Woodpecker Hill (Auckland CBD, New Zealand)
An ex-colleague of mine always asked me whether I had tried Woodpecker Hill, I never had until now and it was a nice surprise from my wife. To be honest I never knew what to expect in here as the only time I heard of this was from that ex-colleague that I mentioned earlier, I did have a brief look on their site the first time he asked but nothing fancies me from their menu until now.
Woodpecker Hill is a fusion restaurant the showcases wood-smoked American Barbecue merged with Asian cuisine, from their website what they offer are “Meltingly smokey, slow-cooked meats take on the taste bud-popping zing of lemongrass and ginger, coriander and chilli, cumin and Vietnamese mint.” and we are here to find it out.
Their head chef Che Barrington is the one responsible for MooChowChow and The Blue Breeze Inn. I had a chance to try The Blue Breeze Inn and that was one of my favourite restaurants in Ponsonby great offering and very tasty delicious dishes. Woodpecker Hill is his new baby which opened in 2015, again with an Asian twist but something really different.
We came here for dinner and one thing I noticed is that the place is like the Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3 it was quite dark, so apologies in advance if my photos are dark. I had to use my phones light to read through the menu (signs of aging). Apart from that the place was cosy, warm and we were greeted and served promptly and with a smile.
We ordered several items and most dishes are quite big so it’s good for sharing. For starter we grabbed some of the Pork & prawn shumai (NZ$16.00) served with peanut, red chilli, cumin & cucumber relish. Each dumpling was more than a mouthful, it was full of flavour and texture, this was one of the best Pork & prawn shumai that I ever tried, and you can trust me on that, I lived in Hong Kong for a while and I know what a good shumai is.
We then also ordered some Caramelised red curried baby back pork ribs with cashews, lime leaf & fried garlic (NZ$15.00). This too was good, sweet, spicy, savoury, and while it was classified as a small dish the serving size was quite good. I am not sure if the ribs were smoked, most probably it was because it tasted more like an American Barbecue than red curry. I love the spicy kick which balances well with the sweetness.
Then we had this Fourteen-hour smoked beef brisket (NZ$42.00), a 400g meat platter served with green chilli, lemongrass and galangal. I enjoyed the kick on this one, definitely the hot chillies can be tasted but not too strong, it’s just enough to tickle your senses. Flavours was good but again I was confused if this was smoked, it did not taste like it, most probably the lemongrass and chillies along with the sour and sweet hints from the sauce might have masked the smokiness. The meat I was expecting was fork tender but it was not, it’s quite soft but not soft enough as advertised especially when you are thinking this is a 14-hour smoked meat. If it is not named as Fourteen-hour smoked beef then I will not expect it to be as one but like I said the name does not relate to what was served.
To wash it all up we had this cocktail by the jug, can’t remember the name and it was not on the regular menu, it’s one of those one off specials. This was good, it was a mix of gin, pomegranate, lemon and mint, very refreshing and a good palate cleanser, we loved this one.
Overall it was OK, the offerings feel similar to the Blue Breeze Inn, familiar taste due to my Asian origin but with a twist. Service was impeccable, I love the vibes of the place and that shumai was amazing, if there is one thing that will make me go back here it would be that dumpling. If it’s not for that Fourteen-hour smoked beef brisket and very dark lighting this place would be perfect
Address: 196 Parnell Rd, Parnell, Auckland 1052, New Zealand
Phone: +649 309 5055