REVIEW: A glorious sunny Saturday is the perfect excuse for a lazy afternoon at the beach. But first we need brunch so we head to Takapuna's McKenzies Project, the home to the Commons, Mexico, Zomer and, more recently, Blunderbuss.
We're not sure why the Italian- inspired restaurant and bar is named after a 17th-century firearm but we don't really care - the fact Nick Honeyman (Everybody's, The Commons) is in charge of the menu is good enough reason for us to visit.
Blunderbuss shares its outdoor space with The Commons across the way, with plants marking out the border. But there's plenty of space and we take a spot at the high leaner tables, grateful for the multiple sunshades keeping sunburn at bay.
Drinks are ordered and dispatched swiftly, followed by our choice of shared plates. Ruth is impressed by the amount of vegetarian options available, so seldom the case in other establishments. Ten of the 14 shared dishes are meat-free but none skimp on flavour - well, none of the ones we tried, anyway.
The fried haloumi arrives first - four cubes of perfectly crumbed and deep-fried salty goodness, with a basil-packed salsa verde and deliciously smoky portobello mushrooms. The shoestring fries are golden, crisp and salty with a creamy aioli which does not overpower, and the buffalo mozzarella is milky, firm and goes perfectly with the quartered ripe grape tomatoes and basil pesto.
We originally wanted the crispy chilli prawns with chimichurri aioli but these are unavailable on our visit so we get our chilli kick from some roasted walnuts bathed in a chilli dust. There's no evidence of the promised parsley, unless it's crushed up in the powder, but the flavour is great without it. There is so much chilli left over we sprinkle it on the remaining fries and it goes well.
The one meat dish we order is excellent: Italian meatballs with a rich, tangy tomato "fondu" (more like a chutney to us) and the star of the show, a parmesan "custard". It has the texture of smooth mashed potato and is absolutely outstanding.
With full stomachs and fiery- chilli mouths, we waddle down to the beach for the rest of the day. Fingers crossed the rest of summer will be this satisfying.
WHERE: 21 Hurstmere Rd, Takapuna, Auckland, ph (09) 929 2792, (also at 462 New North Rd, Kingsland, ph (09) 929 2737), blunderbuss.co.nz
WHEN: Monday to Sunday, midday-late.
WHAT'S TO EAT: Shared plates with an Italian leaning, pizzas and desserts.
HOW MUCH: $55 for five shared dishes, a flat white and a soda.
WHAT DO WE THINK: A hot spot for summer.
- © Fairfax NZ News