High Street has some really great shops, but in the pouring rain, it’s not the nicest street to walk down at the moment. Head down, you’re avoiding the numerous sections of scaffolding, blasting yourself for forgetting your umbrella as you try and remember exactly where in this concrete jungle Vivace is located.
Here the surprises start. After making your way up the long staircase to the second level you walk into a massive cavernous room. It’s warm, there’s a fire roaring, and the smells wafting out the kitchen are already leaving a delicious imprint on your mind. Concrete jungle this ain’t. The maître d' ushers you in and it’s suggested you grab a glass of wine next to the roaring fire before settling in to read the menu. If you insist.
The wine list is long and varied and will take you on a tour of Europe, offering some beautiful Alsatian whites, plenty of Italian reds and a large selection of local varietals as well. Vivace also offers most of their wine selections by the glass or as a taste, if you’d rather pair of few options with different courses.
After a glass of Chianti and a half hour by the fire, your cheeks will be rosy and you will have forgotten about the awful weather outside, as one of the staff members ushers you to a table either in the main dining area, or out on the patio which is prepared for the elements and maybe even cosier than the interior.
Vivace slides across the food scale of Mediterranean, starting with a generous selection of hot and cold tapas before moving on to the more typical Italian greats: pizzas, pastas and risottos. The tapas are well priced and varied; chicken liver, bacon and thyme pâté with toasted ciabatta is a hit ($13), and when you inevitably mess up the pâté to bread ratio, the attentive staff will quickly bring you more bread. The salt and pepper squid with a salsa verde ($12) is crispy and tender, and the pork belly ($14) is set in the most delicious jus, so when you’re finished with the pâté you’ll want the extra bread just to soak up all that porky goodness.
Vivace’s mains are equally varied, and you can tuck into a large bowl of spaghetti with lemon, capers, onion, garlic and chilli prawns ($30), with help yourself parmesan cheese placed on the table (hallelujah), or go for the weather-appropriate slow cooked beef short rib with lemongrass, chilli and coconut, served on lemon zest risotto ($35).
Restaurants seem to be opening and closing at pace, so you’ll be forgiven if you forgot about Vivace. However, the restaurant has been around since 1992 which certainly makes it less the new kid, and more the grandmother of Auckland’s Mediterranean restaurants. The food is generous and tasty, and the restaurant ticks all the boxes when it comes to a great European feed: you will leave warm, full and happy.