Through the only apparent door at the top of Anglesea Road we stumbled into the United Kitchen kitchen, where we were momentarily bewildered enough to timidly back away and start apologising to the nearest staff member at hand for our rookie mistake. Turns out it's actually the main entrance of the new Ponsonby eatery. Strange, yes. But somehow quite charming too.
With its odd pairing of industrial chairs and worn wooden floors and walls with white linen and immaculate silverware, and gourmet meals served by cheery waitresses with deconstructed buns, United Kitchen is distinctly reminiscent of the clandestine closed door restaurants of Buenos Aires, where homes moonlight as pop-up fine dining establishments at night, but never quite lose their quaintness. It was that exact quality that United Kitchen somehow intrinsically had, something it just couldn't scrub away with its otherwise immaculate presentation and beautiful, perfectly presented food.
Another kudos (of many) to United Kitchen is its extremely date-friendly vibe. Again, this ties in with the cosiness of the place, but also with the well thought-out layout. Each table having its own one metre minimum of circumference which does not get crossed except by the occasional waiter taking your order. It makes for a very private experience.
United Kitchen specialises in three-course set menus for a flat rate of $45. These consist of three locally sourced and seasonal options for each course, meaning that, in the words of Drake, if you're reading this it [may be] too late to rush over to try any of the mentioned meals. But we shall discuss them a little anyway.
Starting things off, the highlight of the night was the shellfish soup - featuring vongoles, mussels, chorizo sausages and green olives bathing in a tomato base with a strong saffron warmth infused into it. A great call if you're into red wine, and best paired off with their 'Pablo', a little Spanish Garnacha number.
For mains we had a lush pork belly with cinnamon-spiced pumpkin puree, kale and sage - the flavour of which seemed to circumnavigate every cardinal point of our taste buds. The wild mushroom gnocchi meanwhile held its own as heavily comforting dish with a little flick of adventurousness in its slightly spicy undertone. Being fans of chocolate since forever, the Chocolate Textures seemed the obvious call to finish things off. As promised, chocolate arrived on our table in various textures - dry, foamy, cold and luxuriously smooth. Unfortunately that was the only dish we could fault, finding the ratio of dry to refreshing a bit off balance leaving our mouths in the same state one who had just been binging on Milo powder. This, of course, is a very minor flaw, and is mostly included to provide a little criticism for what for the most part is a place that's near-impossible to fault.