When the stand alone Irish pub in the middle of Parnell became shut up, there were fears Parnell would start to resemble the nearby Broadway with its multiple ‘For Lease’ signs and dust motes on vacant shop floors. But there were whisperings that Che Barrington’s latest creation would be taking up residence, a smoke-signal if you will, of good things to come.
Woodpecker Hill has been around for nearly a year now (yeah I know I’m late to the party, I was living in Blenheim okay?) and like its Ponsonby predecessors, it shows no signs of stopping. If you feel you’ve seen enough Asian Fusion to last two life times, Imma gonna stop you right there, because you ain’t see this yet.
Take beautifully smoked brisket that’s been self-combusting in a stainless steel piece of Nasa spaceship (read: US imported smoker) for several hours; baste that in curry paste, and chuck in some pickled green peppercorns and tangy cloves of garlic. Finish with some aromatic herbs and you have Woodpecker Hill’s burnt ends curry. Thai food, famed for its fragrance and symphony of sweet, sour and salty, is taken to a whole new level when paired with the flavours of America’s smokey South.
Whilst there are a number of smokey, meaty numbers in various guises of curries or plain old BBQ to share, Woodpecker also has a large selection of small and medium sized dishes from which one can assemble a veritable feast. Emma and I feasted on a spectacular salad of barbecued salmon whose richness was juxtaposed with the sweet tang of green apple and a nuoc cham style dressing. The crispy eggplant was a standout for textures, coated in the lightest of tempura batters, although its mostly sweet flavour profile was rather one dimensional. We also ordered the som tam, a heady concoction of shredded green papaya and green beans muddled together with tomatoes, chilli, lime, belacan and fish sauce. Whilst a traditional Thai dish without Deep Southern influences, the salad is nonetheless delicious. And yes, we had leftovers to take home (at the end of the day it is Thai and Thai tastes good the next day).
Feeling greedy we finished with the coconut dumplings, yellow beans, fresh coconut and bourbon palm sugar caramel. These warm, glutinous dumplings had a delicate, sweet coconut flavour to them and not dissimilar to Malaysian kueh. This was juxtaposed well with crisp shards of honeycomb, and the palm sugar caramel had both Emma and I were scraping the barrel so to speak.
Woodpecker Hill seeks to bend the rules of fusion cooking and does so rather successfully. Whether you are interested in being challenged or just interested in some damn tasty food, Woodpecker Hill surely has something for all.
196 Parnell Road, Parnell, Auckland