Address: Ferry Building, 99 Quay Street
Phone: (09) 307 6966
Cuisine: Modern European
There's no better way to get back in touch with Auckland after a two-year absence than with a visit to an iconic Auckland dining establishment.
But despite Cin Cin on Quay having occupied its waterfront location since the late 1980s, there's nothing dated about the restaurant's menu or decor, both of which achieve a simple, refined elegance that comes only with experience.
That didn't stop my dining companion and I from pretending we were stars in another 1980s Kiwi icon, television drama Gloss, the characters of which seemed symbolic of the clientele Cin Cin would have attracted at that time.
We arrive at 7.30pm on a chilly Thursday to find that, despite getting our glad rags on, the general attire of the handful of diners is pretty casual.
Cin Cin's branding encourages its diners to eat, talk, drink and watch, a philosophy we're more than happy to oblige, and our table by the window proves a perfect spot for keeping a close eye on the comings and goings of the wharf. The restaurant is one of the few in the city that makes the most of its waterside location and the views must be spectacular down there on a beautiful Auckland day.
Unfortunately the lack of punters tonight makes the ambience of the fairly spacious eatery seem a little on the sedate side, though it does fill up a bit later on.
The dark and dreary weather makes it a good night for drinking red wine, so we look straight past their extensive cocktail list and opt for a glass of the Te Mata Awatea cabernet merlot 2006 ($16.50) and the Coal Pit pinot noir ($16.50).
"Have you tried the Atarangi [2006, $16.50]?" our waiter asks after a pause. "I recommend that pinot over the Coal Pit," and, after he brings a small glass of my original order out to compare the two, I agree he's quite right.
We settle back into our seats while contemplating the entree list, which is also extensive and mostly appealing. My companion, who had checked out the menu online earlier in the day, is slightly disappointed when told by the apologetic staff that her first two choices, de-boned quail ($27.50) and tempura courgette flowers ($21), are both unavailable, but is more than satisfied with her generous serving of pappardelle with rabbit ragout, pancetta, cress, tomato, parmesan and truffle oil. It's her first time trying rabbit and she finds the intense tomato flavour complements the game meat well.
My buffalo mozzarella caprese salad with prosciutto, vine tomatoes, basil, evo and flat bread ($25.50) is tasty but nothing I haven't had before, and I wish I'd been a little more adventurous and tried the prawn and duck salad ($20.50).
After a good amount of time to digest our entrees, the mains arrive. My pan-roasted snapper with crushed potato, salsa verde, roast fennel and confit tomatoes ($35.50) is crunchy, flavoursome, and melt-in-your-mouth fresh.
My friend has the beef fillet with witloof, red wine shallots, parsnip and cauliflower beignet, porcini butter and red wine sauce ($39.50) - again a generous serving, which she really enjoys. There are, in fact, two fillets of beef: tender, juicy and perfectly matched with the red wine sauce and the crunchy beignets. We have a side of potato and chive puree ($7) though we hardly need it, but it's so creamy and delicious we scoff the lot.
After another decent pause we're offered the dessert menu by our friendly and efficient waiter. Seeing as we're dining in an 80s landmark, ordering the white chocolate and almond bombe Alaska with oranges and passionfruit ($16) is appealing, but we decide to share the chocolate fondant tart and creme fraiche icecream with berry caramel ($16). It arrives still warm from the kitchen and, once you cut into the crunchy pastry, oozes rich, melted chocolate into the icecream and berry sauce. Divine, but impossible to finish.
We may have been a bit disappointed that there were no shrimp cocktails, salmon mousses or beef bourguignon in sight, but we certainly enjoyed our choices from the menu and found the service excellent. And though the weather outdoors meant there wasn't much to watch, we certainly ate, drank and talked the night away. We'll be back to get stuck into that cocktail list, perhaps taking advantage of the complimentary nibbles and finger food on offer Thursdays and Fridays from 5.30pm-6.30pm. Cin cin indeed!
From the menu: Buffalo mozzarella caprese salad with prosciutto ($25.50); Pappardelle with duck ragout ($21); Pan roasted snapper ($35.50); Beef fillet ($39); Chocolate fondant tart ($16).
Drinks: Licensed with an extensive wine and cocktail list.