Excelsa Centre, 4 Golden Sands Drive,
Golden Sands, Papamoa 3118
Hours: Closes 11pm
Phone: 07-542 0118
On the menu & the buzz
Papa Mo's is one of the best things to happen to that end of Papamoa that no one used to go to in years.
We all know that far end of Papamoa is now a thriving sub-community that's been crying out for somewhere on their back doorstep to eat and drink that has the Mount summer community vibe but doesn't involve an $80 taxi ride to get there!
Papa Mo's have totally struck Neptune's gold by creating somewhere that actually has an atmosphere that matches its outstanding dribble-in-to-your-Negroni-because-it-looks-so-delectable drinks and the most moreish food I've had in a long time.
The space is split in to three parts. Downstairs has a full service restaurant to the left as you walk in and to the right is a well separated bar area, with a massive TV on the wall for all your viewing needs!
There was a lady singing acoustic covers of things like Benny and The Jets, Jolene and Suspicious Minds and her tunes follow you all the way upstairs to the third space: an upstairs Horizon Bar/chill out area with a deck and a sweet view of the sea! Such a nice touch to have that live music coming out the speakers upstairs too, so you feel connected in whatever space you're hanging out in.
The space is decked out in neutral tones with funky pops of bright colour here and there. But not so bright that you feel like you're going to get a migraine or slightly enraged for no reason! It's super roomy in all three spaces, but still has that comfy feel.
On its building and logo is Neptune's face. Neptune, the Roman God of the sea would, I imagine, be pretty stoked with an Aperol Spritz on the top deck of Papa Mo's (yes, finally a two storey restaurant/bar in Papamoa) looking out to the sea thinking about all the work he'd done that day, not to mention all of the admin he had ahead. I'm guessing ruling the sea is full of paperwork.
The only paperwork to concern yourself with at Papa Mo's is trying to narrow down what you want off the menu. Papa Mo's legend says Neptune had a serious face and a fun face and the menu at Papa Mo's reflects that with their 'Fun and Social Plates' and 'Serious Plates'.
The fun plates are perfect if you're in a group. You can get them in portions of two ($16) or three ($22). I like that there is something for everyone on each part of the menu.
As part of the fun plates there are also a bunch of different Bao buns with pork, duck, salmon, prawn and tofu as your option. It's a nod to an oriental flavour, but with the comfort of being able to satisfy the most timid of Kiwi taste buds.
You can step it up from there with the 'Social Plates'. I don't know about you, but I've always been a fan of a drunk fish, so the Gin-cured salmon, pickled cucumber and beetroot, labneh ($15.90) piqued my interest!
This is one of the plethora of gluten free options on the menu, there's plenty for vegos too, like: Crumbed cauliflower, white bean hummus, dukkah, blue cheese cream ($12.90) or Arancini balls with feta, capsicum coulis ($12.90). Nice to see a restaurant that has well thought out options for those people who can't smash back the gluten or don't choose to carnivore it up
We both decided that the Sticky Borneo pork Bao Bun, with slaw and peanuts ($16) was the perfect way to ease in to a main course. At a place like this where literally everything looks good, the hardest thing is actually reining it in and not peaking too soon. There was definitely a peak, in taste!
They come out like these open bun mouths and inside was a slice of the yummiest pork I've have in ages. It was that perfect mix of sticky sauce, moist pork, a fresh slaw (that wasn't overpowering with some sort of weird tangy dressing that so often happens these days) and just enough peanut crumb. The combination and amounts of each aspect of the dish could not have been nailed better.
For the main course, the beef cheek was tempting, but the pork was so good I had it again, upon the recommendation of our waiter (Aron, legend). Sometimes you need to embrace the piggy you know you are inside and order the pork twice. It was a fine time to dine on swine.
So I had the Cider braised pork belly, whipped potato, pickled cabbage, tamarind, cider jus ($29.90)!
Mashed potato was a staple of my childhood, so I always like to try it at a new place. I could live off that whipped potato, with just a little of that cider jus drizzled through it and I'd be putty in your hands if you were wooing me.
The pickled cabbage was just enough tang to break up a couple of rich tastes that pork belly dishes provide. The pork was cooked perfectly (that moistness is so vital) and the crackling was just the perfect crisp-snap consistency on top of a little layer of fat that just ties it all together.
And for dessert, which are all $12.90, the Bourbon pecan pie, salted caramel, peach, vanilla bean icecream is next level. Don't worry, it doesn't taste like a bottle of bourbon has been baked in some pastry, it more just gave it a rich flavour to complement the nutty texture that is so often missing from those kind of pies now.
It was nice to see some actual pecan nuts all through it, rather than just one placed on top! Whoever makes the biscuit-shortbread-pastry-ish base on that pie can come and live at my house rent free, as long as they make me one daily. It was so more-ish, had this beautiful crunchy, but buttery texture. Nom!
As I was making inappropriate noises towards my pork, across the table from me she was consuming the Persian lamb rump, roast kumara salad, feta, greens, port jus ($29.90). I was going to just give you her verdict on it, but turns out she's much smaller than me ...
Therefore I finished hers because she didn't want to ruin her dessert.
That lamb came out perfectly cooked generous slices with that rare, but not too rare, middle it should have. The long beans absorbed all of the flavour of the jus, feta and the herbs they had seasoned the meat with and were these crunchy little explosions. The port jus was the best. It was all I could do to not put my face directly on that plate and lick it clean.
Papa Mo's do 'Doughnut Friday'! They are these amazingly plump brioche doughnuts that have sauce and sprinkle over the top and are pumped full of a creamy filling depending on the flavour you choose! They are an excellent alternative to a dessert if you're full but forcing it cos ... well ... dessert is what it's all about! She had the salted caramel one and it was all I could do to not jump across the table and stick my open mouth below it as she ate it and the creamy filling oozed out the side. Go on a Friday!
The benefit of having an upstairs and downstairs bar is that you'll never have to wait for a drink at Papa Mo's. They've got a sweet selection of beers on tap, and all the usuals in the fridges. Wine list was extensive too. But to be fair, we were there for the cocktails! The cocktails are a perfect mix of deliciousness and 'I'm going to leave my car here and Uber home'! I had an Aperol Spritz, a Negroni and a Tom Collins. She drove home!
Clearly Papa Mo's is a warm and inviting establishment that is nailing the brief it's set itself of being a community bar where the atmosphere is perfect for chilling with friends or the kids, all the way up to a super nice and special meal out for two.
Great place for a date indeed! I would go back there in a second for the food and vibes.
But, just as importantly, I would go back there for Aron Maihi. Aron was our waiter for the night, from the couple of disarming jokes and warm smiles we got right at the start of the night, including a welcome hug and peck on the cheek for my lovely companion! He would get down next to the table and actually talk us through what he'd recommend and how best to attack the menu.
He encourages you to lick the plate, have a laugh, takes the insta pics you need and actually just makes you feel like he's known you for ages and nothing is a problem. He's also a local out Papamoa way, to is clearly loving have such a cool space to work and connect with others in.
So no longer do Papamoa people need to taxi to the Mount for the chill summer vibes and the good food and drinks to match. They have it on their doorstep with Papa Mo's.