Auckland: The Sugar Club

If you keep up to date with the dining scene in Auckland, then you have bound to come across talks about Peter Gordon’s The Sugar Club in recent months. The Godfather of Fusion Cuisine’s latest venture, the fourth incarnation of his popular restaurant brand that first started in Wellington, was welcomed into Level 53 of Sky Tower with open arms. My friends and I managed to get a table, early Saturday night and decided to see if The Sugar Club was worth all the hype.

The revamped dining space is a significant upgrade to The Observatory, the seafood buffet that previously occupied the space. The Art Deco and Modernist features with brass light fittings and chandeliers accompanied with the stunning view oozes with glamorous appeal and it’s as if you’ve been transported out of Auckland. Our meal started with complimentary bread and a goat cheese parfait amuse bouche that was garnished with pieces of candied walnut, crispy rosemary and lightly dressed with a tangy balsamic sauce. An interesting start that received mixed reviews amongst the table, but I enjoyed the combination of flavours, the balsamic dressing in particular.

Instead of the typical entrée, main and dessert, the menu offers a selection of small dishes, something similar to a degustation but you get to choose your own dishes. This allows you to sample more variety of ingredients and flavours. We opted for three savoury dishes and one dessert per person.

My meal start with a delightful spiced smoked laksa served with pieces of duck, pumpkin and egg noodles. The seasoning was well-balanced and the smoking infusion intensified the soup giving it a distinctive taste. The pieces of duck were tender and the egg hidden underneath the fried onions and garlic added a creamy richness to the soup. However, the thin strands of noodles were slightly overcooked for my liking and lacked the desirable texture.

The Otago saffron linguine with paddle crab was a disappointment. The pungent Parmigiano Reggiano overpowered the flavours of the other ingredients, including the crab and was too rich for our liking. Similar to the egg noodles for the laksa, the linguine was too sloppy and resembled more like a risotto than a pasta dish. My friend and I were unable the small portion.

My meal was redeemed with the prawn and panko-crusted hapuka served over Asian greens, wood ear fungus and pieces of golden kumara. The juxtaposition of the crispy panko crust and the moist and tender hapuka provided a good variation of textures and the taste of the dashi was outstanding. This dish was well executed and I highly recommend everyone to try.

We left room for dessert, so I tried the peanut butter parfait. This creamy and rich parfait, served with a scoop of velvetly chocolate sorbet, chocolate crunchy bits and drizzled with caramel sauce, was happily consumed within minutes. I’m a big fan of peanut butter and this was just divine!

When restaurants are overhyped in the media, you dine with high expectations. Although it occupies a beautiful space and the staff offered first-class service, the small letdowns can cause huge disappointment because you expect an impeccable dining experience. I enjoyed my dinner at The Sugar Club, but I left with mixed feelings and this could be due to my reservations about fusion cuisine. With that being said, don’t let me put you off, I do recommend giving it a try and see for yourself, whether it is worth all the hype!

Date: Saturday 5 October 2013 | Location: Level 53 Sky Tower, Sky City, Auckland | Food: Fusion

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