the table, alarming evidence of widespread animal slaughter was everywhere. Distasteful though it is, I suppose I should report that he thought the rabbit sausage was very good: tiny pickled shiitake mushrooms and a creamy carrot mash set off the gamey meat nicely with contrasting sweet and sour tastes, he said.
I was glad to see that his other choice - called "pig's head" on the menu - didn't answer to that rather blunt description. The cheek meat had been slowly braised and forced into a sausage casing, like a galantine, then sliced and fried. He went very quiet for the entire time he was eating it, which was a sure sign that he liked it. The accompaniments of gelatinous cubes of "toffee apple" and savoy cabbage, were damn good (he said).
The desserts at Everybody's were as inventive and original as the rest of the menu. My companion says he'll be back to try at least two other dishes - the wagyu skirt steak and the scampi omelette - and I have three desserts to get through yet, so I'll have to join him.
Take a bow, head chef Sean Marshall. Getting a table here is going to be tough when word gets around.
Need to know
$ = $20-$40; $$ = 40-60; $$$ = $60+.
(Price guide reflects three courses for one person without drinks.)
The Imperial Laneway includes a fine-dining restaurant called Roxy, and serves everything from all-day breakfast to charcuterie.
* I'm in charge all the time, actually, but he'll be back writing next week.By The Professor