On the second floor of the newish Seafarers development on Tyler Street is the much talked about Ostro, MasterChef judge and Michelin-starred chef Josh Emett’s baby. Named after a wind that sweeps Africa’s heat across the Mediterranean, Ostro is vast, dark and beautiful – offering sun-drenched views of the harbour by day and a who’s who of Auckland by night (the people-watching is almost as good as the food).
A lifesize image of the impressively hirsute sailor Tommy Doyle guards the door, which, along with the nautical-flag emblazoned lift, is a reminder of the building’s previous role as a lodging house for seamen. Designed by Fearon Hay, the room is glass-fronted and timber-floored, with the rough concrete and exposed beams of the original structure. Despite its sheer size, the dark wood, dim lighting and split-level set-up give Ostro an unexpected sense of intimacy.
The all-day menu has a strong focus on seafood and meat, with a raw bar offering oysters, cockles and ceviche, a selection of beef cuts and fish and shellfish dishes. We ordered the Smoked Kawahai Omelette ($16) and Ox Tongue Two Ways ($16) to start. The omelette was fluffy and delicious, served with dollops of house made hollandaise and peppery watercress. The ox tongue (which is seriously underrated) was prepared, as we expected, in two different ways: thinly sliced or crumbed and deep-fried, served with horseradish and caper mayonnaise. Both were perfect.
For mains, we shared the honey-glazed grilled poussin (a poussin is the term for a young chicken usually less than a month old), which was meltingly tender and seasoned with fresh harissa ($32). Pan-fried tomatoes and mixed greens finished off the dish.
Dessert was the moreish violet chocolate fondant ($14), decorated with petals and oozing with dark rivers of chocolate. The only disappointment of the evening was the scoop of salted caramel and almond ice cream on the side, which tasted a bit like a spoonful of the Dead Sea.
Ostro sells itself as “upscale yet unpretentious”, and everything about it – from the décor to the accessible menu to the just-friendly-enough Vans-wearing staff – embodies this. So pop on your Sunday best, book a table and treat yourself.