Address: 7 Sale St, Auckland
Phone: (09) 307 8148
Website: sale-st.co.nz
Cuisine: Contemporary

There are some people in the food and wine industry who seem to have the magic touch. They see an opportunity in setting up a new bar or eatery and just go for it. If they're smart they get it right by spending enough on the fit-out, hiring the right staff and drawing the punters in with some clever promotion. Luke Dallow is such a person.

He's not new to setting up bars, restaurants and even takeaways and by all accounts he's good at it. His latest venture, Dallow's Restaurant, is not so much a new eatery as a revamped use of part of his Sale St venue. And so it was that I made a beeline for one of Auckland's busiest bars where I'd arranged to meet a good friend. On arriving at the Sale St complex we were ushered through the main bar area and through the heavy drapes to Dallow's Restaurant.

I immediately fell in love with the decor. A lighting feature emulating a giant full moon, dominates one end of the rectangular space and an oriental feel pervades with big, black lacquered furniture down one side. Although the layout does achieve a degree of intimacy, over the course of the evening being partitioned from the bar only by heavy curtaining does tend to detract from the overall feeling of eating out at a restaurant.

We were informed by our waiter that though the restaurant was new, the menu was already on its second version and with ex-French Cafe chef Nick Honeyman at the helm, it looked promising enough. For a starter I went for Australian king prawn cannelloni with water chestnuts. Nothing pedestrian about that and it delivered, absolutely. The pasta tube was so soft I wanted to curl up beside it. The filling of succulent prawn and crunchy water chestnuts provided a great textural contrast. The accompanying bisque was as bisque should be - rich, musky and sweet.

The other starter was less of a knock-out. Pork belly with sauteed scallops and cauliflower puree was really nothing special. Not quite melty enough and even lacking a bit of the richness that we expect from pork was the verdict.

With a list of half a dozen tempting main dishes to choose from we were both drawn to the standing rib for two to share. First to arrive was a special steak knife each, followed by our dinner plates, smeared with a roasted garlic puree, then a plate of chunky hand-cut fries and mushrooms.

Last came the platter, with sliced beef fanning its length and the thick lone rib at one end like an exclamation mark. We liked the look of it, we loved the taste of it and the tenderness was wonderful. It might have been great to have the standing rib arrive as one proud, hunk of meat with some skilful, tableside butchering taking place. Nonetheless, we happily devoured the entire serving, both of us even taking turns at chewing on the bone. We continued our theme of sharing by ordering the dessert platter. Some of these worked better than others.

Dallow's hits the mark on many levels. I'm keen to see what magic Luke and Nick can come up with for this restaurant to really become more than just a flashed-up corner of Sale St.

From the menu: Australian King Prawn Cannelloni $18, Pork belly with Seared Scallops $18, 600gm Angus Pure Standing Rib Eye (for 2) with handcut fries and portobello mushrooms $72, Dessert Tasting Plate for Two $30
Drinks: Fully licensed
Rating: 7/10

NB: We paid $55 for three courses. This is a special opening offer.