Address: 82 Gladstone Rd, Parnell
Phone: (09) 309 9514
Rating out of 10: Food: 8, Service: 8, Value: 7, Ambience: 7

Restaurant customers can be tricky beasts. If they are feeling irritable, even the best food and service might not lighten the mood and grumpy internet postings will follow.

A vexing drive through vile Auckland traffic on a dark, wind-lashed, rain-soaked night is not calculated to deliver an easy-to-please audience, particularly in an eating place where you can't book and may have to retreat into the darkness.

But we were lucky at Rosie, and secured a decent table in what was a surprisingly busy atmosphere given that the sensible thing to do that day was to stay at home by the fire.

The welcome was warm and the spirits started to lift.


The surroundings, too, tended to cheer a body. This small cafe, another in the lively Hip Group stable, has been refurbished and is visually appealing, with dark brown woven chairs and ottomans and a pretty chandelier. It is cosy without being uncomfortably cramped and the enjoyment of other customers is infectious. The kitchen is open and there is a central area displaying cabinet offerings, particularly dessert options, in an appealing way that leads you to think Rosie must be a pleasant spot in its daytime cafe persona.

But for our evening visit, the menu was well-pitched. The offerings are divided roughly into price categories with opening skewers at about $10, entree-size dishes at $18 and mains at $20 to $34, so you can mix and match to meet any size of appetite.

There is a fair amount of novelty on display, with the first courses including bone marrow with organic egg yolk and arugula crumb, parson's nose and ox tongue with jerusalem artichoke. By the time this review appears, your choice may be different as a new menu is about to be launched. But the style is unlikely to change. This is, in all respects, a stylish restaurant as are most of its customers, which is to be expected of somewhere calculated to win a core following from Parnell residents. You won't see many black singlets and gumboots here.

The service, too, has a certain chic and is attentive almost to a fault, with staff meticulous in explaining the dishes and the options. It was difficult to resist the "h"-free pronunciation of hazelnuts, which featured in two or three dishes, but the simple-sounding broccoli with chilli and preserved lemon won selection. It was simple: just-cooked vegetables enlivened by a hint of spice. Our other first course was the cured kingfish, again with chilli and lime and fennel. This was enjoyable but for my taste the sweetness in the processing took away the essential nature of the fish.

The spatchcock came with strong backing from the staff and sounded appealing but it would have meant another dose of chilli, so I opted for another well-promoted dish, the short rib. This was a standout with a flavour almost too muscular, having been marinated and slow-roasted before being taken off the bone and served with chargrilled brussels sprouts.

Our other main was another good meat dish, perfectly cooked, tender lamb leg with parsnip puree and a tart accompaniment of black olives with anchovy vinaigrette. The servings were reasonably generous but I was glad I had been talked into a side of the roast potatoes with garlic, which was terrific.

The dessert list is restricted to three items. Apparently the apple pie is the best-seller but the cabinet selection adds several options and we took one. This was a rhubarb, pear and hazelnut tart, acceptable without being memorable.

As a person who regrets the passing of savouries as a means of ending a meal, I couldn't resist the beetroot and olive panna cotta and it did turn out to be a long way from conventional dessert sweetness - so much so that it rendered my Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise a bit of an error. It looked good and I enjoyed it, which was something of a summary of our entire evening.

In spite of the weather the world had become a sunnier place, and that's no bad test of any eating place.

Our meal: $164 for two first courses, two mains and two desserts with five glasses of wine.

Our wine: A varied and sensibly priced list with good beers and
cocktails. The 2013 Mount Michael Central Otago pinot gris was as stylish as the cafe and the Fromm La Strada 2011 pinot noir was excellent, while the 2006 Conde de Valdemar rioja held its own with the beef.

Verdict: Another good example of the new school of Auckland eating place, relaxed but with plenty of flair.