SAILS : RESTAURANT REVIEW
3 STARS / 5 ( GOOD)
VISITED DEC. 2021
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
GOOD EXPERIENCE MARRED BY RUDE MAITRE’D
It’s called the hospitality industry for a reason. After interminable covid lockdowns, when a patron shows up, the least the maître d’ can do is to be polite. Apparently, that’s too much to ask in ‘Sails’, buoyed as they are by lots of customers and a reputation built over years. I asked after sitting at the table if the kitchen was closing at 2 pm (Google listings show a 2-30 pm close). The front-of-house lady stared at me and said bluntly, “Not sure where you got that from“, and after a pause, answered that they’re open for longer. That was a continuation of the check-in which did nothing to make the customer feel welcome. I was surprised at this frosty attitude, unwitnessed before in any of Auckland’s best from French Café, Kazuya, Grove, Bracu et al. It’s a shame, as the waiters do their best to be polite and even charming, and the food is good.
The view, looking out over hundreds of sailboats in the Auckland Marina, with the Auckland Harbour Bridge in the background, is superb. I counted at least 60 customers – the place was full to the gills, but high ceilings and an airy set-up accentuate the expansive feel of the sea-side place.
The six course signature menu showed an overall good standard of cooking, but revealed a paucity of creativity, and shortcomings ranging from underwhelming ingredients to snafus in execution. The best savoury dish was the first one – an eminently moreish mix of golden beetroot, salted buffalo curd and candied walnuts on a pastry base. Kingfish crudo was lacklustre. Calamari was just about par for the course – what was this passable bistro dish doing in a signature tasting menu ? John Dory fish was beautifully cooked, but a sweet corn sauce did nothing to complement the fish. Duck, disappointingly, was overdone, veering on the chewy and drier side – a basic mistake in a fine-dining establishment. Dessert saved some face, with an excellent crème brulee accessorized with a lovely apple sorbet.
I was glad the waiters were much more hospitable, one young man in particular entertaining me with his cheerful demeanour. As for the maître d’ wearing the black belt over her blue dress, I think she took the black belt too seriously. ‘Some good eating there’, she said when I was signing out - the kind of inappropriate remark that sensible front-of-house learn to avoid early in their career. The views here are killer and the crayfish on offer sure tempts another visit but I have no intention of doing so – with a frosty captain, ‘Sails’ needs no iceberg.
UPNWORLD welcomes your comments.