2 Matakana Valley Road,
(09) 423 0383
The ViewAuckland Review
3 out of 5 stars
There are some songs that just shouldn’t be played by one guy on a piano. Obviously “The Piano Man” by Billy Joel is OK, but when the pianist at Matakana’s new Tapiano Bar & Bistro starts doing “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the Friday night ambience is not quite right. Mind you, it’s probably better than the piano accordion version of Dean Martin’s “Volare”, we got earlier in the night.
The awkwardly named Tapiano – it’s cobbled together from “Tapas” and “Piano” - is Matakana’s first attempt at flash big city-style dining. The rural village north of Auckland has been transformed in recent years with lots of local wineries and the wildly popular Saturday morning Farmers’ Market. Tapiano is an attempt to harness this growing foodie sophistication.
It’s housed in a downstairs space of the new Matakana cinemas complex, and a cosy open fire provides warmth to the stark but elegant interior. Six weeks after opening, word’s obviously getting around, and it’s nicely full with an older, conservative crowd. Come summer the restaurant will be expanding onto a riverside deck for brunch and lunch.
Tapiano’s menu is a smallish selection of Tapas, Entrées, Mains and Desserts. In a time when too many restaurants offer too many dishes, there’s nothing wrong with keeping it straightforward. The winelist is very impressive by the bottle – including a strong French accent – but unfortunately only offers a few local Matakana wines by the glass.
Armed with a flinty and floral Greystone Riesling from Canterbury’s Waipara Valley, I kick off with Bacon-Squid Bundles ($10) from the Tapas menu. It’s an interesting take on squid rings, with a mini-tower of the tender seafood concealing rashers of bacon. The bacon infuses a salty tang through the squid.
The service is casual but professional, and my request to turn an Entrée-sizes scallops and chorizo into a main is accepted without fuss. When the dish emerges it’s overwhelmed by a huge baton of char-grilled fennel, but the delicate scallops contrast well with the rustic chorizo. At $38, it’s definitely heading towards top end big city prices though. Carol’s Fillet of Beef ($32) is well-cooked and robust.
Our shared dessert of Date and Rosewater Brulee ($15) is the highlight of the night. Served with a tamarillo chutney and a clove and macadamia biscuit it’s delicate, but with a tangy give-me-more crunch on top.
Tapiano is probably not worth a special trip to Matakana, but it’s a worthwhile introduction to the region’s growing foodie reputation if you’re heading up to get an early start for the Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning. Brunch on the deck in a few weeks will be more affordable with mains around $15-20.
I’m still not sure about the live piano playing though.
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