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Address: Level 1, 7 Fort Lane or 44 Queen St, Auckland
Ph: (09) 533 4004
We hadn't quite known what to expect at the Roxy, part of the massive remake of the old Imperial and Everybody's Buildings bordering both Fort Lane and Queen St at the Britomart end of town. The Roxy, which opened just before Christmas, is just one of three dining options on the premises, so adding even more choice to what is rapidly becoming the restaurant centre of the city.
We stepped out of the lift and into a glamorous room of exposed brick walls and steelwork, thick brown carpet, lights suspended from a spectacularly high ceiling and white-clothed tables surrounded by brown velvet chairs.
Our first example of what was to come was the amuse-bouche. Served in a glass, it was an interesting concoction of slightly jellied watermelon with hints of something hot, possibly horseradish. Fun and light, it certainly gave our palates a good titillate.
Next, for me, was the Scandinavian-style salmon from the "Raw First" appetisers. It arrived in a small oblong, surrounded by blobs of piquant cream and other exotic accompaniments.
Tonia's crayfish, from the "Cold, Warm, Light" section, was large and seriously unusual. Her cray was perched on a mound of Bomba rice, which had been cooked in fish stock and accompanied, in a separate long plate, by sliced raw grapes with verjuice and almond curd.
But Brian's fish soup was the standout. The cold jellied bouillabaisse was surrounded by a line-up of six taste explosions, each to be eaten, said our waiter in his charming French accent, with a mouthful of jelly. Brian was impressed.
Our main courses were more down to earth. The john dory, with its crisp-cooked skin and succulent inner, was mightily improved by the accompanying cauliflower and oyster mushrooms with preserved orange and bergamot. The "razorback pig" turned out to be pleasingly tubby and was hurtled into the big time by its plate-fellows: caramelised celeriac with quince and gingerbread. Meanwhile the merino lamb with anchovy and olive oil was, said Tonia, surprisingly plain but the tenderest ever.
The wagyu rump cap, which I'd been eagerly looking forward to, expecting something like the glorious grain-fed beef they serve in America, was disappointing: just four slices of what tasted like grass-fed rump, on a bed of interesting and subtly flavoured spinach and potato. The first mouthful was a piece of gristle and fat - certainly not what I expected.
Our desserts were much more edgy. The burnt coconut custard, pineapple souffle with peppermint, baba with sea salt and Ecuadorian chocolate with fishermen's friend all turned out great, though Brian took much convincing that chocolate with a menthol-flavoured biscotti is not an abomination.
All this time we were cosseted and teased by the Roxy's four or five wait-people who watched our every move during those three hours, entertaining us in a range of accents from French to South London and more. All added to the exotic charm of the place.
Where so often fine dining restaurants are sombre and pretentious, Roxy is dead cool. And the food, as you'd expect from award-winning chef Sean Marshall of Wellington's famous Matterhorn, is slightly different from the strong Asian flavours in fashion now, and top quality.
As our waiter suggested, the perfect way to finish an evening at Roxy is to head upstairs to the ultra-cool bar for a nightcap and some people-watching.
Rating out of 10
Our meal: $397.00 for two appetizers, two entrees, four main courses, four desserts, a bottle of Craggy Range chardonnay and a glass of Milton Trois Enfants riesling.
Wine list: Adventurous and interesting.
Verdict: Roxy adds extra glamour and culinary adventure to inner-city Auckland's offerings. Perfect for that important dinner, and with a funky bar to repair to later.