A recent contributor to Takapuna’s culinary resurgence, Artwok is an authentic Chinese eatery and raw bar that does things a little differently. Stroll in off Hurstmere Road and you’ll be greeted by a bright red double door, then perhaps a little impressed by the resplendent design within. On the far side of the room sheets of gold metal adorn the wall above the bar, which is populated by neatly arranged cocktail glasses and polished beer taps. Hand blown spherical lamps hang from the roof, bathing the room in a soft golden glow.
If downstairs is too busy (which it’s very likely to be) you’ll be led up a softly lit stairway decorated by a rather impressive fish tank, filled with exotic sea life and delicate coral. Upstairs is much the same as below, except hundreds of traditional Chinese calligraphy brushes line the walls and large windows offer views across Takapuna. The atmosphere is relaxed and casual; sound tracked by the chatter and laughter of happy diners and low key acoustic guitar instrumentals.
Drinks wise, the range is impressive and diverse. If you fancy a drop of craft you’re in for a treat as they’ve got some fairly special brews on tap. Go for the Funk Estate Kingpin - an 8% double IPA, brewed in Wellington and somewhat bizarrely served in a 1 litre, lab beaker ($28/litre). If you’re not a quaffer of beers then the cocktail list is creative and reasonably priced and the wine list stocks plenty excellent local drops. Service is outstanding and the young wait staff are friendly and charming, adding personality and warmth to the dining experience.
When it comes to ordering a meal you’ve got plenty of options, with a particularly diverse selection of raw shellfish available. The Mahurangi oysters ($5 each) are a definite highlight; prepared raw, these little babies are plump, fresh and delectable and are amazing with just a squeeze of lemon.
For the main event give the Gua Bao Rol a try. It’s crispy pork, cooked with rice vinegar and caramelised sugar syrup and it’s truly delicious, however my serving was a little overcooked. The food is a touch overpriced as well, however if you don't mind paying a premium for quality this shouldn't be an issue.
Despite a few small qualms and quibbles, Artwok is well worth a visit, for the interesting menu items and stylish interior design alone. Go once and you're bound to go again, as there are very few restaurants in Auckland where you can experience Chinese cuisine this authentic and delicious, in such relaxed but salubrious surroundings.
Photo credit: Amanda Wignell