Only 35 minutes away from Auckland City by ferry, Mudbrick Restaurant is one of the gems of Waiheke Island. A short taxi ride from Matiatia Wharf and you're there - trying to decide whether you should be looking at the view or the menu. A favourite with wedding planners and corporate eventers, it's best to get to Mudbrick early for a weekend lunch and to book in advance. The food, by the way, is delicious but make sure you fill up with the sides as well.
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Waiheke Island oysters shucked fresh from the sea and topped with a New Zealand staple—beet—are a joy to behold. The freshness of the flavors combined with simple presentation and juicy flesh makes this aphrodisiac one worth lingering over.
Mudbrick Restaurant lives on a gorgeous vineyard of the same name in Waiheke Island, New Zealand. Overlooking rows of gnarled, green grapevines, full, fragrant bushes of lavender, and a glittering bay, the rustic, brick dining room really gets you in the mood for food.
Allow me to introduce the Taste of Waiheke Lamb, served with Lemon Thyme Polenta, with a saffron fennel rouille, and spring onions. Clearly, our little lamb was a former neighbor, and I'm guessing the same goes for most of the herbs and veggies, which also included baby carrots, roasted cherry tomatoes and sprouts. A "rouille" is a traditional French sauce meaning "rust," a nod to its color, with a mayonnaise-type consistency. It's typically made with olive oil, egg yolks, bread crumbs, garlic, saffron and chili peppers, and usually accompanies fish. Here, the chefs at Mudbrick have once again put a new twist on an old classic, and traded the chili peppers for the more anise-flavored fennel, and paired it with meat as opposed to something fishy. It worked! The lamb was pink, rosy and perfect, married well with the rouille and the veggies, and of course the dollop of foam that adorned it.
Lunch during a New Zealand spring at Mudbrick Vineyard on Waiheke Island is a lifetime event. If you can, grab the table on the second floor loft with French doors opening out to a large verandah. The view from atop the farmhouse restaurant is breathtaking, overlooking the vines leading toward the sea and Auckland on the horizon.
The whole farm-to-fork concept is about as old as the kauri trees on Waiheke, and the freshness in both the food and the air pervades the entire spirit of the lunch.
Here’s a sample of the menu: Seared king scallops with oxtail, kumara and beef jus; Eastherbrook Farm duck breast with passionfruit salsa and parma ham; Waiheke snapper in a shellfish reduction; and black angus pure eye filet with béarnaise and garlic smoked shallots.
Everyone asked for seconds of the fresh homemade raspberry tarts.
Mudbrick is a bit of a fairytale story. The land was purchased in 1992 by a married couple in their late 20s, Robyn and Nicholas Jones. They planted the vineyard themselves and built the cafe and barn/house/winery. Kiwis think if you can get three uses out of one building, then “good on ya,” as they say. The buildings are constructed out of mud bricks that keep the temperature indoors consistent, which helps with wine storage.
Robyn eventually had a couple kids and Nicholas no longer works as an accountant full time. These days he helps plant the big sunflowers and rows of lavender lining the path to the front door of the restaurant.