Our annual visit to Auckland always includes a pilgrimage to Hammerheads. It usually ends up with us ordering the seafood platter (POA) and despite this time it including a Fiordland Crayfish, we decided to go a la carte.
Hammerheads has undoubtedly one of the best views over Aucklawf4nd’s bay without being in the hustle and bustle of the Viaduct or downtown region. The menu has recently changed to incorporate more ‘land grown’ dishes but it still has a great selection of fish and shellfish, both raw and cooked. The wine list is extensive with most offered by the glass and bottle.
We started with the Paua Ravioli ($23) and the King Crab Salad ($23) and glasses of the 2010 The Edge by Escarpment Pinot Gris (Marinborough - $11) and 2009 Milton Te Arai Vineyard Chenin Blanc (Gisbourne - $14).
Paua is traditionally pretty rubbery and restaurant goers can now and again hear the chefs noisily tenderising the meat. So I was keen to try the Paua Ravioli and see what all the fuss was about. Lacking a little tenderness on its own, the al dente ravioli casing was the perfect textural match to the paua, and the smoked paprika lime buerre blanc was so good I almost asked for a spoon to drink the rest up. The crisp kumra threads on top were a nice textural contrast to the soft ravioli. And the dish went reasonably well with the Pinot Gris which was well integrated and slightly sweet but lacked complexity.
The King Crab Salad had a lot going on the plate: a myriad of textures and flavours on the plate with thinly sliced fennel, citrus segments of orange and grapefruit, wasabi and fresh peas, air dried mango and robust flaked king crab. The Gisbourne Chennin Blanc had great balance, good acidity and substantial body – a great example and better than many French Chenin Blancs.
For mains we ordered the Crispy Market Fish (Snapper - $37) and the Yellow Fin Tuna ($36) with a glass of 2010 Tresillian Dry Riesling (Canterbury - $11), 2007 Kumeu River Kumeu Terroir Chardonnay (Auckland - $17) and 2010 Bilancia Pinot Gris (Hawkes Bay - $10).
The Snapper was superb: fresh, light, flavoursome and crispy skin perfect. It sat atop a bed of snow peas, cherry tomatoes and was surrounded by a lemongrass and coriander coconut broth with mussel, prawn calamari and a touch of chilli. A solid dish, but the tomatoes would have been better replaced by green beans and the broth could have been a little silkier. The medium-bodied Riesling was very aromatic and had good fruit-acid balance although it was a little sweeter than we like and it would have benefited from a little less residual sugar.
The Yellow Fin Tuna was cooked to order and sat upon a Caprese Salad of tomatoes, Kalamata olives, baby boconccini, fried basil and capers, cloves of roasted garlic and shavings of Meyer lemon. The flavour combination was good and the fish was extremely fresh. But I would have preferred the Kalamatas to be pitted and the fried capers got lost and were indistinguishable. The Chardonnay had great fruit weight and had good oak integration but the oak predominated and it needs more time to soften. The Hawkes Bay Pinot Gris was poorly integrated and unbalanced (and subsequently swapped for another glass of Escarpment).
We indulged in dessert: a Valrhona “Equitoriale” Chocolate and Cointreau Tart, orange, frosted macadamia, white chocolate shards, mandarin and vanilla gel, Maltesers Ice Cream ($15). The individual components were well designed, and the frosted macadamias were a triumph. The tart was dense and chocolaty with a slightly over firm crust. And the citrus slices would have benefited from a marinade in a little Cointreau and sugar, which would have tied the components together better and offered a little extra something to cut through the richness of the tart.
It was an exceptionally enjoyable lunch overall and we’re sure to return again next year. The service, as usual, was friendly and attentive, and any minor issues were quickly resolved with a sincere verbal apology, including the change of wine. Visit on a quiet day (like we did this midweek lunch) for fast service and a guaranteed window seat with uninterrupted views. At busy times I recommend booking ahead for a the best views. And don’t forget to save room for dessert – you’ll be glad you did.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.