Let’s face it, eating out with the rugrats in tow can be daunting at the best of times. And there’s certainly no way you’re attempting to eat in a fine dining restaurant—until now, that is. ‘Whoa! Studios’ is changing all the rules for family-friendly dining, opening an epic studio, playground and eatery in one.
The restaurant has suitably been called The Grounds—a nod to the surrounding Waitakere Ranges. And it’s beautiful. There are high ceilings, exposed brick walls, large booths and an open kitchen—perfect for watching the skilled chefs work their magic.
Speaking of chefs, Ben Bayly is at the helm of this kitchen. Formerly working in Michelin Star restaurants in both England and France then moving home to head The Grove and Baduzzi, he’s conceptualized this new idea of a modern family kitchen.
Plates are designed to share. From the ‘snacks & apps’ menu try the scampi roll with Russian dressing and sauerkraut or opt for the organic Harmony lamb koftas with chia seeds and house-made tomato sauce. Hand crafted pasta comes in a handful of varieties: rigatoni, handkerchief, spaghetti, bucatini and ravioli. These are paired with simple but seriously delicious combinations such as butternut, pancetta and sage or slow-cooked beef short rib with tangy pickled veges.
Being a dad himself, Bayly doesn’t take the term ‘eat your greens’ lightly—there are nine vege dishes on his menu, but we think his beautiful sides will certainly ensure the kids will down at least a few mouthfuls. Crushed edamame is served with butter, chilli, sea salt and sourdough while the runner beans are dressed with crunchy quinoa, feta and salsa verde. But you must try the courgette spaghetti—accompanied with prawn bolognese it’s a fun take on a classic pasta dish. And if you’ve got a hankering for some meat, try their Wakanui beef rump, sustainable Taupo T-bone or perfectly cooked hapuka served with pancakes and cucumber.
If you’re not after a full meal, you’ll be happy with the addition of the ‘tuck shop’ serving up handmade ice creams and ice blocks along with coffee, cold-pressed juices and smoothies.
The kids will be more than happy to spend a few hours running wild in what can only be described as a truly epic playground. Designed and built by movie set designers, it features a lofty obstacle course, water slide, adventure playground and a tangled crochet net that took Japanese artist, Toshiko Horiuchi Macdam, two years to weave. It is undoubtedly the ultimate in climbing devices. Also, make sure to book the kids into one of the live shows in the studio’s theatre—they’ll be more than entertained and a little respite for the adults never hurt anyone.
So what are you waiting for? Round up the troops and make your way to Auckland’s newest and best family-orientated opening. There are plenty of good times to be had for all!
Image credit: Lauren Matilda Matthews