The culinary cool kids behind the likes of Auckland's Culprit are back – this time, serving up flavoursome interpretations of some of your favourite dishes.
Auckland is a city obsessed with newness. Fact.
With a heaving population of close to 1.6 million people. the pressure to constantly reinvent the wheel can be endless for the culinary maestros behind some of the city's best bars and eateries.
Whether is the latest taco craze, poké bowl, smoothie or juice bar, pizza slice or freak shake (RIP) – daily discovery can be exhausting for those doing it, let alone those behind its creation.
Remaining one firm foot ahead of the pack are chefs Jordan MacDonald and Kyle Street of Queen Street's newest casual dining hotspot, Lowbrow. The boys who began their culinary ascension under chef Al Brown (Depot), are going from strength to strength, and it's not hard to see why.
"We saw this as an outlet to cook the type of food that we like to cook, the kind of food we can't cook at Culprit," says co-owner and chef, Jordan. "It's a different part of the market, as well, it's more affordable, it's more accessible for everyone. It's fast, casual dining, the food doesn't take too long, unless we're full and there's a waitlist – which there has been, every day since we opened."
The duo opened their doors to the general public just last week, and have been blown away by the reception so far. Housed in lower Queen's newest dining district and nestled among a handful of brand new eateries, Queen's Rise promises big things.
"We thought we'd have a steady growth period, but (by no means) did we think it would be bam, straight into it. We launched takeaway, yesterday, so we got hammered."
Upon entry, you'll be basking in neon light, thumbing your way through a casual, unassuming menu inspired by everything from granola bowls to the classic Southland cheese roll; just a little bit cooler.
"The name 'Lowbrow' is inspired by lowbrow food, and the art movement of the 70s. The sort of pop-surrealism, that's where the colour palette comes from."
Bear in mind, this is not their first rodeo. The duos much-lauded solo endeavour, Culprit, located on Auckland's Wyndham, turns two soon.
"The Culprit diner is more... special ocassion," says Jordan. "The average demographic at Culprit would be thirties, late thirties, people bringing their families in to try something new. Whereas here, it's everyone from 18 to 70. Anyone who wants to try interesting food, with a quirky slant to it at an affordable price point.
"With the all-day menu concept, the thinking behind it was that we could start with an kiosk type set-up, and eventually we wouldn't have to be open all day. I think the all day thing is awesome for us, we can do what we want. Everything is fresh, we're still applying our philosophy, we're just doing it all day."
Diners will be spoiled for choice with a hearty line-up of small bites, shared plates and reinterpretations of classic, Kiwi fare, plus an equally heady booze list. This is the kind of space, not too dissimillar from Culprit, that suits larger parties craving something fresh, fun and new.
"There is a little bit of a street food element to what we do, there's the small plates, the large plates and restaurant fare for the sides," Jordan says. "We do these bread tacos that are loosely inspired by South Island cheese rolls – buttered, toasted white bread, Thousand Island Sauce and cloudy bay clams, they are delicious."
"I think for us, we draw inspiration from everywhere – we're not an Italian restaurant, we're not cooking Middle Eastern; we're cooking the best little bits of what we know. It's hard to keep on top of stuff, but it is enjoyable – we did 900 covers during the first four days we were open. We've been pretty pumped, right from the get-go. We do 200 people a week at Culprit, so in four days doing almost five times that... it's crazy."
As for what's next for the culinary cool kids?
"We don't know – we'll see how this goes. It's just me, Kyle and my parents – we're really home-grown. Our philosophy at Culprit is that someone always has to be there, all the time. Lowbrow is a bit more loose, there could be a spinoff after Lowbrow, it really depends on how we go."
The crowd, Jordan says, totally varies – there's no snobbery, no presumption, just seriously good food.
We suggest paying a visit to this newly-minted establishment while it's the hottest buzzword on everyones' lips. Prepare to wait, but trust us that it'll be worth it. One bite and you'll be converted, coming back for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The choice is yours.
125 Queen Street,
Opening hours: 7am until 11pm,
Monday – Sunday.