When it comes to eating out, there’s two things us Kiwis appreciate more than anything: good ol’ fashioned hospitality and perfectly executed Kiwiana tucker. There’s nothing better than rocking up to a dining establishment, being greeted like a long-lost mate and getting amongst some comforting, no frills kai. Now, what would you say if we told you that you could find all that in Aotea Square? Yep, Aotea House has moved in and it’s the gastro pub you never knew you needed.
First things first. Can we get a ‘hallelujah’ over how much Aotea Square has upped its game?! On any given night, the place buzzes with people from all walks of life, getting amongst the square’s new energy. And with the opening of Aotea House, we’ve got one more delicious reason to be there.
Stepping into Aotea House, you’ll notice that the design is a nod to all things Aotearoa, seamlessly merged with modern furnishing and industrial-chic details. The large heated courtyard is dotted with comfy chairs and couches, long benches to perch at and a lush vertical garden with a TV classily camouflaged in the middle. It’s only a matter of time before Aotea House hums as an after-work haunt.
Inside, exposed brick walls act as canvases for murals and a bar stocked with a selection of unique NZ-made bevvies takes centre stage alongside the open kitchen. Manager, Calvin Clapperton, has decades of hospo experience (Toto, Tribeca and some of Australia's best restaurants) under his belt and aims to showcase New Zealand’s up-and-coming food and beverage producers.
‘We look for people doing really Kiwi stuff and aim to hero New Zealand produce and products,’ he explains.
And that’s where Chef Murray Wiblin steps in. Having created culinary magic at some of Auckland’s best restaurants (Ostro, Hotel de Brett and Tyler Street Garage), Murray was given free reign to come up with a New Zealand-inspired menu. From fresh, zingy raw fish and Pacific Rock oysters to smoked eel croquettes and lamb ribs with mint and snape pesto, Murray and Calvin have made it their mission to tell the unique stories of the produce through their dishes—and it’s a breath of fresh air.
Hats off to the lads because they’ve given one particular niggly ingredient justice—paua.
‘We like to tackle ingredients that people are scared to work with,’ Colin says.
Notorious for becoming rubbery, Aotea House have perfected the art of cooking paua in their dish with smoked potato gnocchi, shiitake, garlic shoots and lemon butter. Special mention must also be given to the prime beef skirt steak on a brisket with duck fat bubble and squeak and béarnaise. Trust us when we say it’s out of controool good.
On the beverage front, Calvin has searched high and low for ‘bizarre’ spirits and wines. There’s a Chard from Tutukaka, Pinot Noir from Alexandra and Fiordland Blue Duck Vodka and Black Robin Gin from the Chatham Islands, of all places. Beer drinkers can quench their thirst with a Heineken, a Monteith’s or something a bit craftier from Black Dog Brewery.
All in all, Aotea House is exactly what Aotea Square has been waiting for. The food is stellar, the vibes are spot on and the Kiwiana theme will have you feeling like you’re home. What more could one?
For more details about Aotea House, including openings hours, click here.
Image credit: Andrew Wilson