Phone: (09) 307 0556
Rating out of 10: Food: 7, Service: 8, Value: 7, Ambience: 8
Revamping one of Auckland's best-known restaurants, familiar to thousands of customers for years and housed on the first floor of a well-loved building, may not have been the easiest of tasks. But the latest owners of Harbourside, the Good Group, who also operate the Botswana Butchery downstairs, have made a very successful stab at it.
Possibly restrained by the building's heritage status, they have resisted the temptation to showboat. The colour palette of the decor and furniture is restricted, almost stark, dominated by black and white and broken by a huge glass wall displaying an impressive armoury of wine bottles. The deck, always the defining attraction here with its views over the harbour, is now covered by a retractable roof and although they have added a new bar at one end it still offers 80 seats.
On our visit the weather was less than kind but customers were still enjoying the balcony. We were happy enough to be inside, where the changes are more visible. At one end there is a very large bar and tucked beside the huge open-plan kitchen is a teppanyaki bar for about 20 people.
To go with the physical changes there is a shift in the eating style too. It remains, as it should, seafood-dominated, but the options have been expanded well beyond variations on the species of fish and the cooking options of grilled, roast or fried.
You can start small with tapas, sashimi, nigiri sushi, maki sushi and dishes such as fried chicken and tuna pizza, join the frivolity of the showbiz teppanyaki or escalate to substantial offerings such as the seafood platter at a cheerful $129.95 for two.
They spread their net wide in sourcing - the prawns and Moreton Bay bugs are from Australia, there is North Atlantic lobster tail, the flounder is from Hawkes Bay and the turbot from the South Island. There is also a good selection of meat for the non-pescetarian.
I started with the grilled Hervey Bay prawns, simply served with garlic, lemon and parsley butter. Basic and hard to fault, sweet, tender prawns expertly handled. Our other starter, one of the day's specials, was less successful. The combination of the olive tapenade, shallot marmalade and smoked salmon topped with a basil mascarpone was original and worked well but the effect was undermined by its resting on a slab of puff pastry so hard it was impossible to cut.
We stuck to essentials with our main courses. The market fish was John Dory, competently done on a potato puree with a citrus surround to lift the visual appeal. I went for the flounder, again efficiently grilled to the point where it remained moist and with that delicate sweetness of a fish that I think is often undervalued. The fries to which I succumbed were hot and crisp.
So far so very good. The desserts were, frankly, a disappointment. The housing of the raspberry and hazelnut fondant was soggy and the filling lacked zip. The Valrhona dark chocolate cream was surprisingly bland and sweet.
These late letdowns apart, we enjoyed our visit to an old friend wearing new makeup. The main elements of the food were good and the atmosphere was distinctly buzzing. The harbourside location has always made it something of a magnet for tourists but there was a solid representation of locals.
Our meal: $232.65 for two starters, two mains and two desserts and five glasses of wine.
Wine list: As in its former life, a very good wine list and a big bar range.
Verdict: The attraction of the location remains undiminished. The elegant revamp has refreshed the place, the amosphere is lively and the food is mainly sound.