The industrial façade of Taranaki Street has never exactly screamed elegance. However, Zibibbo’s entrance, flanked by greenery which gives quite a Parisian feel, is a gateway to a haven untainted by its inner-city location. Inside, Michelin starred Adam Newell's tapas restaurant is just as charming. Newell’s career has led him through some of the world’s top restaurants - setting up culinary institutions in Auckland, Tokyo and New York - before teaming up with his wife to transform the historical Taranaki Street Police Station into Zibibbo in 2000. A cross between an English gentleman’s study with its bottles of wine and bookshelves and a New York loft with tiled surfaces and vibrant feature walls, Zibibbo is eclectic in the best possible way.
The obvious way to start an evening at Zibibbo is by perusing the cocktail selection; the hard part is making your choice. In order to guide you through this difficult time, let the spiced apple mojito ($15) be a little beacon of decision-making hope. Delicious.
Tapas often have a tendency to be a somewhat on the meagre side; not at Zibibbo. Their specialty dish, the Zibibbo tapas platter for two ($38) is crammed with beautiful nibbly delights - including olives, prawns and pate. Not keen on the selection on offer though? Feel free to build your own platter.
Then, if your stomach will stretch far enough, the mains are well worth undoing your jeans for. In particular, the fish of the day ($34.50) was fresh and beautifully cooked with a fresh and flavoursome quinoa salad topped by a whopping, crispy skinned terakihi steak. For those who are not carnivorous, Zibibbo has the impressive option of a fully vegetarian menu to look through, offering such options as the wood-roasted portobellos with soft polenta, roquefort and walnut salsa ($30.50) - which is also gluten free and can be made vegan. (For those stopping by around lunchtime the restaurant also serves wood-fired pizza for around $16.)
Everyone knows that dessert reserves its own section of the stomach - thank goodness for that, because the dessert tapas for two ($38) are not to be turned down. They are a deliciously varied way to end a meal - with creamy panacotta, tasty brittle almond biscuits, delicate macaroons and an oozing warm brownie just some of the selection on offer. These go beautifully with the Pantelleria Moscato ($12 a glass) which is made from the restaurant’s namesake, the Zibbibo grape; a crisp yet subtly sweet dessert wine.
It would be easy to be intimidated by Zibbibo's extensive and very classy menu, but the approachable and gracious staff help make Zibbibo a restaurant that caters to everyone from the unsophisticated student to the most elegant of patrons.