Saint Alice is the latest opening by the team behind Auckland’s famous Dr Rudi’s Rooftop Bar. We pop along to the stunning restaurant to sample the wares and see how the venue compares to its much-loved older sibling.
Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour is arguably the city’s most sought-after dining spot, boasting impressive views out over the waterfront and the ceaseless tread of tourists and locals alike looking for good eating. It’s therefore pretty spectacular that the Dr Rudi’s team managed to snap up a neighbouring spot on the harbour back in December 2018 for Saint Alice, to create a corner of its own within this busy quay.
More upscale than Dr Rudi’s brew-bar, Saint Alice is a sun-drenched brasserie and bar with a highly considered menu and laid-back vibe. Food on offer is fresh and playful, with Chef Maia Atvars (ex-Depot) electing to change things up with the seasons whilst maintaining a focus on local seafood.
We climb up the escalator and turn into the bright and expansive eatery. A seafood bar greets us and we glance around the open space. The terrace is full of day drinkers, basking in the early afternoon light. The enfilade of casual dining areas surrounding it are filled with people, buzzing happily about holding cocktails and picking leisurely at sharing plates.
We take a seat on a bench in the central space – making the most of both the sea breeze at our backs and the view of the bartender’s shaking up concoctions in front of us. Electing to start proceedings off with some dishes from the raw bar, we launch into Te Kouma Oysters ($5.50 each) and Trevally Sashimi with Tiger’s Milk and Wasabi ($18). The oysters are perfect: fresh, creamy and with a subtle sweetness met by the dainty acidity of the lemon and mignotte dressing.
The sashimi is a similar delight, the meaty trevally providing a robust base for flavours of sour cream, citrus, freshly sliced red chilli and hit of wasabi to dance on.
As we savour the morsels, our cocktails arrive. In Chains (Olmeca tequila, Mandarine Napoleon, Galliano Amaretto, Orange Pulp, Lime Juice) proves to be a lovely, refreshing drink with juicy orange and sharp lime playing against a gentle background of mint, and ending in an amaretto finish. Cooper – a whiskey Negroni with Maker’s Mark, Cynar and Campari – sits at the other end of the spectrum, its bold and full-bodied bitterness rounding off the palate with a decisive and herbal strength.
To accompany our mains, we select a 2016 Syrah from De La Terra in Hawke’s Bay ($85) – a vibrant wine filled with complex aromas of black cherry, ripe dark berries, pepper, liquorice and oak, that pairs well with the strong flavours in the dishes.
Fried Chicken goujons (¢18) coated in a deliciously spiced crumb is sprinkled with curls of pecorino cheese and comes with a tangy, slightly sweet marmite and soy sauce dressing that is delightfully moreish.
A Woodfired Bavette Steak with Garlic Potato and Rudi’s Beer Washed Cheese Fondue ($38) is equally gorgeous with a hint of truffle in the raclette adding an indulgent depth that meets the smokiness of the rare beef.
On the suggestion of Marco, our friendly server, a side of Kohlrabi Slaw, Marinated Raisins, Nuts and Mint Sauce ($12) arrives, and what a dish it is! Shredded purple kohlrabi and cuts of kale are topped with peeled orange segments, walnut pieces, dark chocolate shavings and a quenelle of soured cream. Deliciously odd, the complexity of the bitter chocolate, sweet citrus, gentle acid and fresh mint cuts through the fattiness of the bavette and cheese in a dynamic and truly exciting way.
We’re feeling pretty full however Marco surprises us with a dessert that we “can’t leave without trying” – the chef’s famous Homemade Shortbread, Central Otago Poached Pears, Lavender Cream and Lemon Curd. The shortbread comes muddles with seasonal fruits including dried blueberries. The pears are soft and delicately flavoured and the piece as a whole is one of textural frivolity, and sweetness balanced beautifully with tart lemon and floral notes.
We leave Saint Alice feeling entirely sated and incredibly well treated. Everything we ate and drank was faultless and the atmosphere had us feeling immediately relaxed. Whilst there are a few tourist traps lurking around Viaduct Harbour, Saint Alice is certainly not one of them and we look forward to seeing them go from strength to strength.
Saint Alice, Level 1/204 Quay Street, Auckland CBD, Auckland 1010, New Zealand