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Ever popular on The Strand's waterfront strip of eateries and bars, The Phoenix is known as a craft beer gastro bar, but the food menu is so much more than pub grub. A fresh winter menu crafted by new head chef Daniel Bellow is sure to cement it further as a must-go dining venue in central Tauranga.

Owners Ralph and Ana-Marie Ward say the menu is designed to include winter favourites using high quality local ingredients while keeping it affordable without sacrificing taste or quality.

The chef has added dishes too, says Ana-Marie. The Phoenix has lamb shanks on its menu for the first time with its rosemary and mint-braised lamb shank with sweet potato puree, honey-glazed baby carrots and confit shallots. Another new dish is a favourite of Ana-Marie's, Mac N Cheese.

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Mac N Cheese
Mac N Cheese

"It is the ultimate winter comfort food ... but we wanted to present our gourmet version, so there's plenty of champagne ham in every mouthful, and beautiful Parmesan crumble on the top."

The menu now includes another pork belly option. The Phoenix's original best selling pork belly remains, served with agria mash, honey-glazed baby carrots, apple dust and garlic cream sauce.

"Pork belly is always a crowd favourite and our new chef wanted to include another option as a starter or snack, which are pork belly bites braised in an Asian-inspired sauce with apples."

Pork belly bites with an Asian-inspired sauce
Pork belly bites with an Asian-inspired sauce

Duck is another new addition - a confit duck leg with herbed pommes anna potatoes, pickled red cabbage, honey-glazed baby carrots and a peppercorn sauce.

The menu also includes its popular selection of gourmet burgers, stone-cooked pizzas and hearty salads.

Children are also well catered for in a new winter menu including a mini chicken cordon bleu, fish and chips, hot dogs, and Hawaiian pizza. Kids eat free on Mondays. On weekends and public holidays, there is also a lengthy breakfast and brunch menu from 8.30am to 3pm, with the crowd-pleasing Phoenix Big Big Breakfast as well as vegetarian options.

Sundays offer a new all day roast option for both adults and kids. The buzz The Phoenix's outdoor areas are popular all year round with heating and a view of the water or the greenspace on the side.

The wait staff are energetic and attentive, knowledgeable about the menu and helpful with suggestions for gluten-free options or drink matches.

I'll have: I am a sucker for pork belly and the new Asian-inspired offering was tender and flavoursome.

For main, I opted for the steak. It was beautifully tender. A 200g eye fillet is a generous portion, and with plenty of delicious seasonal vegetables and three sauce options - vodka and blue cheese, creamed peppercorn or mushroom and bacon - this is an outstanding dish. I also sneaked a taster of her salmon which I will be sure to have next time.

200g eye fillet with seasonal vegetables and three sauce options
200g eye fillet with seasonal vegetables and three sauce options

She'll have:

Being a big carb lover, Mac N Cheese has to be one of my favourite dishes and this one hits all the right notes. No skimping on the ham here, the dish is choka with tender boned ham, and the panko topping added a level to the delicious cheesy sauce and pasta.

We also shared a cob loaf - a huge hunk of bread filled with sour cream, chives, bacon, parmesan and caramelised onion, which is great as a starter or even a snack while you are having drinks.

For main, I went for the oven-baked salmon, served on a stack of wilted spinach, crispy herb potato rosti and garlic prawns, all in light and tasty tomato beurre blanc sauce. A generous chunk of melt-in-the-mouth salmon, with the richness of the fish offset by the spinach, and the combination of crispy potatoes and the prawns, added interesting texture and flavours to the dish.

We also had a taster of the new dishes, lamb shanks and duck, both beautifully cooked, tender and coming away from the bone. I just loved the sweet potato puree with the lamb. You can order this with any dish as a side with sour cream.

Cob loaf filled with sour cream, chives, bacon, parmesan and caramelised onion
Cob loaf filled with sour cream, chives, bacon, parmesan and caramelised onion

The verdict

With generous portions and winter favourites to fill the stomach, the new menu is sure to be a hit over the colder months. This time we didn't have dessert but they sound delicious, including sticky date pudding, creme brulee, fruit crumble, chef crumble skillet cookie and a warm chocolate lava pudding, all made fresh on site.

The Phoenix's star will surely rise further with this delicious new menu offering great value for money.