We spent $172 for two.
Rating: 15 — Good

Maybe My Food Bag was particularly good that night. Maybe Dry July was keeping everyone indoors. For whatever reason, when I rang R&D Kitchen to make a booking, the woman who answered the phone told me not to be alarmed if we were the only diners there.

Hey, Grey Lynn — where the bloody hell are you?

This is a pretty, not-so-little place, doing interesting things with offal, bycatch and vinyl records but on a Thursday night late last month, we had the run of the restaurant.

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R&D Kitchen at 551 Richmond Rd, Grey Lynn, Auckland. Photo / Getty Images
R&D Kitchen at 551 Richmond Rd, Grey Lynn, Auckland. Photo / Getty Images

Hospitality is a precarious business. Who in their right and solvent mind would commit to long hours and steep overheads for two people? The least we could do was order every single thing on the blackboard menu plus pudding. Two out of two diners would later confirm this was (mostly) a great decision.

R&D Kitchen is also Richmond and Domain and has only recently started doing dinners, Thursday-Saturday. It has also been trying whisky nights, BYO vinyl nights and this thing where you taste a bunch of drinks and vote for what will make the wine list for the coming month. They call it "wineocracy". Seriously, could it get more Grey Lynn?

The restaurant is split across two levels and our really splendid waitperson didn't complain when we chose a seat that meant she had to take the stairs. Through sheer force of her perfectly pitched personality, I quickly forgot we were the only people there.

She declared lamb's brains delicious ("it's all they ate in the 1940s") and recommended the parore, though confessed she personally preferred when the fish supplier was doing deals on skate. I asked about the whisky nights and she said they were excellent, but she was no expert. "If it was rum," she said wistfully," I would have been in like a pirate."

The yolk butter, peas, radish and sourdough dish at R&D Kitchen. Photo / Getty Images
The yolk butter, peas, radish and sourdough dish at R&D Kitchen. Photo / Getty Images

We were acting on her instructions when we ordered all four of the $16 savoury dishes on the blackboard. The plates are not quite full-size, but you wouldn't want to divvy them between more than two people. There is a smattering of veges on each dish, but there are no formal sides — salads, fries, breads, etc — to bulk out your order. It is, perhaps, absences like this that make it a little hard to exactly figure R&D's game plan.

That thoroughly democratic wine list is a lovely idea, however it's small (just six choices, at $11-$15 a glass) and during our visit lacked some usual suspects — there were no chardonnays or sauvignon blancs, for example.

Our first dish was a whipped blue cheese with grilled sourdough, fresh apple and toasted hazelnuts. Inoffensive, and quickly consumed. I steeled myself for what was coming next.

I am more squeamish about internal organs than I am arms and legs and other standard animal cuts.

The lamb brains were small and the squiggly bits not as noticeable as I had feared. Slightly springy to the bite, they yielded to a rich creaminess. I was reminded, oddly, of oysters. Yum.

Parore (sometimes called black snapper) is fish du jour for chefs with even a passing interest in sustainability. The flavour is good, but the flesh can be dense and rubbery — think unrefined crayfish. R&D took a genius "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach, adding karengo seaweed. I liked the extra chew from the seaweed our waitperson had described as "sea bacon".

Our last dish was crispy-skinned, succulent pork belly and little potatoes. It was supposed to come with salad, but a dozen baby spinach leaves was about two dozen baby spinach leaves short of fulfilling that potential. Never mind. There was plenty of pork belly.

Dessert was, sadly, a serious let-down. The menu promised basil but it was, apparently "too wilted". It also promised mandarins, but they were (in July?!) freeze-dried. The splodge of chocolate ganache was okay, but it would have been so much better with fresh accompaniments.

The chef left the restaurant before we did. We had eaten all there was to offer. We were definitely the best customers that night, but next time, I hope we have competition.

R & D Kitchen
551 Richmond Rd, Grey Lynn
Ph: (09) 361 1100