21 Hurstmere Road
Hours: Commons Bistro open 6:30pm – late Thursday to Saturday. Garden & Bar open 12pm-late 7 days. http://www.thecommons.co.nz
A very, very good surprise. Although The Commons has been open in Takapuna for a couple of years, I have managed to live 5km away without ever paying it a visit – friends had a bad experience a few years back, it was viewed (at least in my mind) as a bit of a flash burger-oriented bar space to go for drinks, and perhaps a little pricy for my student budget. An error of judgement, I now know – and my only regret is not visiting sooner.
Now one of the longer standing restaurants in the up-and-coming eating area of central Takapuna, surrounded by the likes of Josh Emmett’s Madam Woo, Bird on Wire, Zomer, Mexico, and Takapuna Beach Cafe, The Commons has two sections: the outdoor, heated ‘Garden’ and downstairs bar area, as well as the more subdued Bistro area upstairs. The latter was where we ate – a spacious, relaxed ambience created by high timber ceilings, floor-to-ceiling views over the Gardens bar area, and uncrowded seating – no bumping elbows with your neighbours here, unlike many eateries.
The evening we dined was one of the first days of The Common’s new spring menu, which showcases some of New Zealand’s best spring produce – new season peas, asparagus, zucchini flowers and spring smoked lamb all make an appearance. Divided into ‘to snack’, ‘shared beginnings’, ‘large plates’ and ‘to share’, the menu is wide ranging and creative, with an Italian slant – start with smoked salmon tartare Tuscan style with charred ciabatta ($14), or porcini anancini with heirloom tomato, gremolata & parmesan ($14). Shared beginnings are plates – spring vegetable mezze, kitchen charcuteries, or raw fish, all with accompaniments. Large plates are main size, though if in a smaller group you could share – the pig belly with beer, fennel, grape & charred carrot ($34) and the wholemeal gnocchi with ricotta, zucchini flower & heritage tomato ($32) were particularly tempting. Daily primal cattle cuts are also offered, as are the larger Savannah dry aged prime rib (700g- $79) and slow roasted lamb shoulder (800g- $75). Vegetables come as sides, and are worth ordering – charred spears of asparagus come with a golden crumb topping, new potatoes are simply dressed with sea salt & lemon chive, while heirloom tomatoes are highlighted by sesame & basil (all $8).