Phone: (09) 377 0125
Rating out of 10: Food: 7, Service: 7, Value: 7, Ambience: 8
As coincidence would have it we have eaten twice within a couple of weeks at establishments claiming the name Oyster and boasting views across marinas. They were some 5328km apart and it is pleasing to report the Auckland version was rather more impressive than its West Australian counterpart. The Mandurah oysters in Australia were small and sweet but the rest of the act was mundane - although, to be fair, the Auckland restaurant is considerably more upmarket and expensive.
This is not to say that the Oyster and Chop, which has opened in the former Food Store premises in the Viaduct square, is in any way fancy. Its pitch is mainstream, calculated to appeal to the broadest cross section. The deliberately traditional name is mirrored in a pretty traditional menu. Apart from the oysters, of which more later, you are looking at the usual suspects: routine starters including chicken liver parfait, calamari and steak tartare, a choice of steaks with traditional sauces, and fish and chips. Nothing here to alarm even the most conservative diner.
The decor is similarly comforting, nice white linen against a largely black background with large amounts of hanging greenery and, of course, a pleasing view into the marina with the passing evening pedestrian parade studded with lean and keen joggers who may fill you with guilt as you spear another chip - or not - as they sweat off into the distance.
The name implied an obligation to try the oysters, of which they offered five varieties and a range of treatments. I went for the Clevedon specimens served au naturel and they were as delightful as anyone could wish, plump, sweet and not too chilled, but it struck me that an opportunity was missed in not making available a mixed platter allowing the shellfish fancier to test the varying species against each other.
We went down the retro path again with our other first course, the much-loved classic prawn cocktail, and it was a decent example with the mandatory Marie Rose sauce, crisp shredded iceberg lettuce and tasty prawns. It was, however, served in a deep glass which made it difficult to extract all the bits and pieces of the tomato jelly, even with the aid of the sesame tuile biscuit.
It seemed odd that in a New Zealand eating house called "Chop", no lamb was listed, the only sample of that cut being a pork offering with walnut mustard, sage and onion gratin and apple. So I reverted to the venison loin, which was well done while the chargrilled baby leek and roasted kumara were visually appealing but a bit of a mess in taste and texture.
Our other main was a standard duck breast paired with a good risotto, tasty and creamy and enlivened with preserved sausage.
The servings were not enormous and we ordered a couple of side dishes of which the chunky fries were good but the sauteed spinach was inadequately drained and sloppy.
We had room for dessert and the floating island was prettily served with our amiable and efficient server pouring on the berry and chrysanthemum consomme in a delicately flavoured dish. I went for the simple sorbets of mango, lychee and raspberry, and they were perfectly acceptable without being extraordinary.
This might sum up the whole meal, food competently prepared and enjoyable without leaving too much of a mark on the memory. But the setting is good and Oyster and Chop, which was very busy on our early-week visit with an apparently large component of corporate types, seems likely to attract a solid audience.
Our meal: $222 for two starters, two mains and two sides, two desserts and four glasses of wine.
Wine list: A respectable wine list with a range of familiar names and some rarities and with the good option of offering carafes.
Verdict: Many a happy hour will be spent during summer for customers enjoying the traditional virtues of this well-run establishment.