Auckland: Al Brown’s Depot – Cooking with Fire.
5th March, 2012.
I’d been told by a friend that you needed to get in early to Al Brown’s latest food venture, the Depot Eatery & Oyster Bar located in the Skycity complex in Auckland’s Federal Street to avoid the long queues. A question of first come first serve as Depot doesn’t take bookings, and unless you’re a local, it can also be tricky to find. Set beneath the Sky tower, that dominates the city, this unassuming eatery and its fellow restaurants and cafes along the same strip, is a bit of surprise. Depot’s entrance sits almost opposite the glamour and glitz of the city’s casino – the last kind of place I’d ever choose to eat in.But Depot’s main attraction was not just on the freshness of the produce, (oysters are shucked while you wait)….……or the emphasis on seasonal local produce, or even the ambiance of the place……..…..a mixture of the quirky…..…..and the quaint….All this helped set a great atmosphere, but it was the way much of the food was prepared that I found exciting. The use of fire and the associated flavours that certain woods can provide are very much exploited here – foods were either fast fired on the grill over searing charcoal…..…..or slowly seduced to succulence in the wood fired oven………..served with additional sauce – Nicholas – the wood fire chef.Depot has been in operation since 2011 and maintains a friendly, but professional charm personified by its proprietor and owner, Al Brown. Casual and friendly (once again, we were accompanied by the ever effervescent Sofia who was welcomed as much as any other customer) – the service was knowledgeable but not in your face.The menu offers a range of tapas size as well as larger sized dishes – we decided on the small share plates to begin with, so that we could swop and share a range of dishes. Started with clams that were prepared live before our eyes, served with chardonnay vinegar and bloody mary ice……..…..followed by the New Zealand meat board……………..that comprised of Akaroa bresaola (cured beef, made to a traditional Italian recipe from Akaroa): wild rabbit rillettes, pork salami from Waikana and air dried paprika beef. Served with a cherry relish, chevrego cheese and fennel and fig sourdough!!
This was followed by a couple of larger dishes – wood roasted Rangitikei chicken with Israeli couscous, aubergine and yohgurt – alongside………………wood roasted pork hocks with apple and horseradish salsa verde.
From Depot’s menu Eat Up – names like Kaimoana boullabaisse – Rangitikei chicken – Waikanae pork – Akaroa bresaola – whilst not easily rolling off the tongue, (as we were to discover, to much merriment during our Kiwi map reading efforts) do conjure up the most romantic of images.
Depot was yet another bucket list item that sure as hell didn’t disappoint.