It’s hard to let go of summer – long, hot days and nights, sandals, sunscreen, ice-blocks and the unmistakable smell of smoke in the air as somebody, somewhere, cranks up the barbecue. Perhaps it’s that delicious wood-fired memory that is stoking the fires of a bit of a food trend. With more and more barbecue-style eateries popping up, thankfully those smoky flavours are now available to be devoured year-round: Parnell’s new Woodpecker Hill restaurant is barbecue with an Asian-flavour twist and the smell as you near it will have you following your nose inside; Ponsonby Central’s El Sizzling Chorizo is a meat-lover’s dream, best washed down with a South American red; and now Mt Eden’s Molten joins in the smoky fun.
This friendly neighbourhood restaurant’s new “Feasting Menu”, for groups of four or more, includes hot-smoked salmon, barbecued lamb and, with enough notice, you can order a whole spit roast pig or lamb, cooked right in front of you in the delightful courtyard space at the back of the restaurant. The idea of this shared banquet is to “deliver a more rounded social experience to dining out,” says co-owner Sven Nielsen. Food is placed in the middle of the table so groups can pass dishes around, just like they would at home. It’s this homely atmosphere Nielsen wants to encourage.
Fairy lights, basket planters and candles helped set the scene for a sumptuous evening when MiNDFOOD sat down to sample some of the offerings –silky smooth duck liver parfait served with crostini and relish, morsels of smoked chicken threaded on young fennel stalks with accompanying miso mayonnaise, and Portuguese sardines paired with chimichurri and fresh chilli. And that was just for starters. The main attraction was even more spectacular – succulent whole spit-roast pig, which had been cooking slow and steady since 11 that morning for maximum juicy tenderness. Add to that some decadent duck fat-roasted potatoes with a truffle mayonnaise and battered broccoli with tabasco mayo and, to cut through, a lighter, fresh dish of heirloom tomato and onion salad with a chardonnay vinegar, and the word “feast” could not have been more accurate.
What’s so nice about all this good food is that its price tag is so reasonable – two courses for $49 or three for $59 – and all produce is free-range or sustainably caught. With options like these to remind us of warmer days, the oncoming cooler months don’t seem quite so bad.
Molten Restaurant, 422 Mt Eden Rd, Mt Eden Auckland. molten.co.nz, ph (09) 638 7236.