Upon entering Blunderbuss, I would not blame you for thinking the newest addition to the McKenzies Project is just a swanky takeaway bar. However, glide past the exposed kitchen and wafts of garlic and there you have it - a cool little dining area that sees industrial fittings and Italian nostalgia merge seamlessly, making you feel like you’ve just stepped into the back of a New York deli.
As we settle into a comfy booth, our waitress advises us on her favourite small plates from the menu, and we order them all. The most ravenously devoured is the Italian meatballs with tomato fondu and parmesan custard ($9.50). Yes, you read correctly - while I never imagined the words parmesan’ and ‘custard’ could together form such a symphony in my mouth, apparently chef Nick Honeyman did, and I now trust him with my culinary life. Notable mentions also go to the crispy calamari ($10) and polenta crisps ($6.5).
I am so distracted by the food that I almost forget to order a drink. Almost. While exotic beer and wine dominate the list, its the cocktail creations that call my name - the Mon Desir ($16) (chartreuse, lemon juice and basil) is so unique that I continue to babble about it for the rest of the meal.
Now, we all know a fair few pizza joints in Auckland that can put together a decent doughy morsel, but before you begin to think "been there, done that!", let me tell you how Blunderbuss is a stand-out. Namely, they are one of the few who understand that cheese is a flavour and not a meal. Coupled with their thin crispy bases and tantalising flavour combinations, I am pleasantly surprised that no one had to roll me out of the restaurant with my carb-baby. Try the Tirolese ($16) - the prosciutto, smoked mushroom and rocket is simple brilliance.
Having the remnants boxed up meant we had (just) enough room for dessert, and boy am I glad we did! I devour the chocolate mousse served with dulce de leche and macadamia gelato ($10) while also nabbing a spoonful of a cleverly deconstructed tiramisu ($9.5). Deliciozo.
All in all, Blunderbuss is just the right kind of quirky to shake up the McKenzies Project - a welcome combination of relaxed service, exotic beverages and dishes to get the whole table talking. I’m already looking forward to coming back.