Address: 283 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby
Phone: (09) 360 2122
We spent: $330 for two
Book online with Restaurant Hub
Rating: 20 — Outstanding

At Sidart, the toilet paper is en pointe. Literally. I went to the bathroom twice, and both times, the roll ended in a neat triangle.

Who does this?

No, seriously, who does this, because every time I looked around every staff member was fully occupied tending to every customer's every gustatory need. Attention to detail? I was surprised there wasn't a chocolate on my pillow when I got home.

It was just a regular Wednesday. We established this when we booked online, when someone phoned to confirm our booking on the day and when we were escorted to a table with a gazillion-dollar view. "No special occasion," we said, cheerfully. And then Sidart proved us wrong.

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Spoiler alert: This is a rave review.

Across five official courses, plus three pre-dinner snack plates, the bread and a cheese course that was actually icecream, I furrowed my brow just once. For about half a second I thought perhaps I didn't like the tang of something in an emulsion. In hindsight I can't actually remember exactly where in the menu that happened, and anyway there was paua and I haven't had paua since I lived in the South Island.

Earlier this year, chef Sid Sahrawat announced he was moving to locally source all ingredients for a new menu that would take guests on a "culinary voyage". Don't panic. This is not one of those degustations where they recite the whakapapa of the hand-cut grass clippings while your oat milk sorbet melts. At Sidart, we had to ask where that paua came from.

"We have a guy in Bluff," said the waitperson. "He grabs our sea lettuce too."

But later, I heard the same waitperson carefully and formally explain the provenance of the abalone to an international visitor. Knowing exactly how to read a table is a rare and laudable skill.

You are, without question, at a fine-dining restaurant where ingredients and guests are treated with extraordinary care. But you get to eat that food with gusto. Nobody frowns if you laugh very loudly, there is zero judgement when you say yes to a second piece of the incredibly crusty sourdough and a woman dining on her own looked as comfortable as a celebratory party of six.

Our night started with a series of snacks, including a thin and crunchy black sesame brioche with a little miso custard and cured ham. They should never take this off the menu.

Dishes change according to what's good and growing right now. The paua came with corn's last hurrah — fresh kernels and a flossy pile of crisp, dry husk. Visually stunning and just when I feared the kaimoana might be overpowered by the corn, the sea lettuce kicked in and I was beachside watching my dad emerge from Whatamango Bay with dinner in each hand.

There were a couple of moments like this, when the food kicked hard at a childhood memory. Dessert was, ostensibly, a peach. But it was stuffed with an apple sorbet, dulce de leche and candied fennel that (oddly) put me back in my grandmother's garden eating sun-warmed gooseberries.

Too much tenuousness can overwhelm. Sidart grabs you back with a slab of duck that tastes like the best duck you've ever had and then the lamb belly drops from the bone like your knife is a drill sergeant. Mostly, I was just sad we'd ordered the short menu.

Yes, you are paying for all of this privilege ($95 for five courses; $160 for seven) but you should also get the wine match ($70 and $90) especially if Sean is pouring. So many degustation experiences are let down by an austere and technical approach to drinks. At Sidart we were charmed and delighted (and I liked the Foxes Island chardonnay so much, I went home and ordered two bottles).

In 2016, my Canvas colleague spent a day documenting Sahrawat and his fastidious consideration of the carrot. Two years later, the chef (and a team that includes Lesley Chandra and Jason Kim) is still at it. Our menu included a tightly rolled coil of thinly shaved carrot, cooked oh-so-slowly somewhere near some chorizo until the vegetable tasted like the melty, meaty scrapings of a roasting pan. There were little lightly pickled plugs of carrot and a waft of carroty acetate. Gentle clouds of grated macadamia gummed it all together on the palate. All I could think was: who does this?