The Grill by Sean Connolly: A Celebrity Chef Who Can Cook
There are certainly more good and well-known restaurants in Australia than New Zealand. However, when you travel to Auckland which is in the North Island of New Zealand, one gem of a restaurant to visit is The Grill by Sean Connolly at SkyCity.
SkyCity is a big complex with a casino, hotels, restaurants and interesting attractions. To discover the best bird’s eye view of Auckland, go to the Sky Tower. For the adventurous travellers, you can try your hand at the SkyWalk and SkyJump.
The Grill is helmed by Sean Connelly, a notable celebrity chef. Sean was the Executive Head Chef at Astral where he steered to receive five consecutive chefs’ hats (the rating system commonly used in Australia and New Zealand). He also released a cookbook to coincide with the TV series called ‘My Family Feast’. His book won best ‘celebrity chef’ cookbook in the world at the 2011 Paris book fair.
The restaurant is located at the entrance of the SkyCity Grand Hotel. It was packed on a Friday night and we could only get a table outside the restaurant which is an open area facing the road. The blasting of the loud music through the speaker system was quite a nuisance to the diners, and I had to ask the serving staff to tone down the music.
Sean believes in ensuring that the ingredients he uses are the freshest in the country. This can be vouched when the Caesar salad ‘Moderne’, 62º egg was served (NZ$26). The vegetables were crisp and had a tinge of sweetness. One of the specialties of the restaurant is the suckling pig and crackling—100gm (NZ$15). This dish is only available from 6pm onwards, Mondays through Saturdays. Unlike the roast pork with the crackling skin served at the Chinese restaurants, here the meat was shredded leaving a few pieces of the crackling skin on its own. There isn’t much to complain, since it was a well-executed dish.
In New Zealand, the must try meat dish is either the beef or lamb. The menu offers many types of beef from different regions. We chose the Taupo pasture-feed eye fillet which is from Central North Island (240 gm for NZ$46) with miso hollandaise sauce. The beef was soft and tasty, although there was hardly any fat in it. There was also a buttery aftertaste which was delightful.
Not on the menu was the chick cray pie (NZ$53) which was highly recommended by the serving staff. The pie was served fresh from the oven with a flaky pillow crust. There were chunky pieces of chicken and the creamy gravy looked like it was made by your grandmother.
For seafood, we tried the King Crab Linguine, lemon, chilli, butter, chives (NZ$46). This was heaven in a bowl of creamy goodness, and the medley of different flavours meshed well together. There was the sweetness of the crab meat with a twang of citrus, together with the chilli, elevated the entire dish completely.
Although I got pretty stuffed after the mains, I couldn’t resist the temptation when the serving staff told us that the Crêpe Suzette ‘Moderne’ (NZ$ 16) was a signature dessert. The crepe was soft and pillowy and the scoop of ice cream was just icing on the cake.
Overall, the food served at The Grill lives up to the chef’s reputation, but be prepared to pay for quality.
SkyCity Grand Hotel
90 Federal Street, Auckland