Takapuna has never seen anything like The Commons. Town has come to the beach in that those behind this newcomer already have Downtown's Imperial Lane, The Roxy and Everybody's in their stable.
There are five linked spaces: a courtyard with squishy sofas; stools and high tables flanked by the bar and open kitchen; a bistro space that can open up to the outside; velour, leather upstairs with the air of comfortable cocktails; plus, up more stairs, the degustastion room, where diners nominate their likes and dislikes and chef Nick Honeyman creates.
On Sunday lunchtime of its first weekend we feel on display as curious passersby take in the bare concrete, bricks, steel beams and industrial lighting.
Our unsmiling waitress presents the menu that says: "Our approach to food is to play with different flavours, textures, techniques and styles, reinterpreting them in unexpected ways and challenging you, the diner, to think about what you're eating."
Descriptions on the first side of the menu are brief. Tails, for example become, on the back of the menu in the glossary: pork tails, scampi tails, sesame, pork scratchings, caramelised parsnip and garlic aioli.
As we await our order there's a choice of three breads and truffle butter, deliciously with its signature taste - to me anyway - of the smell of old socks. The maitre d' asks if all is well.
My entree is Land & Sea. The glossary tells me it is confit chicken wings, konbu (am I up for the challenge, do I know this is Japanese seaweed?), sweetcorn puree, scallops and pig's head. It is all small but quite delicious, especially the pig's head terrine.
I dip into Sir's side of large chickpea fries as there is no way he can manage all of them.
His main is carrot cake snapper sous-vide, spiced beignets, which he thought were “soft, round lumps” before glossary education - carrot puree, cream cheese, baby carrots, ginger, lemon and olive oil. It looks a picture and he says it tastes good but the flavour of the snapper was overwhelmed.
Our shared dessert is intriguing: roquefort and white chocolate. They are in a bavarois with poached pears, brioche icecream, olive oil sables, white chocolate and walnuts and red wine. A marriage made in Takapuna.
Hurstmere Rd is well-served by cafes but The Commons touch is a huge departure and deserves its place in the sun.
WHERE: 21 Hurstmere Rd, Takapuna, North Shore, Auckland, ph 09 929 2791.
WHEN: Sunday to Thursday, 11.30am-11pm; Friday and Saturday, 11.30am-midnight.
WHAT'S TO EAT: Everything has a twist.
HOW MUCH: $92 for one entree, one main, one dessert and two coffees.
WHAT DO WE THINK: All change in Takapuna.
- Sunday Star Times