The sexy green neon sign caught my eye on an afterwork bus ride home. Neon? In Hataitai? 'Bambuchi'? What IS it? An Instagram search later, I had my answer: Bambuchi is Hataitai's newest restaurant and bar and their 'gram game, while new, is already strong.
Bambuchi has a tropical treasure island feel to it; the waiters wear aprons printed with pineapples, there's a pair of palm trees painted on the wall and the menus are like treasure map scrolls tied with string. It's a fun and playful space that will make you forget where you are (the Hataitai shops, FYI).
Bambuchi's food is prepared using the techniques and presentation of fine dining but served in a relaxed way by friendly and fun staff, who really want you to have a good time. Their enthusiasm for the menu is contagious and our waiter described the dishes in a way that made us want to order every single thing.
All of the plates are designed to share but you could also go your own way if so inclined. The star of the winter menu is a 24-hour slow-cooked beef cheek ($24) served with eggplant kasundi and zucchini. The beef is meltingly tender and deeply savoury, the eggplant is slightly spicy sweetness and the zoodles are bright and fresh. Paired with the baked polenta ($8) and a glass (or a bottle, might as well) of Some Young Punks Shiraz/Mataro ($13 glass/$36 bottle) and you're set.
Bambuchi's chef Julian Pizer is ex-Hummingbird and was named as an emerging talent at last year's Wellington Hospitality Awards. For Julian, local isn't just a fashionable menu accessory: the fungi in our serving of raw macerated mushrooms served with truffle, pickled onion and flaxseed crackers ($14) had been foraged from Mt Victoria earlier that day. For their Wellington on a Plate menu, Julian is setting up a hangi in the garden behind the restaurant to cook Wharekauhau lamb in taro leaf, kumara cooked in embers and marrow and Horopito jus.
Bambuchi serves brunch at the weekends with a menu a little different (but not too different) from your regular: baked eggs, a quinoa kale bowl, a breakfast burger, plus Caesars: Canada's answer to the elevenses hair-of-the-dog classic, the Bloody Mary.
Bambuchi is one to watch; go now so that you can say you went before everyone else caught on.