The concept of “going to the local” usually implies a pretty casual joint that you drop into for a quiet pint and a bowl of greasy wedges amongst friends. However if your neighborhood is Remuera, well, the brief changes a little… introducing Banque, the upmarket raw seafood local bistro. It’s been a local institution in Remuera for the past eight years, but earlier this year the establishment underwent some major nips and tucks which saw it transform into the Banque Oyster Bar & Eatery.
The elegant space is light and open plan with a generous drinks area at the front, a dining room at the back and a bar stretching out across the right side of the room. There are some nice interior features too – like the emerald coloured ceramic butchers tiles, a lovely charcuterie display fridge, and the marble counter complete with ice pit, housing dozens of high quality fresh oysters.
The menu also got a bit of a face lift and now offers “a culinary tour of New Zealand influences,” we were told. Basically this meant lots of options – from “fusion” plates, bistro style mains, a raw bar and a pizza menu, small plates, big plates, nibbles and desserts – it’s all here.
We selected a range of smaller share plate options and also shared a main and a side salad, which made for a rather generous dinner for two. And of course we matched dinner with a couple of glasses of bubbles (we're in Remuera right?).
The shredded roasted duck pancakes, Peking sauce ($13) were tasty and tangy with the Peking dipping sauce and the seared tuna with sesame crust, red miso and Ponzu gel ($18) was fresh and light and worked well with the salty cubes of Ponzu jelly. The small plate standout for us were the steamed buns with Hunan pork belly, prawns and radish ($15). The free form steamed bun isn't a new concept in culinary circles, but the prawn and pork combo was absolutely inspired. An honorable mention goes to the steamed spanner crab with fresh shredded coconut and coriander in lettuce cups ($15) which was refreshing yet full of flavour.
At this point most normal people say they've had enough but we spotted a gem on the large plate list that we couldn't refuse: snapper fillet, eggplant, tamarind and tomato, salad, saffron lemon potatoes ($31) which we matched with a rocket, pear and walnut salad ($7). The snapper was downright outstanding. Very fresh, beautifully cooked – just flaking with a crispy skin – and was a delight with the creamy saffron potatoes and the tomato eggplant.
Banque’s best feature though was its popularity. We walked into a pumping local, a place that the community of Remuera (and further afield), clearly whole-heartedly embrace. Local? Yes. Shabby? No. Banque manages to pull off being a slick local gastropub with a whole lot of style.