Address: 592 Great North Rd
Phone: (09) 376 4309

Has Ponsonby finally reached Grey Lynn? By Grey Lynn, I mean that raffish, pleasantly down-at-heel block of shops at the western end of Williamson Ave where a good butcher and unpretentious eateries rub shoulders with a TAB, a junk shop and a dairy selling taro and plantains in streetside boxes.

It reminds me of the old Ponsonby, where artists and trade unionists, students and immigrants gave it a boho vibe. Now you can't move for Remuera tractors and women sozzled on bubbly saying "ohmygod".

Slick and chic, Pocket Bar and Kitchen, which opened last week, feels more like Ponsonby than Grey Lynn. It occupies a glassed-in courtyard behind the closed ASB (the entrance is a few steps down Tuarangi Rd) and what I assume was an outbuilding to the bank.

As a bar, it is bouncing: good tap beers and cider pours from spigots in the wall, the wine list is eclectic, the cocktails impressive. But there is that "kitchen" in the name.


At the risk of disturbing readers who tell me a restaurant should be allowed to find its feet before being reviewed (I reckon if they're open and charging, they are asking to be assessed), the Professor and I dropped by in the first week of operation.

It was probably just as well. Had we left it any longer, it would have taken a forensic pathologist to confirm the spiced lamb chops were, in fact, from a deceased animal.

North African spiced lamb chops and wilted silverbeet salad. Photo / Fiona Goodall
North African spiced lamb chops and wilted silverbeet salad. Photo / Fiona Goodall

They were described as North African, which meant they had been rolled in a cumin-laden spice mix before being put in the oven for I'm guessing a week. Juice from the thin slice of lemon on the side could not dispel the impression they were mummified remains or geological specimens.

A hummus flavoured with tahini and broad beans was pretty nice, but the "crisp" flat bread was as greasy as a midnight spring roll. Seaweed chips with tempura batter were also remarkably oily. And if the silverbeet had wilted, as the menu claimed, it was presumably in response to being unkindly spoken to, not from being exposed to boiling water. I think the word they were looking for was raw, and they could have added "stalky".

The one truly satisfying dish we tried was a "Vietnamese" beef tartare (flavours of coriander and chilli), but the nahm jim, a sauce of Thai origin, was an inexplicably gelatinised lump - not unpleasant, but it took surgical technique to distribute it through the meat.

I don't doubt this will be a popular watering hole for the short period local attention spans last, but it's a bar, really (they take your credit card and open a tab when you sit down). It has some way to go before living up to the "kitchen" part of its name.

Plates $8-$18
Verdict: The bar is hopping; the kitchen is limping.