Puneet Dhall: in the magnificent dining room of the Park Hyatt’s splendid Onemata restaurant

I am sitting in the magnificent dining room of the Park Hyatt Hotel’s splendid Onemata restaurant.

The hotel has such an incredible location, resplendent on the north eastern corner of Wynyard Quarter.

Through Onemata’s large windows, the sun glints off the water in diamond shards and I observe the ever bustling activities of the harbour edge… boats, bikes, trams, some people scurrying, others simply sauntering.

All four of the restaurant's hearth ovens are fired up. The ovens face regally into the restaurant. These are the secret to Onemata. The ovens are stone enclaves and heat the cavity to 360 degrees celsius — the magic temperature where the air and food dance with each other to create incredible caramelisations and textures, whilst retaining succulence and moisture and with minimum carbon or burn.

Chef Rob Hope-Ede is a Kiwi lad of North Shore extraction. He is as local as they come and creativity oozes out of him. A protege of chef maestro Simon Gault, Rob worked for 15 years under Simon’s stewardship at such Auckland institutions as Euro, Jervois Steak House and as head chef at Giraffe. In that time Michelin starred chefs from around the world would come to Auckland and collaborate with Rob in all manner of foodie experiences.

Rob acknowledges that the current evolution of New Zealand food has many influences and, in this manner, is still a young culture. He cites Māori, Polynesian, European, Asian — basically every world cuisine has a sprinkling of influence on current New Zealand kai, and his own creations reflect this also.

The hotel sommelier is Suraj GC. Suraj is passionate about wine, I can testify to that. Hailing from Nepal, he spent his early Kiwi years as head sommelier at Elephant Hill’s restaurant in Hawke's Bay. Suraj and Rob dovetail well with each other — they both are creative, empathetic and into their crafts, and it makes for a tremendous experience for their guests. They are also new fathers, both with 15-month-old children.

I think it is not a coincidence then that their approach to their craft is maturing as the responsibility in their lives is also increasing.

Enhanced world views come from having worldly experiences. Worldly experiences are those in which we recognise that for all our individuality and uniqueness, the true strength of our species is derived from shared experiences and how these allow us to relate to each other. No person is an island.

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is one of the finest wineries on Earth and considered one of the First Growth estates of California.

The winery was founded in 1970 in the heart of Napa Valley by Warren Winiarski. In 1976, a curious artisan wine merchant based in Paris, Stephen Spurrier, was finding that Californian wines were showing remarkable brightness, length, balance and power. He set up a blind tasting and pitted the greatest French wine estates against hitherto unknown Californian wineries.

The 1973 Stag’s Leap S.L.V Cabernet sauvignon blew the field apart, leaving in its wake the likes of 1970 Chateau Mouton Rothshild and Haut-Brion to name just two. Barbara Ensrud of the Wall Street Journal wrote: "The 1976 Paris tasting, or Judgment of Paris as it became known, had a revolutionary effect, like a vinous shot heard round the world.”

In front of me now I have the 2018 Stag’s Leap Hands of Time cabernet blend. Wow, it's drinking beautifully at this moment. Blue fruits, hints of cinnamon and light spice, plush, beautiful velvet tannins, blue/grey slate, power. Chef Rob chooses to pair this with handpicked and marbled scotch fillet from the South Island, brought from the hearth oven with a brandy pepper sauce and caramelised onion in chardonnay vinegar. And cue mic drop. (PUNEET DHALL)

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Published: 31 July 2023