Wooden Board Kitchen
It's a small joint, fairly unassuming and obviously a little hidden but before you think twice, walk in and ask for a table. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
We're fairly spoilt for choice when it comes to dining out in Auckland. We've got everything from high-end five star to cheap and cheerful. But not everywhere you go is good, and high price doesn't necessarily mean high quality. Fortunately this sentiment works both ways which is where the Wooden Board kitchen comes into the picture.
If you venture up to the top of Queen Street past the intersection with K Road you might just spot a little restaurant tucked in on the left. Upstairs is an Asian eatery which does confuse the situation, but the wooden board sign at the door should indicate you're in the right place. It's a small joint, fairly unassuming and obviously a little hidden but before you think twice, walk in and ask for a table. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
You'll enter a small paired-back dinning area with a number of wooden tables, and the kitchen at the back of the space. There isn't much to harp on about in terms of interiors, it's just a simple restaurant made for people to enjoy food in.
We ordered a glass of the house white and a beer to start off with as we perused the menu which, for dinner, was split between 'stingy plates' and 'generous plates'. It didn't take long to realise that a lot more than just the bigger plates could be considered generous - this is one very affordable spread. My theory that a Thai restaurant is the only place you can get a decent but cheap three course meal went out the window when I perused what was on offer here. Honey roasted beetroot tart with caramelised onion, cream cheese and balsamic reduction for just $8? Really? New Zealand green lip mussels with a creamy tomato and coriander sauce with grilled ciabatta for $8? Well don't mind if do!
Our friendly waiter explained we could work things a number of ways with this menu - a classic entree, main, dessert triad, share a collection of small and big plates or just go for a range of small plates and graze tapas style. We decided to go with the small plate medley and chose the mussels (as above) along with pulled braised beef with Asian slaw, sesame seeds and flaky flat bread ($8), pan-seared scallops with avocado, tomato salsa, lemon and pangrattato ($9), sweet kumara croquettes ($7), and a mixed leaf salad with shaved Parmesan ($6) thrown in there for good measure. Our selection was commended - two items we selected were personal favourites of the waiter's which was reassuring.
Not long after ordering our plates (which were actually wooden platters, naturally) started arriving and everything smelt and looked mighty fine. I started with a scallop - a succulent mouthful of the soft delicacy with a crunchy toasted crumb offset with the fresh salsa. I then went for a kumera croquette which was comfortingly sweet and creamy. I had no problems working my way round all of our dishes multiple times until both myself and my dining companion had polished everything off. This is simple wholesome food at its best. I almost felt like I was at a friend's house for a relaxed yet impressive dinner party. And I don't mean wholesome in a basic/burnt/"nice try love" type of way. A special mention must go to the two dishes the waiter had backed - the green lipped mussels and the braised beef which were both delicious.
The evening was completed with dessert. I wasn't really an option not to go there when I saw a dish titled "chocolate lava" on the menu. This warm molten chocolate pudding was served with Rush-Munro's ice-cream ($10) and was a decadent pot of happiness. We also tried the eton mess - smashed meringue folded in whipped cream with baked seasonal fruits (peach) and amaretto crumble ($8) which could have benefited from a touch more fruit and crumble but really that's just being picky.
Delicious food, relaxed atmosphere, friendly service and a refreshingly light bill - too much to ask for in Central Auckland? Apparently not at the Wooden Board Kitchen.