Mahi Eats: K Road NeoBistro Edition

Mahi K

Despite the numerous openings of Neobistros, Celeste still wins the trophy in this category.

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10 October 2022

She’s a solid 8.7/10 on the PQQ scale.

Bar Celeste is a French Neobistro, a term coined for the new style of French restaurants that are modernising well-established traditional recipes in a minimal, polished, yet affordable dining format.The “new-wave” bistros have share-style plates of innovative dishes, housed in a casual and relaxed ambiance, with food that is Internationally influenced. Bar Celeste was one of the first to bring this wave of Parisian styled dining to New Zealand in 2019.

K Road is now well known for being the home to a number of Neobistros, but I have to say that despite the numerous openings since then, Celeste has been, and will continue to be, one of my favourites on the block.

Set in a low light restaurant with casual seating on sleek wooden tables and booths, the spot makes for a perfect first date choice (even if your date has shit chat, you’ll leave full and taste some pretty unique flavours). The tables are spaced close to each other with an open kitchen which creates a cosy and intimate atmosphere. The brick walls, low hanging lights and wooden ceiling panels really elevates the sophistication of Celeste.

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Celeste has a fluid menu, which means you can’t just peruse an online menu on their website prior to attending (which makes me slightly anxious, but whatever), the rationale of this being that dishes here are curated with influence and flavours from what’s in season. Fresh New Zealand ingredients are utilised each season, meaning that the menu is constantly evolving and no two dining experiences are exactly the same. With a menu designed to be shared, if you’re not here on a first date, I would recommend coming with a group of friends to try as many dishes as possible.

The fluid menu isn’t the only thing to fawn over; Celeste has an extensive wine list, which means you must order a glass of whatever red is recommended by the waitstaff each time you go in, and some delicious cocktails to pair too.

My ideal order for the table starts with half a dozen Mahurangi Oysters ($4.50each) served with a mignonette (which are my favourite oysters in New Zealand for their uniquely sweet yet salty taste). This is my favourite way to start a meal.

My next pick is always the Buratta (I am a self-proclaimed burrata enthusiast and very trustworthy in this department), engulfed in rich olive oil and topped with nuts to add to the crunch. This is paired with sourdough served with olive butter. I find burrata (and most pull apart cheeses) truly divine, so this for me is an unmissable dish. The fact that the bread they give you has olive butter with it just adds to the richness, especially if you layer the burrata on top of this. I can’t stomach dairy all that well, but would 100% risk it for this burrata every time.

“When I was there last week, apparently I just looked like I was enjoying the food way too much, nodding my head with every bite, eyes rolling back a little, licking my lips.”

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Next up is the Trevally Cru in a zesty citrus sauce, coriander, capers. Although a smaller portion and quite light, it’s quite nice. It’s not a must for me, so if you’re going to skip any of the things I would typically order, I’d say skip this.

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My winner at Celeste is the Gnocchi. The Gnocchi as currently curated is submerged in a rich fermented chilli sauce, and topped with a creme de comte sauce (I know you definitely don’t know wtf that means so a sauce made of a French cheese with unpasteurised cow’s milk, known for its nutty and earthy flavours), it’s rich, creamy and filling. I have to stop myself from ordering two of these (but again, I would risk the dairy intake for this).

For me, the Jerusalem Artichoke is a close second. Nutty and crunchy, they taste kind of like potatoes with a mild artichoke tinge. Covered in an aioli-esque sauce with some smoky flavours, this is a must order for me every time I hit Celeste (and has surprisingly been one of the constant’s on the menu).

The Flounder is delicious and immersed in a sauce which feels rich, buttery and creamy. It’s so velvety and light that you’re literally scraping it off the bone.

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To finish, I’m a sucker for the Crème Caramel, which is a sexy little flan like baked custardy dessert (not to be confused with her better known sister Crème Brûlée) drowning in an exquisite and rich caramel sauce.

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For the PQQ rating:

I give this place a 7.5/10 for Price on the basis that whilst things are objectively well priced - like the burrata and sourdough are only $16 and $9 respectively - you’ll probably order a lot (which is understandable given the share style plates of the place), meaning that in full disclosure you may rack up a decent bill.

Celeste scores at a 9/10 for Quantity. Whilst share style dishes are traditionally small, the portions of dishes are decent. The gnocchi and artichoke are actually quite large, especially considering that at other classy restaurants you literally may get 4 pieces of gnocchi despite paying for it with your arm.

Where this place really stands out for me though is Quality. I have to give this a 9.5/10 for Quality because nothing is average. All the flavours are carefully combined, and they just fucking work. When I was there last week, apparently I just looked like I was enjoying the food way too much, nodding my head with every bite, eyes rolling back a little, licking my lips, but you know what? I’m not even going to deny it, I probably was. The food here is divine.

Coming to a 8.7/10 on the PQQ scale, this is the spot that I would instantly recommend to anyone looking for a date night recommendation. Pair it with a few drinks beforehand at any of K Road’s bars (I love Sly Bar or the recently opened Tom Foolery) and you’re sure to have a perfect evening out.

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