Fans of Auckland's much-lauded Chinoiserie, Happy Boy and Kiss Kiss, had no doubt already heard that this one was coming.
A splash of hot pink holding pride of place on Mt Eden's well-trodden Dominion Road arrived on the city's casual-cool culinary scene earlier this month, and after our recent encounter, we can confirm that Love Exposure is everything we hoped it would be.
Upon entry, prepare for the full sensory overload. Think neon-clad walls, bottles of Sriracha dressing every table, pop-colour memorabilia and sticky camo tablecloths. Simply put, this place is full on – but in a deliciously good way. We visit shortly after 5pm on a soggy weeknight. The weather outside is grim, so the speedy arrival of a coconut thick shake is precisely what's needed.
The vibrancy, flavour and flair of this lively new location, spearheaded by Celeste Thornley and brothers Jasper and Ludo Maignot, is a welcome addition to a long-forgotten corner in one of Auckland's most popular junctions. Cheap fusion eats are quite literally, a dime a dozen on Dom Road, yet Love Exposure take things a step further, thanks to a well-curated, contemporary Vietnamese menu.
The team here describe the menu as "authentic Vietnamese street food", a concept they've clearly refined with great practice. Drawcards like the classic beef pho – a slurpy and flavoursome medley of rare beef, herbs, beansprouts, lemon and chilli – ticks every box, while the grilled pork shoulder and lettuce cups (this dish is designed to share) will have you fighting off company to go back for seconds, or even thirds.
Similarly, it's hard to bypass the grilled pork and pâté banh mi, while we're told the prawns and green rice are a definite must-try. We urge you, though, not to disregard dessert, namely the coconut, rose water and banana sago pudding, served with toasted coconut flakes. Light, sticky and doused in coconut cream; mouthfuls of sticky rice bind together like fluffy pink marshmallows.
If a Pina Colada, umbrella straw and all-round upbeat vibe are what you're after, we don't doubt you'll love this corner gem. And when the dreary Auckland weather takes a turn for the worst, just remember that pure escapism is only a spoonful of sago and bowl of beef pho away.
191 Dominion Road,
Ph: 09 930 8371
Opening hours: Monday – Thursday: 5–9.30pm.