First Look: Phil's Kitchenby Catherine McGregor
Newly opened in the Kingsland shops, Phil’s Kitchen is a small restaurant with a big personality at the helm. The Phil in Phil’s Kitchen is the ebullient Phil Clark, a Kiwi chef whose CV is studded with high profile names. He’s manned the stoves at Auckland's Sidart and Merediths, and at London's Tom Aikens, Arbutus and Wild Honey, all three Michelin-starred.
It was a heady rise for the young AUT graduate, but life in London’s pressure-cooker kitchens took its toll. The battle for Tom Aikens’ second Michelin star meant 120-hour work weeks, six months straight without a day off. He lost 20 kgs and was hospitalised twice.
But, he says, he doesn’t regret a moment of it. “Tom is one of the best chefs in the world and I was so fortunate to work alongside him. In a situation like that you have no choice but to learn fast.” Craving a change of pace, Clark came home in October and began planning his first restaurant as chef-proprietor.
He found the ideal location in the old Le Garde-Manger site, which had previously been the Kingsland fixture Bouchon. The French bones of the place seem to suit him. “I wanted to create something like the bistros I love in Paris, little hole in the wall places with ten tables and really good cooking.”
Ask him to describe his style of cooking and he’s quick to namecheck mentors Anthony Demetre (the chef behind Wild Honey and Arbutus) and Tom Aikens. “I’m going for something halfway between Anthony’s simple bistro-style cooking and Tom’s fine-dining finesse,” he says.
From their tiny kitchen, he and sous chef Tommy produce an ever-evolving dinner menu of four starters, four mains, three desserts, and a $35 3-course lunch on Fridays and Saturdays. Right now starters include a maple-cured kingfish ceviche with miso, sesame and radish and (pictured above) a crispy pork belly with carrot and hazelnut. Move fast and you can catch the smoked beef loin with piquillo pepper, beetroot and potato dauphinoise, also shown above.
Front of house is run by the charming Marine Peyregne. Peyregne grew up in the hospitality business – her parents own a restaurant in the south of France – and her background includes the legendary three-starred L'Arpège restaurant in Paris and Wild Honey in London, where she met Clark.
Kingsland Road is a long way from the bohemian thoroughfares of Soho and the Left Bank, but Clark and Peyregne are embracing the change. “This is exactly the sort of restaurant I wanted to create,” Phil says. “Honest bistro cooking, loud and proud.”
479 New North Road
(09) 845 1680
For more Auckland food news and reviews, see metroeats.co.nz.
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