Phone: (09) 377 0349
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Rating out of 10: Food: 9.5 Service: 9 Value: 8.5 Ambience: 9
We spent: $276 for three
Everything here is new and shiny. Glossy, glassy, classy. Did I say shiny? When I say the base of the table could be a mirror to your soul, what I mean is it's a mirror. Wear pants.
It's across the road from the waterfront, on the verge of the Viaduct, but "Beast & Butterflies" is not a social commentary on downtown Auckland, circa 2am. The restaurant's name is a nod to its sister eatery at the world's only other M Social hotel, in Singapore. The latter was designed by Philippe Starck. Auckland's appears to have come courtesy of a very hip French grandmother - all soft raspberry cushions and white-painted spoke-backed chairs. If that reads old-fashioned, it's not; the lines are clean and the overall effect is as polished as that table base.
The opening of this glass-walled, light-filled room could not be better timed. You may have spent your winter ordering kombucha-infused carrots by the glow of Edison bulbs, but it's seriously time to re-do your lippy and get to a dining-room with windows and a bespoke cocktail trolley.
There was no sign of the trolley when we visited, so we ordered The Butterfly ($17) and enjoyed the "just add lemon" tableside science of a purple drink turning magically mauve. High school chemistry would have been better with more gin.
The menu is billed as Pacific Rim with street food influences. This downplays the finesse that lifts, say, a plate of shiitake and tofu gyoza ($17) from dumpling to daring. Delicate crimped parcels arrived beneath a lacy wisp of soy and sesame-infused starch. Style and substance.
"Look at those suckers," said my dining companion. "That's definitely octopus."
She was right. There was no disguising the origin of this beast, but onion flowers lent elegance and flavour, and a crunchy tangle of fennel and celery contrasted beautifully with the tender tentacles ($22).
Beast & Butterflies proclaims it's "feeding the fabulous". Thank you, and right back at you: we were being fabulously fed and even the plates exceeded expectation - they were reminiscent of sea glass, echoed in pale green and gently curved water tumblers.
Hanger steak is the meat you order when you want to be that person who knows vegetable yoghurt is going to be the next big food trend (truly, I heard it on a podcast last week). It's slightly chewy, super flavoursome and, in this case, seared alongside snowpeas and broccolini, ensuring the lady diner gets both types of dietary iron ($23).
So far, we'd selected from the "start small" section of the menu. Any of our dishes might have partnered with a side (wombok slaw, fried tofu, wok greens, etc) and made a passable lunch, but you'd be missing out.
Chilli caramel ham hock with sweetly pickled cucumber and daikon ($36) was all beast. I hacked, inexpertly, and pretended to evenly divide the divinely crisp and meaty portions. A braised short rib rendang curry ($39) was gloriously gelatinous, but we also loved a (considerably cheaper) shredded chicken and lap cheong fried rice dish - $27 worth of smoky carbs.
Why not a 10 out of 10? We wanted more ginger in a ginger brulee. The service was great (and if you were travelling on your own you'd be delighted at the attention to detail) but we would have liked slightly more alone time. These are tiny details. I'm not a regular at the pointy end of a plane, but at Beast & Butterflies I felt like I might be. The bar for hotel restaurants has been raised.