There are times where blogging really does have its little perks. Wednesday night was one of those times, where Edd and I were invited along with a bunch of amazing bloggers to sample the winter menu of Aria. First and foremost, we were invited to try the winter menu and see what we thought. This means that we did not pay for the meals, however we were not paid for our time or opinions and were under no obligation to put up a review.
The photos were too good (thanks Edd!) to not feature on the blog, and as always all opinons and words are my own.
Aria is the rather secretive restaurant in the Crowne Plaza Hotel. A place that I have walked past every day for the last two years without realising there was an exquisite restaurant located inside. Funny that.
Auckland is a city that in my opinion is blessed with a plethora of incredible eating options, ranging from cheap, hole-in-the wall eateries, to extravagant dining experiences where the money you pay can be steep, but the food you eat is another level of delicious.
Don’t read any further on an empty stomach..or, well preferably do but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Dining in a hotel does not sound like a romantic experience, nor one that I would usually consider when I think of all the other options I have, however I must admit that regardless of whether you are a weary traveller or a couple seeking refuge from winter with a warming meal and some good wine, Aria ticks the boxes.
The restaurant itself is large, with enough space that even when it is full I think it would feel rather private. The decor is perfect for winter, lush tones of red accentuate a warm and inviting dining area. Its definitely a step up from my usual date night, takeaways on the couch (although this has its merits too).
On to the good stuff, the best stuff, the stuff we all spend our hard earned money on! The food. Edd and I ate around any meat and seafood, so you’ll just have to go by looks for those dishes (but damn they look good).
First up we tried the entrees on the menu, both the cold and warm options. Without a doubt, my favourite was the Sweet Potato Tortellini, packed with flavour, perfectly al dente and dripping with the most delicious burnt butter sauce. Drool worthy.
- Shiitake, button and portabello mushroom salad with toasted pinenuts and a vinaigrette (V) – this was light and tasty, with a great balance of flavours and textures
- Seared scallops, braised lentils and cherry tomatoes
- Hot smoked salmon, with a cauliflower panacotta and roasted beetroot
- Pork shoulder with beetroot risotto and goats cheese – okay so this risotto was ridiculous. Not only was it one of the most stunning dishes, it tasted incredible.
- Sweet potato tortellini, with wilted spinach, cherry tomatoes, walnuts and parmesan, all deliciously combined together with a burnt butter sauce – hands down best dish of the night
- Slow-cooked lamb shanks, cannellini bean puree and wilted spinach – the meat was falling off the bone and smelt incredible, even to a vego. I may have tasted the bean puree and thought it was the best bean puree I’ve ever had. Maybe.
- Duck leg confit with lychees and pineapple in a red curry sauce – delicious sauce with a great sweetness from the fruit
- Pork crepinette – wrapped with mushrooms and served with gnocchi and honey roasted carrots – tasted the gnocchi which seemed tasty and had a great texture
- Roasted pumpkin and buckwheat salad, with confit red onions, toasted brazil nuts, cherry tomatoes and a lemon emulsion – Edd and I went to town on this salad (see below). Although the buckwheat was missing, the textures in this salad were spot on, and the tart lemon dressing was a perfect, simple accompaniment to all the delicious flavours of the salad. Also, confit red onions, how have I never had these before?!
Overall, the mains aren’t cheap here, but the sizes are extremely generous, the flavours are bold and wonderful and the produce used is of great quality.There’s a good range of proteins, as well as options for vegans/vegetarians and gluten free diners.
Are you ready for my favourite part?
- Plum tart – black doris plums in a delicious brioche tart, along with toasted pistachios, marscapone and a warm creme anglaise. This was one of those humble dishes that sound so simple, like something nana might make, but came out and blew me away.
- Hazlenut Dacquoise – don’t ask me to pronounce this, but if I had to choose a favourite desert it would be this one. There was a salted caramel and chocolatte mousse thingy (which has a much fancier name) that was sweet and incredible, along with the most stunning raspberry and pomegranate sorbet I think I’ve ever tasted. This dish had such a great combination of contrasting flavours and textures, it was adventurous and interesting which I really love.
- Last up, the fought over Belgian melting chocolate pot – a warm, melted chocolate fondant that had the perfect rich, gooey centre that makes me knees quiver. This was paired with a french vanilla ice cream, which was a suitably creamy companion.
Deserts were demolished within minutes, Edd was lucky to snap a photo before we lunged in with our spoons held aggressively. I would come back here just for desert, although I’m not sure which I would go for as they were all stunning.
Aria would make a great location for a bit of a treat; an anniversary, a gift for someone who has everything, a special occasion that deserves some good food and wine. The staff are friendly, and passionate about the food. The ambience is warm and inviting, with a generous touch of class. The food is interesting and delicious. What else could you need?
Where: Aria Restaurant and Bar, Crowne Plaza, Auckland.
How Much: $120 approx for 2 people
Check them out over on Zomato or Trip Advisor, and let me know what you think if you give them a try!
Thanks to Aria for having us along! Also, a giant thank you to Edd who took photos whilst I stuffed my face (what else is new).
Have a great Tuesday!