You've just read this review's title and I already know what you're thinking. An authentic and quietly amazing Creole-style restaurant has existed in Auckland for the last four years, and no one has heard so much of a whisper about it? How is this possible? Let me tell you how it's possible – those sneaky sneaks on Auckland's Hibiscus Coast keep their culinary gems obsessively shrouded from the city's wider population. Well, we're putting an end to that right now.
The owners of Jambalaya Southern Kitchen originated from Atlanta, Georgia, and created this adorable restaurant in Manly using their most treasured family recipes. With this knowledge it's impossible not to fall in love with their menu because their dishes are called things like Momma Bonnie's Fried Chicken and Aunt Jan's Seafood Gumbo. For once I am 100% certain there is actually a Momma Bonnie and Aunt Jan back in Georgia, and these names aren't simply a clever ploy for an eatery to come across as authentic and full of heritage. This place just is.
With a name as comforting as Momma Bonnie I had to order the Fried Chicken ($22), which was mouth-wateringly tender on the inside with just the right amount of crisp and spice on the outside and served generously alongside creamy mash, homemade gravy and sautéed vegetables. We also tested the Jambalaya ($23) – Cajun spiced with chorizo, shredded chicken and vegetables over rice – which made me feel like I'd pulled up a chair at Aunt Jan's crazy Mexican sister's table. Living south of the border sure hadn't dispelled her knack in the kitchen though – the stew was full of flavour and packed a serious punch.
Jambalaya Southern Kitchen is a simple setup with proud Americana memorabilia strung around the walls, making you feel as if you could flag down any waiter and they'd pull up a chair to discuss the value of country music or those lousy democrats. The wine list is short and sweet, the prices are reasonable and you leave feeling as if Momma Bonnie herself has enveloped your tastebuds in a wonderfully wholesome and undeniably American bear hug for the better part of two hours. Warm fuzzies soon follow.