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“Can you recommend me a place to eat?”  Depot.

“What’s your favourite restaurant in Auckland?”  Depot.

That’s generally how conversations go, but wait times at Al Brown’s Depot Eatery detract most people. Even on a Monday night the restaurant has kickstarted a waitlist and is full right up to the drinks tables outside as soon as we hit six o’clock. Tip: get in at 5:30 and make sure the whole gang is on time. I can assure you it’s well worth the wait. Classic Depot food is at least a dozen fresh tuatua clams to begin and fish sliders for all ($17 for 3 or $5.50 each) – you will want more than one. If oysters are your thing, get those too. I recommend going for many small plates to share. You can request to get portion sizes as per the number of diners, so no fighting occurs. The smoked brisket tortilla ($15 for 3 or $5 each) is packed with flavour and incredibly juicy. The big plates are not as intriguing. The skirt steak ($25) is good, but probably not Baduzzi good. Though the mustard is one-of-a-kind and the tobacco onions are so incredibly delicious – can we get those as a side on its own? There’s a lot of meat on the plate with the crisp ‘Freedom Farms’ pork hock ($32) but the meat is dry and lacking that punch of flavour that you have in the other dishes. Potato skins ($10) are great as a side, they do fill you up almost immediately though. When dessert time rolls around tell them you’re going next door. Al Brown’s The Fed 3-way pie combo ($18) is best especially if you want everything, otherwise get the banoffee ($11.50) if you’re going solo.

Depot is the restaurant that truly reflects the kiwi culture – rustic decor, fresh seafood, casual, lively. There are no white table cloths and no gasps when you drop a fork or when you get the bill. Service is top notch, your ice cold tumbler rarely goes empty for a few minutes. Rest easy and recommend this place to all your friends visiting from afar. It’s always a good time at the Depot.

Oh, and did I mention the sliders? You have to get the sliders.

Depot Eatery
86 Federal Street, Auckland Central

Gusto is the new kid on the block replacing Dine at The Grand Hotel. The cuisine is Italian and encourages the sharing of food round the table. _MG_2714 copy _MG_2715 copy We went for dinner on their second day of opening, the staff were friendly and we left feeling satisfied.

Each table was adorned with a bottle of Sean Connolly’s olive oil. It was super tasty and had a definite fruity flavour to it. I was convinced that I needed a bottle of this for home but soon found that nearly every dish was lathered in the oil and was a little overwhelmed._MG_2729 copyTuna crudo, green apple, radish ($22) – bland and lacked excitement._MG_2730 copy
Split king prawns ($38) – this was delicious. The prawns were fresh and the seasoning was rich and paired well._MG_2742 copy

Pork, veal meatballs ($12) – it seems meatballs are the craze in town right now, so maybe we’ve had enough already. These were on the saltier side._MG_2735 copy_MG_2798 copy Grilled octopus ($18) – surprisingly the seasoning was exactly the same as the prawns. We felt it matched the former more._MG_2743 copyAll the pastas are made in-house. They certainly were the stars of the meal.

Pappardelle, wild boar ragu ($28) – the pappardelle is a wider and flat type of pasta. It was cooked just right._MG_2758 copy_MG_2787 copy Gusto’s mushroom risotto ($28) – the risotto is made from scratch the minute you order. The texture was great but the dish was far too salty and we had to return it._MG_2761 copy Linguini with fruits of the sea ($28) – we enjoyed this dish. The pasta sauce wasn’t overpowering, keeping it light and fresh._MG_2774 copyStrawberry, marsala, semifreddo ($14) – this was super creamy though nothing astounding. I wasn’t a fan of the strawberry sauce that accompanied it. _MG_2776 copy
Warm chocolate pudding ($14) – the pudding had a crispy outer edge and a soft interior. The molten chocolate inside was incredibly rich and delicious._MG_2778 copy_MG_2780 copy_MG_2792 copy _MG_2793 copy Gusto offers fresh detox and energy organic smoothies at $10 each. Their lunch and dinner menus are the same. There’s both buffet and a la carte breakfast. Although the pasta was impressive, the dishes weren’t at the point of convincing us to be back again quickly.

Gusto at The Grand.
90 Federal Street, Auckland Central.

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