465 Mt Eden Road,
(09) 631 7184
The ViewAuckland Review
4 out of 5 stars
Tucked away in a lovely old villa on the edge of Mt Eden village, it’s been too easy to overlook Altar since it opened a couple of years ago. After an earlier visit for an end of year pre-Christmas lunch, we finally return for a leisurely Saturday brunch in late February.
The calendar might say February, but Auckland’s weather is doing its best to recreate a cold and wet winter’s morning. It’s a shame because one of Altar’s best-kept secrets is the selection of outside tables and market umbrellas. But with the rain coming in almost horizontally, alfresco dining just isn’t an option today.
With a large table reserved for a yet to arrive group we’re forced to wait a few minutes to be seated, but the minor delay is handled smoothly with prompt delivery of coffees. We’re also smartly offered menus to give us a head start in ordering.
Altar is a versatile spot with a breakfast menu overlapping into a mains menu that runs from 11am to 9.30pm. From 4pm tapas are also available to complement a well-considered selection of wine and beer. Running through all three menus is a vaguely ‘classics with a twist’ theme. With the mains this translates into Smoked Fish Salad Niçoise and a Steak and Bacon Sandwich, and from the breakfast menu we choose Roast Mushrooms with Goat Cheese Puree ($14.50) and Corned Beef Hash with Poached Eggs ($16.50). The twist with each dish comes in the form of homemade beetroot relish and tomato chutney, both infused with a smattering of Asian spices. Despite it being a busy morning, the meals arrive promptly, and both are good value. My two plump hash cakes are topped with free range eggs, and Carol’s delicately roasted mushrooms easily fill her plate.
By now the large reserved table in front of us is filling up, and there is a corresponding increase in the noise level. Altar’s coolly spartan décor uses lots of wood, and while it’s pleasing aesthetically, it can create a mini echo-chamber. And like the occasionally too-noisy Prego up on Ponsonby Rd, Altar’s tables for two diners are just a little too close together. Don’t come along expecting to keep your conversation an intimate and private affair.
Still, these minor gripes are easily overcome by the winning service and good-value food. Next time we come we’ll just make sure it’s on a warmer and drier day, so we can take advantage of the quieter ambience around Altar’s outside tables.
After-work tapas already sounds like a good idea.
Altar Cafe has been reviewed by 8 users