Depot Eatery and Oyster Bar
Depot is the quintessential Auckland eatery, so much a part of its landscape as the Sky Tower it sits under that I sometimes overlook it. When a friend and foodie came to visit Auckland, I was eager to show him our latest and greatest, the game-changers. And then he found himself at Depot of his own accord, and had hands down his best meal in Auckland. I smacked myself in the head, 'How could I forget Depot!' Like a good, old friend, Depot is reliable, laid-back and contentedly waiting in the wings for when you next call in.
Keen to celebrate the beginning of the weekend (after a 12 day week of work I might add), Elliott and I made our way to Depot. We came at just the right time, and our affable host found us a seat as the restaurant became full-up. Some dishes come and go on Depot's menu, and some things never change, for good reason. The wood roasted bone marrow with parsley and shallot salad is legendary; if you've never tried bone marrow, this is the place to do it. Ditto the turbot sliders with pickled lemon mayo and watercress; they've always been here and always will be. This time round was a first for Elliott (you must forgive him, he is not a Jaffa) so in keeping with firsts we made it a rule to order nothing I've had before. A lovely touch from Depot as always, they got our juices flowing, so to speak, with complimentary barbecued flat breads with hummus perfumed with a cumin paprika oil. There's no room for hogging a main all to yourself here, sharing is caring and everything is set-up to share. The night was rather too cold to want to sample from the raw bar but they always have a selection of oysters and clams and a mean sashimi on offer. From the small plates we ordered the cumin battered warehou tortillas with slaw, tomatillo sauce and coriander, and the grilled octopus with Salash Deli chorizo, potato and red pepper rouille. From the bigger plates we ordered the skirt steak with tobacco onions, iceberg wedge and habanero mustard. And because I was feeling greedy, the potato skins with Kingsmeade pecorino and porcini salt.
I am a sucker for that sea creature covered in suckers. Great octopus is tender and a little toothsome, but never rubbery, like the version put up by Depot. A little tangy, almost marinated, it arrived alongside crispy hunks of potato and a warm, paprikary red pepper rouille. Elliott, between mouthfuls of potato and octopus, expressed his regret for enjoying the consumption of an animal so smart as the octopus. I pointed out that he also indulged in pork, another one of god's clever but delectable creatures. The warehou tortillas, or tacos as I call them, were wonderfully fresh and zesty with micro-coriander, but that was all. Eaten in a few seconds, and thought of for only a little longer.
The skirt steak was a dish that encompassed the whole concept of Depot: comforting, uncomplicated, and done well. In execution, not well-doneness might I add. The steak juicy and rare, and paired with Al's punchy, hot mustard and moreish spiced onions, one could easily finish the whole platter by themselves. Elliott hates iceberg lettuce, and so do I, but the wedge salad made a simple, cooling partner to the fire and spice of the dish. The main disappointment of the night were, surprisingly, the potato skins. Dry and not particularly crisp, the dry factor was not made better by the shavings of pecorino which some how served to emphasise said dryness. The porcini salt was rather imperceptible.
So I broke dinner's rule by ordering for dessert something I've had time and time again. Depot's sugar pie, is heavenly perfection. So simple and yet so perfectly formed, this smooth, subtly caramel custard must be eaten with spoonfuls of whipped cream, lest you be overwhelmed by its sweetness.
There were definite hits this night, and disappointingly a small number of misses, but there's not stopping this Auckland institution that delivers on vibe, quality produce and suppliers and the knowledge on how to eat well. Long live Depot!
Depot Eatery and Oyster Bar
86 Federal Street