Review Three Seven two: 1-2-3 go
On Waiheke Island, a place just off Auckland known for its idyllic blend of vineyards, beaches, forests and olive groves, there has been quit some talk about a restaurant facing the Onetangi Beach, which in Maori means “Weeping Sands”. Since the restaurant Three Seven Two got awarded “best destination restaurant” and “best new restaurant” by the critics of Metro Magazine, the F(A)RT team had to make the trip to see and taste what’s all the fuzz about.
The drive from Oneroa, Waiheke island’s self-proclaimed “capital”, is on itself already worth the trip, especially when taking the route up via Sea View Road. When coming down, the views of the Hauraki Gulf with its green wavy landscapes and its far neighbour peninsula called “Coromandel”, are simply breath taking. Arriving at the restaurant, which is located at the end of a long beach strip, is definitely a journey on its own. Stepping out of the car, the Northerly breeze welcomes you and blows you to Three Seven Two’s Ibizean style trendy terrace. But before delving into the restaurant’s aesthetics and our culinary experience, it is important to shed light on the origins of the restaurant’s name. Three Seven Two is named after the first three numbers of the Waiheke Phone Number and is, in restaurant’s owners’ words, a metaphor for the strong sense of community that reigns on this island of “descending waters”.
Whether or not part of the community, we, as customers, were happily greeted by a waiter and asked whether we had a reservation. Although this polite question evokes a sense of exclusivity, we were reluctant to answer this question on a polite tone when seeing that it is a 70+ seated restaurant with only four tables occupied. While walking to our table, we tried to make sense of the semi-minimalistic but cosy interior. In the middle of the dining room, please do not pay attention to the terracotta tiles, there is a somewhat Hopperean Bar stylishly surrounded by high-end wooden tables, dressed in white table cloths, and chairs echoing a Scandinavian touch.
Finally seated, it is time for the order of the day: some drinks and, in our case, wine. Unfortunately and, in light of the island’s reputation as a ‘wine hub’, the restaurant’s drinks and wine list lacked inspiration and was expensively boring. We were served a glass of Chardonnay and Marsanne at almost freezing temperatures, while joining the worldwide revival of a “blabla sourdough bread party”. Although longing for the time where such party’s entrance fee was free, we enjoyed this bread party to the fullest. Regarding our starters, we chose those in accordance with the sourdough bread we kept ordering at intensifying pace. Our first sharing dish was stracciatella cheese with pear, lukewarm fennel and sunflower seeds. A balanced tasty mouth-feel with sweet and textural notes softened by the fullness of the cheese.
A cured King salmon, served with coconut yoghurt, coriander, green chilli and granny smith was the second victim of our long lunch. Unlike the previous dish, this one proved to be of a more aromatic get-together, cleansed off with some acidity. Concerning the presentation, the virgin white-green colours communicated fresh naïve innocence, which may evoke the idea that that spring has begun. However, at the time of our visit, winter had just started.
Notwithstanding our colourful starters, our main course, composed of Gurnards as fish of the day, with crayfish shell broth, wakame, potato, dill and lemon, evoked a rather wintery ambience and contained all elements for a perfect meal. Instead, neither the fish, tastelessly dry, nor its broth did the work. Moreover, there was no umami to be discovered as the plate only featured two microscopic pieces of wakame. The potatoes, lemon and dill were a nice addition to the dish but did not manage to interact with the rest of the ingredients and therefore did not succeed in completing the aimed flavour cycle.
These former disappointments stand in sharp contrast to the dessert, which was undoubtedly the best dish we had that day. The chef’s qualities shined bright through the chocolate mousse, hazelnut, burnt orange, cold brew coffee ice cream and cardamom. In our opinion this was a textural masterpiece with subtle layers of flavors emerging from the combination of room temperature mousse, slightly warm “burnt-orange” and the ice-cream’s coldness, which created an uplifting effect. The magic touch resided in the exotic and aromatic touch created by the cardamom paired with the chocolate mousse and some orange zests.
Although the restaurant could do better without the hype, the chef, Bronwen Laight, definitely knows what to serve and how to serve it. His combinations, produce-driven and seasonal use of products, are on the rather classical side but his flavors are fresh and lightly layered. His strongest selling point is his control of heat and the way he succeeds in achieving a balance between salt, (healthy) fat, acidic and sweet touches, turning his food into a textural playground for the casual and semi-adventurous restaurant goer. Despite certain shortcomings, F(A)RT is excited to see what spring will bring to the table (hopefully in the form of a tasting menu) and to come back by summer time when the restaurant’s beautiful terrace radiates pure hedonism.
While it is certainly worth planning an extended visit to the restaurant and its surroundings when in Waiheke, avoid staying for too long as your bill may end up displaying Three Seven Two.
Three Seven Two
21 The Strand, Onetangi
Closed: Monday & Tuesday