Did the long lunch ever really go away? Restaurant critic Kim Knight tests the water (and the champagne) at the new-look Euro.
It's quite hard to find a photograph of Euro in the Herald archives that does not feature expensive blonde highlights and a champagne flute.
This is the restaurant where chef Simon Gault once made roast chook very famous, where a customer once contacted this newspaper to complain she'd been rejected at the door because she didn't look rich enough. For more than two decades, everybody who wanted to be somebody had lunch at Euro. Start with the oysters and finish with a panic attack - seriously, is there another restaurant in Auckland where the bathroom doors are this glossy and confusing?
Last year, one of the Viaduct's original show ponies announced a change of pace. Adapt or die was the hospitality industry's post-lockdown mantra and Euro Bar and Restaurant's response appeared pitch-perfect: stylish but informal, less fine dining and more shared plates.
We arrived at midday on a Friday. Within minutes the bottle of prosecco I'd ordered had been swapped out for Perrier Jouet, organised by a friend who has form in the long lunch department. Dear Euro, never change.
The restaurant is situated partway along Princes Wharf which sounds glamorous, but have you driven to the waterfront recently? Imagine the nine circles of hell and then close most of them for roadworks. Approach with caution or, ideally, by foot and you will arrive in a better mood.
We are, of course, in the middle of an America's Cup event. Euro is virtually dockside and emphasises that fact with a "race daze" menu featuring Mumm cocktails and a $75 "fruit de mer" also known as a seafood platter. It's hard to review four raw Te Matuku oysters, but one should always make an exception when they are accompanied by four serves each of Kāwhia coast kingfish, Coromandel mussels, Cloudy Bay clams, Big Glory Bay salmon and king crab and yellowfin tuna from who knows where.
Do the maths and this is a very reasonably priced seafood starter. There were only three of us but arguing over who is going to have the last oyster is a good deal more glamorous than splitting the usual sourdough and dip-of-the-day.
Premium (and provenanced) kaimoana had been treated like royalty. The sashimi was thick and satiny - I love it when you can really sink your teeth into raw fish and it neither dissolves nor snags - there was a heap of luscious salmon roe and the crab was more generously portioned than a promotional photograph shows (and, crucially, it was pre-cracked). Marinated mussels were Cinderella gone to a fennel-infused ball and probably the best I've had in Auckland. Why don't more restaurants serve this relatively cheap-but -unsung shellfish?
Euro's reinvention comes with a pink travertine tile floor and blond wood tables. We sat down the back of the room on curved, clotted cream-coloured upholstery. The aesthetic has been promoted as club-by-the-sea but our secluded nook was more upmarket department store powder room.
The menu takes more risks than the decor. Thin-sliced crispy pig's ears with a fried egg, anyone? We loved this dish ($18), billed as "salt and pepper" but more like crunchy candy - sweet-spicy-sticky and quickly slicked with runny yolk. If that sounds confronting, focus less on the words and more on the texture. Pig's ears are a sensory delight.
Mix and match your meal from three menu columns (garden, ocean and land) priced from $17 (chicken liver pate, chicken skin, pickled cherries and the second time I've seen that combo in a fortnight) to $38 (Angus sirloin, pickled onion and caramel bone marrow jus).
Pukekohe broccoli, summer greens, miso "bagna cauda" and furikake ($19) should have been sublime but the centrepiece was not fit for purpose. The florets had been shaved off. In my house, that only happens when the broccoli is past it. If I wanted to eat old broccoli, I would have stayed home.
I was never going to resist a Salty River Farm pascal lettuce with smoked Ortiz anchovy, chicken skin crumble and pecorino Romano ($19). If phone sex was still a thing, I'd totally ask someone to read that sentence out loud to me but the reality was even more seductive - soft buttery lettuce and salty, savoury interesting bits. Highly recommended.
These days, no restaurant can afford to coast on reputation and Euro has really pushed out the boat, with 30 different dishes on its summer menu. Every single one of them reads delicious and, if you're looking for a venue that offers something for everyone, it should definitely be on your list. The fit-out was too neutral for me but think of the new Euro as a blank canvas - just add interesting friends. And champagne.
Euro Bar and Restaurant, Shed 22, Princes Wharf, Auckland. Ph (09) 309 9866.
We spent: $142 for three (not counting the champagne).