Well, I finally made it to Ostro, the new brasserie in the Seafarers building in the vibrant Britomart complex. Venturing out in the worst possible weather for an early summer evening meal was worth it, as Ostro definitely came up trumps. It was a brilliant dining experience, despite the inclement weather – some thoughts follow:
The entry: My friend and I took the stairs rather than the lift up to the third floor entrance, ushered in through a cafe by a large but friendly security guard. With our umbrellas dripping from the heavy rain, we reached the landing, and encountered the weathered but somehow welcoming face of old seafarer, Tommy Doyle. What perfect placement of a fantastic photograph.
The Space – it is huge – almost breath-taking when you see it for the first time, and pretty amazing in every respect – with the City Terrace Bar on the Tyler street side which offers a great range of food, an amazing long bar in the centre space, and the brasserie itself facing the harbour. Lined with floor-to-ceiling windows, if offers a stunning view – on our visit, we watched through the rain-splattered glass, as a car freighter disgorged cars onto the wharf in a fascinating and well-orchestrated routine. The tables on the balcony outside were unoccupied due to the dreadful weather, but I can imagine they will be highly sought-after during the summer, for cruisy lunches and evening meals.
The ambience: buzzing, vibrant – definitely a great vibe. It was simply humming – packed with animated diners and those enjoying after-work and pre-dinner drinks. As we ate, we almost felt part of huge party, yet we were able to converse without shouting and could hear each other around a table of seven quite easily. Our table was very near the kitchen and we noted how calm it seemed, despite the huge number of dishes which they must have turned out during the time we were dining.
The service: The dapper Maitre’D lead us to our table and left us in the care of the attentive but unobtrusive wait staff, who made sure we had what we needed throughout the meal. Our water was continually topped up, the tables cleared quickly and efficiently between courses, and the dishes were very well explained when delivered to us. I liked the variety of uniforms too – with an understated nautical feel to them, they are simple but apt.
The food: Josh Emmet’s menu is stunning, and perfectly executed by Head Chef Cobus Klopper and his team. With emphasis on seafood as you might expect , there is variety enough to suit all palates. We shared platters for our entree, just two dishes but they complemented each other perfectly - Seared Yellowfin Tuna with the delicious Curious Croppers Tomatoes. I would have been happy with the tomatoes as my main dish they were so delicious! We wisely complemented our entrees with moreish, freshly-baked Ostro Stecca Bread with Seaweed Butter.
Mains choices at our table included Line-caught Tarahiki, with Candied Grapes, Fennel and Toasted Almonds, and Snapper ‘a la Plancha’, both of which were delicious and beautifully presented. My own choice was Roast Canterbury Lamb Rump, with Farro, Cauliflower, Capers, Raisins and Pedro Ximénez – I can honestly say I have never eaten lamb that virtually melted in my mouth as this did – it was a taste sensation.
Desserts were very different, quite retro even, and very well received by all. The Vanilla Pannacotta was fantastic, especially served with the contrasting berry sorbet,and the pansy on the top was a delightful touch. The Brandy Snaps were delicately thin as they should be, and the Rum Babas were exquisite, as were the Petit Fours. As most of us were driving we didn’t test the comprehensive wine list with gusto, but we did share an excellent bottle of Prosecco and finished the meal with a great coffee.
The verdict: While I admit that I have a connection with Ostro through family, I can honestly say that my blog post would have been identical, had this not been the case. Ostro has been receiving excellent reviews, and I was looking forward to my meal there with great anticipation. I can truly say I was not disappointed, and neither were my companions. It was wonderful venue to celebrate a 50th birthday in style, and we all left feeling that we had enjoyed a meal that was truly special. Ostro, you have me, hook, line and sinker.
PS For an independent and more eloquent review with beautiful photos of the interior and the food, plus information regarding the building design, see The Denizen here and also this link. For great photos and a foodie blog post see My Dining Journey.