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3 O'Connell Street,
Auckland Central

(09) 377 1884

The ViewAuckland Review

Review byCandice Reed1/03/2009

5 out of 5 stars

It was muggy and the motorway was bumper to bumper. Then it started to rain. So with not much else to do but sit and wait for traffic to start moving again I started to fantasise about what O’Connell St Bistro would produce.

It was one of the rare occasions I’d glanced at the menu online. Usually I like to be surprised, but for some reason (maybe it was the weather) I’d jumped on the net a few hours earlier for a taster.

And as I finally got out of second gear, phrases like chicken liver parfait, crostini and apple and pear chutney; panko crumbed globe artichokes; roasted corn fed chicken, salardaise potatoes, caramelised onions; and roasted beetroot with chive creme fraiche whirled around my head.

Eventually my partner and I arrived at the CBD bistro only a quarter of an hour late for the booking and my taste buds were absolutely well and truly watered.

We were escorted through the intimate dining space to a candlelit table for two at the back, my partner pausing nearer the entrance to swap pleasantries with a work colleague just about to tuck into his starter.

The restaurant was fashioned with a modern European bistro influence intended to give an exclusive hidden away feel to it. There are only 12 tables inside, but this helps O’Connell St Bistro deliver on its promise to put the romance back into dinning out. A more recent addition of a private dining room adjacent to the Bistro with room for 20 people gives larger groups an opportunity to enjoy the offerings.

Proprietor, Chris Upton, was trained in the United Kingdom and spent four years on board the QE2. His head chef is Stephen Ward who was trained in New Zealand, but also spent time in London.

These factors combined have led to the bistro winning more awards than I have room to list here. The majority are for a fine wine list but in addition, in April 2007, it was named by Vanity Fair on Travel magazine as one of the 42 best dining spots – it was the only New Zealand restaurant to feature.

Despite my earlier menu preparation I still had no idea what I was going to eat and so settled in with a glass of Discovery Point sav ($12.50) for a tough decision. In the end both my partner and I were swayed by recommendations from the excellent staff, so it was the restaurant’s signature pappardelle of braised Bendigo Station Rabbit, rimu smoked bacon, walnut watercress pesto and parmigiano reggiano ($36) for him and the milk fed Veal escalopes, poached baby vegetables and red pepper relish ($38) for me with a side of baby potatoes to share ($8).

Both meals were divine, but given another chance I would have swapped my veal for his rabbit without a second thought. Not a sentence I ever thought I’d write. It was full of flavour, heart and completely satisfying. Little wonder I was only given a small taste. The veal was also good, just a litter lighter on flavour.

By the time we left the small bistro there were only two free tables, an impressive sign given most would savour the experience for a special occasion because of the bistro’s top restaurant status and accompanying price tag.

I arrived at O’Connell St Bistro with high hopes and I was far from disappointed; it was everything – and more - I’d dreamt up in the car on the way.

O'Connell Street Bistro has been reviewed by 8 users

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