Auckland Restaurant Review: With Manzo, A Very Good Steakhouse Rises In Remuera

By Jesse Mulligan
Remuera steakhouse Manzo is decorated traditionally, with white tablecloths and dark wood trimmings. Photo / Babiche Martens


Cuisine: Steakhouse

Address: 415 Remuera Rd, Remuera

Phone: (09) 600 1142

Reservations: Accepted

Drinks: Fully licensed

From the menu: Prawn terrine $33; grilled octopus $38; scotch fillet $90; wagyu burger $34; semifreddo $18

Rating: 17/20

Score: 0-7 Steer clear. 8-12 Disappointing, give it a miss. 13-15 Good, give it

I sensed that it was a fairly guarded welcome I received at Manzo, possibly due to me referring in a previous column to their new outdoor courtyard as having “smoker’s corner vibes”. In my defence, three staff members were smoking in that very courtyard on the night we returned but, accurate or not, it is possible I could have kept my observations to myself or said something a bit more positive given that I was reviewing a different restaurant.

Anyway, I was less focused on the staff and more on my dining partner Karl, a friendly acquaintance who had expressed an interest in coming to a meal so that he could witness an expert reviewer in action. I am not good at taking compliments, and I don’t mean that in the usual way. I don’t have difficulty accepting praise, I accept it much too readily. I have changed entire outfits, relationships, careers simply because somebody said something nice to me, so, predictably, I booked him in for dinner and looked forward to putting on a masterclass.

The prawn terrine. Photo / Babiche Martens
The prawn terrine. Photo / Babiche Martens

“Is this the prawn or the octopus?” he wondered aloud when our first entree arrived.

“It’s the octopus,” I replied confidently.

“It’s the prawn,” said the waiter.

Hmm, bad start. Eventually the octopus did arrive, looking unmistakably like itself. I dug in and chewed thoughtfully.

“Is there a little vanilla in this?” I asked the waiter.

“Hahahahahaha!” he said. “No.”

His laughter hurt my feelings and, doubling down, I asked if he might check with the chef. He left and, shortly, returned with confirmation from the kitchen that there was indeed no vanilla. How the team out the back must have laughed at that one. I ordered another glass of wine and sulked.

The beeswax-aged scotch fillet. Photo / Babiche Martens
The beeswax-aged scotch fillet. Photo / Babiche Martens

Manzo is a steakhouse, and a very good one. Though I’m sure you can order red meat east of the Southern Motorway, I can’t think of any restaurants that are famous for it. Karl, who cooks steak once a week at home, was dead keen to try the house specialty so I steered him towards the scotch and he loved it. It had the darkened appearance of a well-hung piece of beef (they have a big glass dry ager in case you want to watch this happening close up) which I see now on the menu is “beeswax-aged”, though we weren’t offered any info on that.

Service runs the spectrum, from “young and well meaning” to “old and seen-it-all”. I was particularly impressed with the sommelier, who spoke quite beautifully about the wines and was able to find the right, accessible language to recommend the bottles we didn’t recognise.

And the food is really good. If you’ve been to Jervois Steak House a few times and gotten used to expensive, unadorned steak you might be surprised how much effort they put into the other dishes here. I loved that prawn, which had been removed from its shell then cut up and set in a cylinder-shaped terrine, then sliced into little wheel shapes (almost like the cross-section of an octopus tentacle, you might say). There is a lovely range of textures to this and it comes with a bright, mild nduja and a little “white gazpacho” for creaminess — the whole thing is a work of art to look at and to eat.

The octopus was the daily special, prepared much less fussily and served with confidence: simply grilled, with some sliced olives and braised veges. It was the sort of thing you’d get at a great restaurant near the Mediterranean coast — in Italy or perhaps Provence, and I loved that they had the imagination to offer it as a “dish of the day”.

The Manzo cheeseburger. Photo / Babiche Martens
The Manzo cheeseburger. Photo / Babiche Martens

It may seem counterintuitive to order a burger from a steak restaurant, but I got special permission from the owner and he was into it, in fact, it turns out the Wagyu hamburger is one of their most popular dishes. Served simply between two buns with lettuce, tomato and cheese, it was all about the patty, which was so juicy that when I bit into it a gush of liquid poured out of the burger, down my chin and onto the napkin on my lap. After a few more bites I had covered myself and everything around me in burger juice, and could probably have used a little assistance — a napkin for my napkin, for example. Don’t order this on a date, but if you’re up for a great burger don’t go past it.

They have some nice little rituals if you’re having steak — you choose your knife from a tray of weaponry, then someone else approaches with a caddy of mustards. Your steak arrives with two slices pre-cut — I think probably to show you that it’s been cooked to your requested doneness, but also because there are few ways to make a slab of meat look pretty on a plate, and this does improve the visuals slightly. In our case the steak was perfectly cooked, glistening with edibility, and you barely felt the need to pour over the little jug of jus that came with it.

Manzo’s decor strikes a traditional tone. Photo / Babiche Martens
Manzo’s decor strikes a traditional tone. Photo / Babiche Martens

Manzo is decorated traditionally, with white tablecloths, a dark wooden bar dominating the room and photos of mid-century film stars and other pop-cultural elements taking up most of the wall space. It’s a good, flash restaurant for people in the mood for a certain sort of meal, and Remuera is all the better for that.

More restaurant reviews

From dining out editor Jesse Mulligan.

Newly renovated Farina is the happiest Italian spot in Ponsonby. With an expanded and refreshed interior, Farina is buzzy and beautiful.

Okome is a petite neighbourhood Japanese spot with plenty to love. At the Eden Terrace restaurant you’ll find sublime sushi, yakitori and much more.

Hamilton’s Mr Pickles would make an Auckland top 50 restaurant list any day of the week. Locals are lucky to have it; out-of-towners should find an excuse to visit.

The North Shore has a little gem, and it’s an alfresco pasta spot. It is a food truck, with hand-made gnocchi and excellent individual tiramisu portions.

New Epsom restaurant doubles as ‘somewhere James Bond might drink if he was priced out of Herne Bay’. It’s the right kind of neighbourhood spot — suburban but sophisticated, classy but casual.

Unlock this article and all our Viva Premium content by subscribing to 

Share this article: