The new Hilton is certainly impressive,
set teetering on Auckland's harbour edge overlooking
an astonishing sea vista. But tucked away inside the
hotel is a restaurant making just as much of an impressive
mark, this time on the culinary landscape.
Most diners would deem that a charming
waterside location, stellar seasonal menu and superb
service standards are elements that encompass the essence
of many a fine restaurant. White at the Hilton, Auckland
offers all of that, plus (and it is possible) a fair
bit more. Try a sparkling ambience in the day when the
ever-changing colours of the ocean and natural light
illuminate the dining area and later in the evening,
a touch of glamour and romance when night-lights flicker
in the distance.
moment you step into this venue, you will notice that
the pristine interior is white in colour (as you would
expect); from the leather chairs, to the marble floor,
the sprays of lilies and the six metre-long custom-made
white alabaster marble table. The setting is almost
like a canvas, where the chefs provide the palette and
the diners lend colour and vibrancy to the place.
Encircled by the waters of the Waitemata
Harbour, the much-lauded establishment perched at the
end of Princes Wharf, has been creating waves since
the opening of the hotel last year. This is largely
thanks to the creativity of its two award-winning chefs:
Consulting Chef Luke Mangan of Sydney's Salt and Lulu
restaurants and Executive Chef Geoff Scott, previously
of Auckland's famous vineyard restaurant Hunting Lodge.
Both culinary maestros captivate diners with their blend
of haute cuisine fused with Pacific Rim influences.
Luke and Geoff have both worked in
renowned European kitchens prior to this and picked
up indispensable culinary skills along the way. Luke,
touted as one of Australia's leading chefs has worked
at the UK's three-Michelin-star Waterside Inn, while
Geoff spent time in Provence and learnt classical French-based
techniques at Alain Ducasse's celebrated Louis XV in
Monte Carlo. With similar cooking philosophy and having
both trained with the Roux Brothers, they steer White's
food direction which comprises clean flavours, light
sauces and exquisite presentation. The two chefs work
closely, first discussing the seasonal menu via email
and later confirming their ideas during Luke's quarterly
visits to Auckland.
deriving the menu, the chefs carefully interlace the
freshest and finest New Zealand produce. "I am
inspired by the challenge of creating something beautiful
and delicious with New Zealand produce," chimes
Scott. "Knowing where they came from and who nurtured
them gives me enormous satisfaction and I believe the
diner will experience the taste difference."
He approaches local suppliers who
source for unique ingredients such as truffles from
Hamilton. "It's all very exciting as these are
the first batch of truffles picked from there, after
10 years of experimenting and planting. Now we can offer
this magnificent ingredient to our diners. To have truffles
grown in New Zealand that are as good as French truffles
is a dream come true for a chef," he enthuses.
Recently, they have also sourced wild
white truffles from the South Island which, according
to the chef, "created sensational complements to
the dishes. The wild white truffles were shaved over
a magnificent risotto which I learnt to make whilst
working in Milan. The technique and recipe were taught
to me by Gualtiero Marchesi also known as 'the Grandfather
of fine Italian cuisine'. It's a creamy white risotto,
simply finished with parmigano reggiano and olive oil.
And the white truffle perfume is released by the warmth
of the risotto."
Textures and temperatures are also
a big part of White's cuisine. An example of the interplay
of these two elements is the beautifully presented salmon
dish where diners can sample two different 'experiences'
on the same dish. One is the salt and sugar cured salmon,
with a touch of tandoori spice and raw salmon - natural
flavours that have been delicately infused with soy,
pickled ginger and shallot dressing. It is then crowned
with chickweed salad and a slice of grilled Japanese
eel, served warm.
Another appetiser worth sampling is
the seared prawns with soft polenta, blue cheese and
shitake mushrooms, drizzled with truffle oil - once
again, imparting that magical perfume - a dish that
strikes the right balance between earthiness and richness.
For mains, a must-try is the signature dish of roasted
hapuka that is pan-seared then roasted in the oven,
and placed on top a puree of celeriac. Accompanying
the fish is spaghetti and courgette tossed with fragrant
basil, pinenuts and currants.
For a sweet finale, tuck into the
licorice parfait dessert - a show stealer and one of
Luke's recipes. "The concept of this dish is sweet
licorice flavour, sharply contrasted with the lime juice
segments and syrup, which works really well," says
To complement the menu, White's wine
list was compiled by Luke, his business partner Lucy
Allan (of Salt) and the hotel's director of operations.
The list reads full of superb New Zealand wines (70
percent), some Australian reds and a smattering of fine
So what should guests be looking forward
to in the near future? "Over the winter months
we are planning a series of winemakers' dinners where
I will design dishes to complement the chosen varieties
of wine," informs Geoff, adding that for now, the
prototypes of the autumn menu are still being tested,
and if White's booking list is anything to go by, still
more than satisfying its customers.
Address: White, Hilton Hotel, Princes Wharf, 47
Quay Street, Auckland, New Zealand. Tel: 64-9-978-2000.