Mahi eats: Al Brown is the GOAT edition
The classic Al Brown skytower spot Depot smashes the PQQ Scale with a winning 9.2/10.
Depot is literally one of the top tier restaurants in Auckland, being a staple in the scene for over a decade.
Depot Eatery & Oyster Bar, a long standing (11 years!) restaurant by Al Brown is one of Auckland’s staple restaurants for a fancy occasion in a relaxed and unostentatious setting. To say this restaurant is highly successful would be an understatement. Located on Federal Street in the heart of Sky City, it’s always brimming with people. The vast and industrial interior really adds to the unpretentious feel of the place, with visible piping,open kitchens,high bar tables, leaners and low hanging lamps above each table.
They only take walk-ins, so in my opinion, this is the perfect weekend date night spot where you can grab a drink at Huami Bar or Glass Goose before you’re called back in. It sports a selection of small plates to be passed around and tried. Open from 7am, you can get a range of breakfasts from Depot too.
To start, I encourage you to order from the raw bar menu. I'm a sucker for oysters (and if you’ve been reading my other reviews) my go-to is either half a dozen or a dozen Te Matuku ($5.50 each) served with the mignonette. Creamy and fresh, these never disappoint.
The small share is where most of my favourite menu items are. Full disclosure - they aren’t particularly small. The single-handed most exquisite dish here that will consistently keep me coming back for more are the snapper sliders ($21.50). Served on a plate of 3, I often ask for an extra to make it 4 pieces. The snapper is nestled into a brioche bun (which is soft, not too doughy or overpowering unlike some other places that struggle to get the bread to content ratio correct), with watercress and a pickled lemon mayo. The snapper is mild, slightly sweet and filling whilst the pickled lemon mayo adds a zesty creaminess. If you go to Depot and don’t get this, I’m seriously going to doubt if you’re okay.
Next up is usually the Fergus Bone Marrow ($25) which is wood roasted, served with bread and a parsley and shallot salad. Now, bone marrow isn’t really my cup of tea, but this was very buttery, creamy and gave a full-bodied savoury flavour. Paired with the salad and bread, it’s an easy combo to devour.
Most of the large plate options are red meats with there being one chicken option and one fish option. For me, it’s hands down the grilled kahawai ($32). Cooked over charcoal, it is juicy, thick and tender. This dish comes with a fresh lemon for added zest, a side of spiced potato (they were giving garam masala with smoked paprika which really appeals to my Indian sensibilities) and is topped with salad and freshly cut chillies.
On the side, I typically go for the wood roasted cauliflower ($14) which gives a cauliflower mac and cheese vibe in a rich and cheesy bechamel like sauce, garnished with smoked paprika. This pairs so well with the rest of my order. I also think the baby cos with ranch ($12) and potato skins ($13.50) garnished with pecorino, truffle oil and porcini salt are great side options, and both are a classic order for me.
It wouldn’t be a top notch meal without everyone’s favourite course - dessert.To finish, I love the apple and pecan crumble with walnuts, topped with butterscotch ice-cream ($16) and a sugar pie ($14), which is essentially brown sugar cooked to a point of pre-caramelisation served in the form of a pie. Both were divine and despite the sugar pie sounding slightly weird, it wasn’t too sweet and was the perfect note to end on. They also usually have a cookie skillet on their dessert menu, which is literally what dreams are made of.
For the PQQ:
For Price, this place gets a 9/10. Everything is reasonably priced and you can easily get full off a number of small share plates and sides, meaning this doesn’t have to be an expensive meal.
For Quantity, I give this a 9/10. I roll out of here every time I come. I am absolutely satiated with what I’ve eaten and there is nothing left to desire. Even the smaller share plates are not tiny, like some other places.
For Quality, I give this a 9.5/10. Nothing here is short of divine. Every flavour goes together well, I’m constantly “ooo”ing and “ahh”ing and it all, and in true Al Brown nature the menu is constantly evolving to represent foods in season and cooked to perfection.
Coming to a 9.2/10 on the PQQ, Depot embodies everything that I love in a restaurant; carefully curated dishes in a casual setting made to be shared and enjoyed with people you love.