Twinkling on the fringes of the waterfront, Dockside is an idyllic spot a stone's throw away from Te Papa, the TSB Bank Arena and Queens Wharf.
On the Friday night I went, the restaurant was positively heaving. The restaurant spans three floors and a balcony area, so although it was brimming, our surroundings still felt relatively serene.
The space straddles a delicate line between theme décor and a generally classic aesthetic. Sitting dockside (love a good literal restaurant name), the interior design is best described as nautical-esque. It complements, rather than distracts from the character of the building. Spiral staircases wind to wood-panelled dining spaces and high eaves overhead. The bar area downstairs is encased under a glass ceiling, giving a glasshouse feel among the potted greenery.
Taking our seats on the third floor, the exciting hum of being surrounded by a hundred or so other diners was palpable. This dinner was also notable for me in terms of my dining company - I invited a friend-of-a-friend I bumped into on the street that afternoon. We almost got along too well - the patient waiter was forced to keep circling as we made our selection on starters over a conversation that wouldn’t stop flowing.
One thing we didn’t have a problem choosing was the wine - we opted for two glasses of Sauvignon Blanc - an Ata Rangi ($12) and a Cloudy Bay ($13 glass). Figuring they’d accompany the seafood we were inevitably going to order for starters, we pressed on to the menu.
To start, we selected steamed mussels in a white wine and garlic chilli broth with bread and butter ($15) and seared scallops with fried calamari, togarashi mayo, lychee and coriander ($22). The French flavours of the mussels were smooth while still allowing the seafood bite of the mussels to emerge in what amounted to a thoroughly classic, full-flavoured dish. Although the mussels were a hard act to follow, the scallops were undoubtedly the high point of the meal. Their creamy flavour was perfectly accented by the lychee - an unusual flavour choice but one which harmonised perfectly when paired with the tangy mayo and fragrant tang of the coriander. The deconstructed nature of the platter also made it easy to balance how much of each element I wanted on my fork.
The menu is delectably expansive when it comes to the main dishes. Wanting a mixture of flavours, my dining companion and I went for a contrast - she with the duck leg confit accompanied by spiced plum purée, pecans, orange, bacon and braised brown rice ($38) and myself with the cauliflower arancini, broccoli, and black garlic with a free range hen’s egg ($28). A flavour combination to note is the balance between the rich plum and braised rice with the deep game of the duck - this dish is unashamedly rich, and brings a lot of different tastes to the palate. I would recommend keeping the rest of your meal relatively light and fresh in order not to overload with the duck. The arancini would be a fine choice for this - although the risotto balls were rich with parmesan and creamy texture, the broccoli helped to keep the dish light and the black garlic was an interesting accent.
At this point, I’m sorry to disappoint our readers in the dessert department - through no fault of Dockside, we found ourselves unable to fit in dessert. The starter and main portions were seemingly too generously sized for our wee stomachs that night. However, given my time again I would no doubt go for the poached rhubarb with mango, fried rosemary, and vanilla bean gelato ($16), or the divinely fragranced Whittakers chocolate torte ($15) I smelt drifting over from various tables around us - obviously a popular choice.
Absolutely brimming ourselves by this point, my new friend and I parted ways, three hours after we got to Dockside. It would seem time flies when you’re having food.