Something good is brewing down at Wynyard Quarter, and we think you're going to like it. Good George, the award-winning Hamilton brewery with a knack for crafting amazing beers and ciders, has opened the doors to its eleventh and arguably most epic outpost yet in an enviable position on the edge of North Wharf.
This impressive space, previously home to Marvel Grill, is one of the first things you'll see as you make the journey over Wynyard Crossing... its idyllic, open-air set-up—just a hop, skip and a jump from the water's edge—calls you to come on in, if only for a quick tipple. Be warned, though—you could easily while away an entire day in a spot like this (and we wouldn't blame you if you did).
Inside, there's a wonderfully relaxed, semi-industrial vibe dotted with fun little flourishes that are sure to make you smile. These include colourful, travel-style posters referencing some of the brewery's drinks; a tongue-in-cheek sign encouraging punters to 'save our ales'; and a cute wee pick-up truck that serves beverages straight from the parcel-tray for special events.
The pièce de résistance, however, has to be the amazing tank system sitting behind the bar. This extraordinary, Willy Wonka-esque structure is a work of art unto itself and has the important role of housing the space's many beloved brews. The tanks, each filled with 500 litres (10 kegs' worth) of pure, unpasteurised product delivered direct from Good George's Waikato base, are specially designed to keep their contents in the freshest, most flavoursome condition possible—resulting in what is without doubt a pretty unique drinking experience.
So, about the drinks then. There are a whopping 22 beers and ciders on tap, including all the brews Good George fans know and love. Whether it's a glass of their popular IPA or one of their delightfully fruity doris plum or scarlett peach ciders, the team here have made absolutely sure that no stone of the proverbial craft-brew path is left unturned.
There are, of course, alternatives for the non-beer-and-cider drinkers amongst you (we know you're out there!). Staying true to its innovative roots and ability to keep up with the Joneses, Good George has jumped onboard the gin train and now makes its very own version of the trendy spirit. This can be enjoyed in a number of very palatable tipples, from the aromatic, almost festive flavours of a blood orange and cassia tonic, to the refreshing notes of a cucumber, elderflower and mint concoction.
Furthermore, a non-alcoholic ginger beer (house-brewed, of course) is available for those wanting a break from the booze—while a tasting rack may prove helpful to anyone who simply feels overwhelmed by what is a rather large selection.
So, how does a company that's made a name for itself brewing drinks fare on the food front? Pretty damn good, as it turns out. The menu has been curated by chef Brock Sprague (ex-Woodpecker Hill and Blue Breeze Inn) and, to put it plainly, is nothing short of impressive. Clearly drawing from—but not limited to—the spot's maritime setting, you'll find all manner of culinary gems on offer here, including a few clever surprises (case in point: the crisps with Kiwi dip, fresh chives and paua salt).
All of the dishes, however, have been designed with the same culinary goal in mind—to showcase New Zealand cuisine using the best local produce, meat and seafood, while also complementing the drinks that are very much at the heart of this establishment.
A platter of fresh shellfish, be it mussels, scallops or oysters, is certainly a good place to start. The latter is a literal feast for the senses–these juicy beauties, harvested from the pristine waters of the Coromandel, are almost too pretty to eat with their brightly-coloured balls of lime caviar, shiso and ponzu sauce, served on a bed of sparkling, coarsely-ground salt. The local charcuterie is just as scrumptious, with its mouth-watering spread of cheeses, cured meats (wagyu and chorizo), housemade chicken liver and smoked bacon pate, cranberry pinot jam and intriguing, charcoal-activated crackers.
As with any eatery, there are certain dishes at Good George that reign supreme. From the small plate offerings, or 'Georgey Smalls' as they're fondly called, this comes in the form of the chagrilled black snapper skewers. These tasty tidbits, with their sweet ginger soy dressing and zesty hit of spring onion chimichurri, are all sorts of culinary wonderful—while from the selection of larger meals, or 'Big George's', the twice-cooked Taupo beef short ribs is definitely the dish to try.
Yes this is everything and more you could want in a meal—tender, melt-in-the-mouth meat with a sticky, sweet caramelised outer; perfectly balanced with the crunch of crushed peanuts and crispy shallots, and the freshness of pickled kohlrabi and mint.
Finally, it's absolutely imperative to leave room for dessert—well, one item in particular. The caramel popcorn icecream treat is the dish other desserts want to be when they grow up—think sweet, salty caramel popcorn-flavoured icecream served alongside chunks of rich Mars Bar brownie, crunchy housemade brandy snaps and oozy, condensed milk caramel. Anyone that thinks to put all of those things together on one plate deserves the ultimate dessert cudos, so thank you, Brock.
But with all that said, what do we really think of Good George's latest venture? The verdict is quite simple, really: it's more than just good—it's freakin' GREAT.
Image credit: Wono Kim