We wandered along Wynyard Quarter to visit Johnny Barr’s feeling a little uppity with the idea we’d seen all there is to be seen in this land of ever-changing eateries. Fancy bars, dinky Japanese, a hybrid Italian joint, delicious gelato – we all know what to expect of Wynyard Quarter. Or do we? One visit to Johnny Barr’s one relaxed Saturday afternoon and we began to question that notion because there’s a new sheriff in town, and he’s a little wacky.
The setup is normal enough – there are tables and chairs (a good start), an open kitchen (which I always appreciate), a washed wooden bar and scrawled blackboard menu (think LA beachside café with a little industrial styling thrown in for good measure). We’re feeling relatively at ease thus far, that is until we take a look at the menu and realise these yanks mean business. Their dishes boldly roll with the type of variety that most eateries shy away from, but being an expat from that crazy eclectic land of the free it all seems very charming to offer Philly Cheesesteak on the same menu as Auckland’s Best Muesli (yes, that’s its actual name).
We dived straight in the deep end and tried their Fried Chicken and Waffles ($14) – soaked in buttermilk and served with maple syrup, the waffles were perfectly crisp and soft in all the right places while the fried chicken was a fantastically indulgent complement that I - the sceptic - actually enjoyed. We also tried the Gourmet Mac & Cheese ($12.50), flavoured with parmesan, prawn and pomodoro (which means tomato, if anyone’s asking). These guys have an entire menu of Mac & Cheese varieties, so its no surprise the dish was perfected to an art form – all creamy and comforting with the prawns adding a bit of interest to an otherwise classic homecooked dish.
Moving on to the sweet stuff, we slurped up their Snickers thickshake ($7.50) – your standard chocolate thickshake shaken up with caramel and peanut butter (add malt for an extra $0.50 and you definitely won’t regret it) With just enough room to power through a Homemade Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich ($8), I can report the freshly baked choc chip cookie with mint chip ice cream combo is an absolute winner. I’m thinking of your waistline when I recommend Johnny Barr’s as an enjoy-in-moderation kind of place, but it’s a sassy and fresh-faced addition to Auckland’s waterfront that should definitely be on your radar next time you’re in the area.