Jesse Mulligan’s Auckland Restaurant Review: The Terrace, Oyster & Chop’s Seafood-Forward Sibling

By Jesse Mulligan
The banana prawns, sashimi and gnocchi on the menu at The Terrace, a new restaurant in the Viaduct. Photo / Babiche Martens


Cuisine: Seafood bistro

Address: 87 Customs St West, Viaduct Harbour

Reservations: Accepted

Phone: (09) 377 0125

Drinks: Fully licensed

From the menu: Oysters $33 per half dozen; sashimi $32; Parisian gnocchi $25; wagyu bavette $53; banana prawns $39

Rating: 14/20

Score: 0-7 Steer clear. 8-12 Disappointing, give it a miss. 13-15 Good, give it a go. 16-18 Great, plan a visit. 19-20 Outstanding, don’t delay.

How are we to appraise an empty restaurant? It’s almost impossible to imagine what the vibe will be like when it’s full.

When I visited, the only other people there were the waiters (two of them, lovely, with mostly excellent English) and the manager (jolly, busy, not sure why). He told me they expected things would pick up when the weather was warmer, a prediction that sounds like optimism but is more like pessimism when somebody says it to you on the 8th of June.

What is the point of The Terrace, an almost stand-alone, almost outdoor restaurant annexed to Oyster and Chop?

“It’s the sort of place people can come for two drinks before they go to the show Hamilton or …” the manager paused for a moment but couldn’t think of another nice thing to do in the city after two drinks.

The Terrace dining room looks out over the Viaduct. Photo / Babiche Martens
The Terrace dining room looks out over the Viaduct. Photo / Babiche Martens

“So it’s a bar for grown ups?” I offered, trying to help out with a catchy marketing slogan he could use once his go-to musical closed in three days’ time.

“Yes!” he agreed. “But we will let some young ones in too, if you know what I mean!”

He laughed, so I laughed. My dad laughed. The three of us were having quite a time.

The Terrace isn’t empty because the food’s bad. In fact, it’s good. Seafood-forward, the menu lists a selection of kaimoana favourites (oysters, sashimi, prawn cocktail) along with some really expensive numbers (crayfish, pāua, caviar) and some bistro standards (steak, gnocchi, seared tuna).

I wasn’t trying to break any spending records and actually struggled to find a main I was interested in once Dad had claimed the wagyu bavette. I ended up with banana prawns (four for $39), which were nice with truffled mash and a black garlic cream that adhered to the plate so well that for the first half of the meal I thought it was a glaze. But I did feel a bit like I’d eaten two entrees.

The Parisian gnocchi, with cauliflower, parmesan and black pepper cream. Photo / Babiche Martens
The Parisian gnocchi, with cauliflower, parmesan and black pepper cream. Photo / Babiche Martens

The tables aren’t super-suitable for dinner. They put us each in a double seater next to the plastic window which had a nice view of the Viaduct, but the seats were low enough to the ground so that you had to choose if your knees went in opposite directions lotus-style or you kept them together and sent your ankles out west like a 50s pinup girl. Either way, the table top sits at about nipple height, requiring you to go up and over with your cutlery and generally making you feel like a child at the adults’ table.

The food is delivered as advertised, with occasional surprises. The sashimi was cut as thick as your finger — generous bright slabs of tuna and salmon laid on a plate with coconut cream and some micro-basil.

This worked well enough and didn’t really need a separate dish of soy sauce — which proved more trouble than it was worth once you’d hoisted one of the fish/fingers out of the bowl and then tried to lower it into the soy, which formed a moat around an island of solid wasabi — that island refusing to yield to some increasingly less-gentle nudging with a floppy piece of tuna.

That whole small plate section was sold to us, inevitably, as “tapas-style” but I think you’re better to choose a couple of dishes for yourself.

The gnocchi was pretty flawless — with cauli, parmesan and black pepper cream — but who’s taking turns on a bowl of pasta?

Bao buns were a much easier proposition and will be a better bet ahead of one of these hypothetical trips to the theatre. You can pick them up, for one thing, and the fried blue cod with tartare sauce is a simple offering you’d have to be some sort of monster not to enjoy.

The sashimi selection, with dashi jelly, lime, coconut cream and basil. Photo / Babiche Martens
The sashimi selection, with dashi jelly, lime, coconut cream and basil. Photo / Babiche Martens

You couldn’t fault the steak either — a nice piece of meat cooked precisely to the medium-rare it was requested, glossed with a French red wine jus and sliced up in the kitchen for our convenience. It came with a quenelle of soubise, a lovely thick onion sauce — these classic French flourishes and the overall deliciousness suggesting a kitchen that is formally trained and working hard.

You really notice the playlist when you’re alone in a restaurant. They played ‘Cupid’ by Miki Matsubara, then ‘Sweet Love’ by Junko Ohashi, then ‘Street Dancer (2021 Remaster)’ by Hiromi Iwasaki before I stopped Shazamming. I wasn’t familiar with these artists but see that together they form a sort of Japanese Classic Hits compilation and while I enjoyed it for what it was, I’m not sure if it’s quite the hype song medley you’d be looking for if you’re the sort of person who goes to the Viaduct for pre-Spark Arena pre-loading.

But it was quirky and maybe The Terrace should embrace these quirks rather than try to compete with the likes of Soul Bar (whose outdoor area was full that night despite not being much different in terms of comfort or topography).

I don’t doubt the manager is working hard on a plan for success — if the restaurant sticks to its strengths it might just get there.

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