Pete Evans counts down his favourite restaurants and food experiences around the world.
In New Zealand one of my favourites is Cocoro. It’s an absolutely stunning Japanese restaurant. I love it for the quality of the seafood they present and the simplistic nature of it, with technique. I don’t think you can ever beat food in its purest form, and I see that as Japanese. That’s always on my list.
Cassia is another beautiful Auckland restaurant that does modern Indian. Lots of ingredients are blended in a certain way — a marriage of flavour, a marriage of spice and different cooking techniques bring about this amazing food that either melts in your mouth or falls off the bone. Everything is treated with respect.
I love the duality of the two different things there. I don’t want to eat clean Japanese everyday and I also don’t want to eat rich or intensely flavoured Indian every day, but I like that juxtaposition of the two. Generally, I’ll try to eat at both of those places when I’m in Auckland to have that balance.
I don’t eat out often in Australia because I mainly cook at home, but there’s a restaurant called
in Paddington, with a young chef named Josh Niland. He has created a beautiful seafood restaurant. He does nose-to-tail seafood as well, so you get offal; you get fish liver, you get fish head, fish heart, he does things with the skin, he does things with the bones. He doesn’t have any other meat on his menu, so here is a guy, with his wife, who has opened a business that is reinventing what food means. They’re not doing what everybody else is doing and I really like that. I like the individuality and passion for creating change in the marketplace and putting their own stamp on it. He’s rolled the dice and it’s worked, I admire people who do that. They don’t want to copy other people; they walk to their own beat. I took my mum there for lunch a couple of weeks ago and we had fish liver terrine and fish hearts, and my mum said, “This is some of the best oodI’ve ever eaten”, and she’s in her late 70s. To have that memorable experience together was pretty cool.
I ate in this really fantastic restaurant with Manu [Fieldel] when we were filming in Melbourne recently called Sunda. It’s a brand-new restaurant, doing modern South-east Asian food with the chef’s own twist. There was one dish on the menu, which was a Vegemite curry, of all things, served with roti bread and shaved truffle over the top. When we experienced that, both Manu and I went “Whoa!” This is next-level cooking. Something so unique that we couldn’t even conceptualise how it would come together and how it could work. And when we tried it, it was so good. Again, a young chef, Khanh Nguyen, putting his stamp on the way he wants to express himself, without following anybody else.
I really like eating oysters in America. I find American oysters are absolutely sensational, even better than New Zealand and Australia. They have different varieties; Pacific oysters and they have their own native oysters as well, but they have really cold water, really crisp, clean water. Generally in the States I head to an oyster bar as soon as I can when I get off the plane, no matter where I am (after landing on the coast somewhere). San Francisco has an oyster bar at the Ferry Building — I find sitting by myself, eating oysters, is a great way to acclimatise to a local culture, with local food that is good for us as well.
I’ve only been to London once, but I ate at a beautiful restaurant there — Fergus Henderson’s restaurant St John. Fergus is renowned for nose-to-tail eating; simple, English/French-inspired food, with lots of offal. You can go there and have his famous dishes, like bone marrow on toast. I got it without the toast, but just the bone marrow was sensational. I had liver and brains there, you can have it all. And that’s quintessential English or European food, it’s very simple, but the technique is flawless and the quality of the ingredients is exceptional.
It’s definitely worth experiencing.
Pete Evans co-hosts My Kitchen Rules New Zealand, returning to TVNZ 2 on Sunday, October 7, 7.30pm
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