The sun is beating down outside but we're cool enough under the canopy shade. The pale wood floorboards, picnic tables and leaners are lifted by turquoise, lemon and white metal stools; the kitchen is behind mint weatherboard walls with sunshine yellow shutters. The vintage longboard and giant (plastic) fish mounted on the walls all add to the beach cafe feel. The vibe is Mantauk, New York; the reality is Auckland's inner CBD. It's a really great illusion.
The Hamptons "popped up" just before Christmas and will remain on Shortland St until May. It's a collaboration between Clooney's Tony Stewart and Des Harris, and Volvo Ocean Race's Grant Calder and Tom Mayo. It's already proving popular for office workers in the area who can escape for a quick lunch or after work drinks and leave the corporate drudge behind them.
We're here for a late Saturday lunch. Arriving after 2.30pm, we're too late to order from the main menu (prawn cocktail, green gazpacho, crab and corn cake, crisp skin pig belly, grilled hapuka and beef brisket) but are happy with the offerings on the casual bar list.
Fried almond and pumpkin seeds are served in a small metal tray, lightly spiced and no doubt a great accompaniment to a cold beer. They go okay with my coffee, too. The lattice fries are hot, crisp and salty, served in a mini deep-fryer wire basket. The mayonnaise is a bit gluggy but our waitress directs us to the homemade sauces on our table - barbecue and apricot, served in brown medicine-style bottles. The barbecue is tasty but the apricot is incredible - tangy, sweet and tart. It is surprisingly great with fries.
Boyfriend is impressed with the hot wiener - a sentence he'll no doubt dislike immensely. But the classic American hot dog served on a soft bread bun, with two types of mustard and tangy ground beef on top, is ideal boy food. I like it too, but prefer the delicate flavour of the crayfish roll - pieces of crayfish in mayo with chives and lemon. It's light, fresh and lovely.
We both like the cos shell tacos the best, though. Three bite-size cos lettuce leaves house a small serving of fish ceviche. The clean lime flavour gives way to a pop of a lone pomegranate seed, followed by a burst of fiery chilli. They're sensational.
Fully satisfied, we make our way back into the concrete jungle, happy to know there's a beach retreat nestled in the CBD when we need it.
- Sunday Star Times