Speaking as someone who lived in an apartment on top of Sal’s Pizza for a year, I am well acquainted with the art of a good pizza (or maybe the art of not so good pizza would be more accurate). So it was with curious expectation and intrigue that I headed along to the newest addition in Ponsonby’s circle of fine dining and troop of trendy eateries, Mr Toms. Mr Toms is located on the corner of Ponsonby Road and Anglesea Street. After a dose of paint, patience and hard labour, it is now pleasantly established as the home of good ole fashion hospitality, simple, salt of the earth food and signature pizzas.
It’s a good thing I didn’t end up wearing my AS colour striped tee, as I would have been lost in a sea of blue and white 'Where’s Wallys'. With much felt relief over a potentially embarrassing 'same outfit' situation or 'who wore it better' episode, we were met, greeted and seated by a particular lovely waitress who I will refrain from referring to as, Wally Waitress.
Mr Toms takes up two levels of the previous Bar 515 and the United Kitchen Building. The top tier is more of a causal afterwork wines vibe, with the bottom level as the formal dining area. The eatery is light and comfortable. Low lighting and greenery hang from the walls and ceiling. A subtle but equally as beautiful skylight is surrounded by yet more green. Whites, greys and quiet blues compliment the handcrafted wooden tables and chairs. Along one side of the wall, a cushioned bonket creates a cozy and intimate vibe.
The first principle of hospitality (your primary duty is to make your customers happy) was promptly met when my date suddenly disappeared on the way to our assigned table. Our lovely Wal…erm…waitress assured me that if he didn’t come back she would happily join me, service above and beyond. Luckily my date returned and after informing me that the upstairs bathroom had one of the best views of the Sky Tower he had seen in a long time, we cast our eyes upon the menu.
The cocktail menu is generous with a number of sweet and bitter options all slightly on the dangerous side. Because I like to dabble in a bit of danger, the Ruby Bomb was selected with great anticipation. Made up of tanqueray, peach liqueur, ruby red grapefruit, house infused rosemary syrup and raspberry, this delightful cocktail and its name reminded me strongly of either Baby Spice or one of those fairies your parents hired for your birthday party. Delightfully sweet but just a bit too full on.
The starter was my favorite part of the night. Lamb meatballs, hummus, harissa yoghurt and almonds. The almonds were the meatball’s saving grace, blended with beautiful harissa yoghurt that came close to rivaling my Moroccan flatmate’s homemade recipe. We weren’t alone in our choice, seated in full view of the pass, we saw many a meatball pass our table, a few of which may have been intercepted.
As pizza was the talked about choice, it was the obvious go-to. We ordered two pizzas to share. After the limited choices of my local pizza joint, I was happy to read the interesting flavors and pizza toppings. One smoked mozzarella, eggplant, basil pesto pizza was chosen along with one chicken, jalapeno, sweetcorn, watercress and house made barbecue pizza. The first was definitely the favorite of the two, but only when paired with a drizzle and a dollop of oregano and rosemary oil. The second left us confused as to whether or not our pizza contained hints of barbecue, as no such flavour was detected. For a place that is all about their pizza, we were surprised to discover that the other meals looked like they had a bigger ‘plate’ to play. The steaks, salads and mains, appeared to be of more interest and temptation.
The night ended with a peach and almond tart, vanilla ice cream and salted caramel, which was as peachy as it was tart. This was the second best part of my night but was sadly followed by the worst, as my date confirmed to the waitress that yes, I was finished (I was not) and with my mouth full of dessert and unable to protest, I watched as the object of my ‘confection’ slowly disappeared out of sight, unfinished.
Let me be, not the first, but one of the many to say that Mr Toms is a keeper. An atmosphere that keeps you staying and saying "just a little bit longer," Mr Toms is warm, inviting and serves extremely well prepared and interesting food for both the play-it-safers and the people of the not-so-common places. Top notch Mr. Tom.