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57 Fort Street,
Auckland Central

(09) 300 7252

The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byBrett Atkinson11/08/2008

4 out of 5 stars

From little things, great things grow. A few years back Yael Shochat opened the City Lunchbox on Shortland St. That popular place morphed into Ima Cuisine, a Mediterranean-inspired café that also reflected the owner’s Israeli roots. The Shortland St address is now an Asian-themed bar, but Yael Shochat has just returned with the recently opened Ima & Ibn. The name reflects the multi-cultural partnership behind the new restaurant, with Shochat joined by Khaled Masroujeh, a Palestinian from Jordan. “Ima” means “Mother” in Hebrew and “Ibn” is Arabic for son.

There is a lot that’s familiar for fans of Ima Cuisine, but a key difference is that the new opening will be as much a restaurant and a café. As a dinner venue Ima Cuisine always struggled to shake off its beginnings as a brunch and lunch spot, but Ima & Ibn’s new space is warmer and more welcoming. When their liquor licence is approved, evening meals will also be on offer.

Right now, Ima & Ibn is a top spot for brunch or lunch, and on a cool Saturday morning we settle into the restaurant’s warm space decked out in orange tones and natural wood. A few subtle design tricks like silhouette-style lights and a wonderful tiled backdrop in the open kitchen hint at the owners’ Middle Eastern heritage. A home-style ambience is reinforced with the cookbooks in English and Hebrew lining the walls. The polished concrete floors and high ceilings of the previous Ima’s in Shortland St could be a bit cold, but the new Fort St space is much more cosy.

Middle-Eastern inspired favourites from Ima Cuisine also return including shakshuka, a combo of eggs, slow roasted tomatoes and merguez sausages ($16). Carol’s Middle Eastern Eggs ($15) combine with spinach and the zingy Arabic spice, sumac, and my Mozzarella in Corozza ($15) is a savoury Sicilian spin on French toast incorporating proscuitto. Both dishes are excellent, bit Ima’s strict and tasty insistence on using organic and free-range ingredients can push prices up.

A few other Ima Cuisine favourites like the excellent Angus Beef Burger with roasted root vegetables lurk on the menu, so we’ll definitely be back for dinner once Yael and Khaled have jumped through enough liquor licence hoops to satisfy the council.

Hopefully by then, the nargileh (shisha) pipes above the bar will be fired up as well.

Does this review have you salivating? You can now make a reservation here!

Ima Cuisine has been reviewed by 9 users

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