Immerse yourself in a fabulous dark and moody, movie-set version of old-Beijing with lip-smacking food and a bustling, buzzy vibe.
At the weekend I was lucky enough to pop into the city with a few friends to check out Krishna Botica and Tony McGeorge’s latest hospitality venture. With the successful line-up of Café Hanoi, Xuxu Dumpling Bar and Saan already under their belts, they clearly knew what they were doing when creating the concept for Ghost Street. Based on the style of hole-in-the-wall eateries in Beijing’s famous Ghost Street, the 130-year-old space under the newly-relocated Café Hanoi in Britomart has been cleverly re-imagined by Daijiang Tai and James Ting of Cheshire Architects.
Heading below ground and parting the bamboo curtains at the entrance, you are immediately transported, with recycled timber tables, black concrete cement tiles and a busy open kitchen, the illusion is that you have arrived in China by simply walking down the stairs. Jasmine tea is immediately served, and the food offering created by executive chef Nathan Houpapa and head chef Khai Yee Khor, explained. Menus have a check box system, where you simply tick the boxes of the dishes you’re keen to order, then hang the menu from a wire dangling above the table. Wait staff then whisk the orders away and return with bowls of delectable, spicy treats – this process is repeated as many times as you wish.
But to start, we were keen to sample from the clever cocktail selection, opting for a Bohai Old Quarters (Rye whiskey, Armagnac, red vermouth & cherry with Chinese bitters), and a Sichuan Negroni (Gin, Sichuan pepper, red vermouth & bitter orange). I can confirm the Negroni was indeed delicious, with a pleasing chilli pepper punch – a perfect amount of heat.
Appetites whet, we quickly ordered up a feast starting with Scallop wontons with Sichuan oil, ginger and red vinegar and Xi’an grilled lamb skewers with cumin chilli sesame rub and coriander. The wontons were light and silky and packed with flavour, and the lamb skewers plump, tender and deliciously spiced. Next up were Biang Biang noodles with spring onion, coriander and sizzling chilli oil alongside Soy braised Dong Po pork belly with steamed Shanghai coriander and Egg fried tofu squares with Xi’an spiced sauce. Word to the wise – if sharing the noodles, request a knife – the addictive, thicky chewy strands are long! The pork belly had an intensely flavoured layer of tender meat beneath the succulent fat and the fried tofu squares were a perfect conduit for the spiced sauce.
The flavours were robust, with hits of spice and heat, ginger and bursts of vinegar and soy. As we ate the hum of conversation and clanking cutlery around us grew, with happy punters lining up to dine at this recently opened eatery. With its moody vibe and exciting menu, I reckon Ghost Street is an excellent addition to the Auckland dining scene – and an ideal spot for a night out.