Situated in the new Orakei Bay Village complex and keeping good company alongside Bird on a Wire and Brothers Beer is new bar and eatery Ampersand. Seating 120 people, the space is vast but decorated in such a way that the space still feels warm and chic. There is a relaxed, zen vibe throughout with very smiley waiters who will leave you wanting for nothing with their slick service and professional attention to detail.
The walls are teal blue and the large space is split into half. One half is the restaurant and the other half is a coffee roastery. Even better, there is a huge 60 seat outdoor heated deck— what could be better? Ampersand is a joint venture between Mikey Newlands who used to work at fine dining restaurant Bracu and his partner Amanda Rogers who used to be sommelier at Sidart. The coffee roastery, Espresso Workshop, is led by Andrew Smart.
We visited for lunch and the menu offered eclectic and seasonal choices. A good sign of things to come was the sourdough with burnt butter ($3.90). Soft and fluffy with a chewy crust, the burnt butter complemented the bread superbly. It was hard to choose from the very comprehensive menu which offers items such as smoke roasted beetroot with macadamia, burnt honey lamb feather blade and house spaghetti with gremolata.
We began by sampling some of Ampersand's fresh juices. The apple juice and the beetroot and carrot juice with ginger were tasty, fresh and definitely perked us up for the day ahead. We sampled the smoked heirloom tomatoes with burrata, shallot and rye ($16) which was a lovely summery dish bursting with freshness and flavour. We also went for the beer battered market fish with house fries, crushed peas and malt vinegar ($24). The batter was light and not at all dry which can often be the case, and the malt vinegar and peas were reminiscent of a traditional English fish 'n' chip supper.
However, special mention must go to the outstanding whipped potato and gravy. This is comfort food at its finest and the gravy is one of the best we have ever tasted.
We have a sneaky feeling that Ampersand is going to become the 'go to' place in Orakei Bay Village.