Address: 120 Quay St, Britomart, Auckland
Ph: (09) 300 5279
Cuisine: Modern NZ
Being out with the in crowd, at a rooftop bar no less, makes me feel very swishy and cool, in an LA-type way, indeed. I've often driven down Quay St, past the sign proclaiming "Tyler St Garage Eating House & Bar", and, casting my eyes skyward, wondered what it was like to hang with the trendy folk on a sunny afternoon, or a balmy evening.
So it's a mid-week lunchtime and here we are, a friend and I, lunching it up with the best of them, the only difference being that we've got other work commitments to stay sober for, later in the afternoon.
Oh, and it's a freezing winter's day. But other than that, we fitted right in with a crowd that was a happy mix of suits and hipsters, young and slightly older, groups and couples. With sweeping views out across the docks of Auckland and the choppy harbour beyond, we marvelled at the design with its laid-back seating and setting which succeeded in sheltering us completely from the elements, while not interrupting the views or the sense of being on a roof top. Cocooned from reality by a roaring fire, strategically placed overhead heaters, the protective canopy and enough potted greenery to soften the space, we were cosy and toasty despite the grim winter weather and I half expected to see Mr Californication walk in.
The menu seems to include every one of the current crowd-pleasing bar snacks - ceviche, fried chicken, hot dog, soft shell crab, pizza and of course, pulled pork sliders. Frankly there is so much pork being pulled in this town that I fear we may soon all exhibit snouts for noses.
For this reason, and also because I've had them before and don't enjoy the overbearing barbecue sauce, we resisted ordering them. Instead we got started on a plate of soft shell crab that was beautifully, and lightly, fried in a wispy tempura batter and served with a slightly wimpy wasabi tartare but also a ponzu dipping sauce that was snappy and exciting. Next came our lunchtime special of steak frites and a more juicy and tender steak for $20 I've not had in a while. I was delighted the kitchen had salted it adequately - there's nothing quite like sinking your teeth into that first mouthwatering bite of a salty, seared exterior which gives way to juicy pink meat.
Not everything about the food at Tyler St impresses though. Their signature hot dog was probably my least favourite of the dishes. It was too ordinary by far. The bun may be described as a "soft corn bread roll" but it's really just a soft white roll with some cornmeal sprinkled on top, and the wild boar frankfurter was too weeny for me. I'm happy to pony up $17.90 for a hot dog or burger, especially when it comes served with excellent fries, as long as the kitchen has done something to elevate it to gourmet status, but when it comes with regular, store-bought tomato sauce and aioli that has been sitting long enough to develop a dewy skin, then I know I'm being taken for a ride. It's these little tell-tale signs that make me think some bars are relying on the fact that the booze will have dulled our senses enough to overcharge for their average food. It's a fine line.
In other areas though, the attention to detail adds finesse and care to this ex-garage; water is served with lemons someone has taken the time to squeeze so the flavour imbues the water, pizzas are served on stands, presumably to avoid cluttering the table, the quality of glassware and napkins add a certain elegance and staff are plentiful, efficient and friendly and know what's what.
The best was yet to come, however. Served in a small bowl, a dessert of "apple doughnuts" turned out to be tempting chunks of fresh apple, lightly battered , fried until golden, dusted in cinnamon and sugar and served with liquid chocolate and softly whipped cream that was so wrong, it was right. Sitting up there on the roof, with the land and seascape stretching out in front of us, greedily dipping these little beauties and popping them guiltily into our mouths, we couldn't have cared less about our afternoon commitments.
Tyler Street Garage has a stunning location and I can imagine this deck on a sunny day, would be the perfect patio, far from prying eyes, for a star-studded cast to wine and dine in private, enjoying the spectacular views and grazing on all manner of easy to eat bar food.
From the menu: Soft shell crab $17.90, Tyler St hot dog $17.90, steak frites $20, sides of salad $7.90, apple doughnuts $12.90
Drinks: Fully licensed, great cocktails $16 each, jugs of punch $20