|Beautiful decor and high ceilings at Ortolana.|
I thought I was a bit of a sophisticated foodie already. I've eaten cavalo nero and quinoa (though I have a complex about pricing native peoples out of their own grains). I knew the meaning of aioli years ago, before BurgerFuel started serving it with their chips. I've tried making my own paneer and labneh is on my to-do list. But every time I go to eat at Ortolana, I have to check on the meanings of a more than a couple of words.
|Open kitchen area.|
How many of the following terms do you know? If you eat out at high-end restaurants a lot, you may be acquainted with some of them already, but I'd be surprised if you understood them all. I mean, really, nduja? I had no idea that Italians even made that sound combination. And painisess, which was on the menu in April, was not a word that Google knew about at all!
- bagna cauda
- chitarra pasta
- crema fritta
- pillus pasta
- stracciatella (in this case not a type of ice cream)
- strangozzi pasta
We keep returning to Ortolana, not for the linguistic challenge, but because it has lots of things going for it: a central location close to the Britomart train station, a pleasant atmosphere with polished service, and above all, delicious food at reasonable prices. The portions are on the smaller side, so you have an excuse for some excellent dessert. Oh, and there's unlimited free sparkling water—bonus!
As if you might forget the meaning of the restaurant name, practically every dish is strewn with micro-greens. Not that I am complaining—I always like to have some vegies with my food.
|Kingfish carpaccio and chicken cotoletta with plenty of greens.|
|Mushroom and mozzarella piadina.|
|Jerusalem artichoke and hazelnut soup, back from April last year.|
It's not all about vegies at Ortolana. Their cheeses are beautiful, whether you order a fresh cheese as a main or entree, or savour a washed rind one with honey as part of your dessert.
|Mozzarella fior di latte, olio nuovo, apple, sorrel.|
The pastas are skilfully cooked, and come in a variety of different shapes, as you can tell from the list of foreign words above.
|Rigatoni, nduja, sorrel.|
You can choose from a range of great meat dishes too, from fish to chicken to red meat. Most recently, they had the very gourmet-sounding "spatchcock" on the menu, served with quinoa, pear, rewarewa and walnuts, though no one at my table ordered it.
|Rib eye bistecca, fried green tomatoes, oregano relish.|
Pretty much everything we have ordered has been spot-on (though we didn't care for the kale crisps with nutritional yeast), but don't forget to save room for dessert as these are amazing too. A few months ago, they let people order anything from dessert-only restaurant Milse next door (yet another inspiring eatery from The Hip Group). That proved to be problematic, however, so you only get to pick from a cut-down list of choices again. You can, of course, add yourself to the queue at Milse if you want the full experience.
The menu changes regularly, so make sure you talk to the staff to find out what the specials are, and to get a better idea of how things are served.
Drinks: There is an unusually large selection of non-alcoholic drinks. Their hot spiced apple drink ($5) was particularly apt for a cold winter's day, and we have enjoyed their refreshing sodas and other drinks too.
You generally have a couple of entrees ($18-$19) and pastas ($20-$23) to choose from, and if you are not very hungry, the piadinas ($15) are great too. The potatoes are cooked with lardo and therefore not vegetarian, but the cheese options will be quite filling.
|Lunch menu - July 2014|
|Dinner menu - July 2014|
|Dessert and drinks menu - July 2014|
This restaurant does not take bookings. Turn up early and leave your name and number, until a table is free.
31 Tyler Street, Britomart, Auckland Central
(09) 368 9487
Mondays to Sundays 7am - 11pm
|Modern bistro in Britomart.|
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