Getting a haircut has become a bit of an event. Maloney’s are pretty much the best in the business, but with their barbers being such a valued supply, the men of central Auckland have responded likewise with demand. There are no appointments, and on any given day the wait can be up to 45 minutes or more. On one hand, I’m not adverse to waiting in an atmosphere which is very much classic barber meets man cave of your dreams, with the odd real life sports celebrity wandering in to get a cut. On the other, I’m an accountant. Time is money, and a 45 minute wait after I’ve finished work can leave me right in the middle of rush hour traffic.
So, why not let my Peckish side take over and use the haircut as an excuse to go out to eat with Mrs P?
This time we tried Farina, which by many accounts, is a very fine establishment indeed. My two cents can now be added to those accounts.
Upon arrival my appetite was trying its utmost to be mysterious. I was pretty sure I could eat, but my stomach developed commitment issues when I asked it what this dinner meant for the two of us. Was it just a light fling or a deeper desire for something more substantial? Oh, my appetite was playing hard to get, and Mrs P’s was much the same.
As we munched on the crochette, the games continued. While the crispy exterior, with silky mashed potato and mozzarella interior highlighted with salami accents delighted, I was unable to elicit any hint as to whether it would consume what we had already ordered, let alone try anything else that caught the eye on the menu. Resolve was softening, however, in the face of the rather delicious beer I ordered.
Usually when I’m dining out on Italian, the beer choice is exclusively Peroni. Peroni is fine, I have no problem with Peroni, but such an offering will not suffice to woo an appetite that wants to make you work hard for its affection. So it was that 32 Via Dei Birrai’s Nebra came to the rescue. With full bodied, husky caramel flavour, this drink came with a sweet and enticing allure that belied the 8% ABV, which gave it all the femme fatale kick of Monica Bellucci in the next Bond movie. A bottle stop come key ring was a cute touch. Eyebrow arched, my appetite’s interest was definitely piqued, but it was still holding its cards close to its chest. Mrs P was less moved by the Espresso Martini. Having been bowled over by the one served at Le Vietnamese Kitchen at Christmas time, this one suffered in comparison.
One mouthful of the Tortelloni changed all of that. Turns out that while my appetite was playing games, Farina had more than enough up its sleeve and was just drawing out the pleasure. We’re talking duck farce with mushroom ragù and truffle oil, at least, that’s what the menu tells you, but for me the little leaves of crispy sage put the whole dish over the top. Deep, earthy and sophisticated, like hand carved, contemporary wooden furniture that my appetite was more than happy to make itself at home in.
Suddenly my appetite was committing to more, much more. One of our waiters cottoned on to how hungry we still were, and how empty yet not quite empty our plates were. She offered us some bread to let us soak up the left over sauce from our pork and tortelloni. As far as affection goes my appetite was head over heels at this point. So many waiters would just try to take our plates away, leaving me quietly disappointed that I’m not at home and free to lick the plate in shameless peace. Not so at Farina. I appreciate thoughtful upselling, and I think this is the first time I’ve been offered one that’s so close to my heart. We don’t eat a lot of bread at home, but soaking up the last of a good sauce was a staple of happy meal times in my youth.
But bread is not a fitting end to a meal, let alone enough for what my appetite was now prepared to commit to. So we started with pizza.
Farina does 1 meter (1.9 yard) pizza. Luckily Mrs P was there to talk me down, otherwise my appetite would have dived head first into one. We settled on a standard size Boscaiola, consisting of champignon mushrooms, mozzarella, baby spinach, roasted pinenuts, cream and truffle oil. Despite the tortelloni being the pinnacle of the evening, the appetite was still well pleased with the combination, especially when set off by the base. Some pizzas will either give you density, or a lightness gained by a thin, crispy exterior with mostly hot air in between. Farina’s base offers a nice balance between the two, with a relatively thin base offering plenty of crunch with just enough substance in the middle for you to chew on.
My appetite was in full swing; our waiter came and asked us curiously where all the pizza had gone, because we reduced the plate to its cutting board origins in short order, and were already asking to have a look at the dessert menu.
I was ready for two desserts. So many of the options looked appealing, and I’ve done multiple desserts before. Mrs P was again on hand to hold me and my appetite back, so this time I stuck with one, a limoncello custard cake. As far as soft landings go, this was a cushy way to let me down after a serious effort to put a lot of quite rich food away. Mrs P wasn’t as much of a fan, but I found the combination of custard and cake a calming salve for my still demanding hunger and accentuated nicely by the slightly crunchy, candied lemon on top.
It’s easy, when one tries to write about food experiences, to love a place and leave it. A blog, and writing, benefits from diversity. I think Farina might be one of the few that survives to become a regular fixture. Good thing my hair regrows so quickly, we’ll have an excuse to go back there in no time.
244 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, Auckland