Today was a lazy day, catching up with Tenzing’s nephew in Takapuna.
Over the last few days, Mr HFM has become accustomed to either me or my friend carrying his belongings in our bags.
It started when I put our gear in my backpack to ride the luges in Rotorua, and now it’s: Who’s got my specs? Where are my sunglasses? Who’s got my cap?
Between the three of us, we make a fully functioning adult as long as one of us can read the small print, another can hear what the sales clerk is saying while the third gets out their credit card.
Using the Auckland Travel app to plan our trip, we caught the Number 82 bus from Wellesley Street to Takapuna, over the Auckland Harbour Bridge, which offers fabulous views of the bay, and the marinas. At 5.50NZD for a single ticket, it’s not a bad price for the view.
Once the party was gathered at Takapuna, we wandered to the beach for icecream and a short walk along the sands.
Tenzing’s nephew had promised to take us to a good curry house when we had first arrived in Auckland one week earlier, but this plan had been thwarted.
He was determined to put this right and was taking us to his favourite.
We crossed town, passing street art and owls…
…and a terrifying festive scifi shop display.
That wasn’t the scary bit… this was the scary part.
Largely unscathed, we made it to Clove, formerly known as Bolliwood on Huron Street.
It could definitely be described as being off the beaten track – it’s off the main shopping streets where the majority of the cafes and restaurants are.
The street it’s on would not have been one that we would have wandered down on the off-chance of finding a restaurant.
If Tenzing’s nephew had not led us there we would not have found it and we would have missed out.
For three of us coming from Manchester (UK) where there are many excellent Indian restaurants, we were surprised by how much this felt and tastedlike being on the Curry Mile.
And the food would not be out of place there. No photographs, because we wolfed down our meals.
We had arrived in time for the lunchtime specials and for 15 NZDs, we each had a large main accompanied with a papadum rice and added 1 NZD to add a garlic naan rather than a plain one.
Mr HFM and I had the Paneer Lajawab – a type of curry that neither of us were familiar with – and Avi, who was serving us, took our spice requests to ensure the curries were served to our preferences. Very hot for me and medium for Mr HFM.
Tenzing chose the Buttered Chicken on the grounds that it was described as a ‘Kiwi favourite’. Well, it was bound to be good wasn’t it?
His nephew had the Daal Makhini and was delighted that it wasn’t overloaded with cream or yoghurt, rather indicating his description of the restaurant as his preferred curry house.
When Ari returned, he was visibly delighted that we had cleared our plates. (My mother is a chef – she loves it when plates are returned empty).
We chatted about Indian restaurants in Manchester and he told us he knew Mancheater quite well.
I have expected a similar experience to one I had in a Indian restaurant in Barcelona where the meal had also been excellent. “Where are you from?” asked the manager.
“Manchester,” I replied.
“Ah,” he smiled. “My chef spent 16 years working on the Curry Mile.”
All the way to Spain for a Manchester curry.
I expected a similar story here (and wouldn’t really have been surprised) but, no… Avi was familiar with Manchester’s curry reputation (and he gave honorable mention to Birmingham and Bradford as well) because he had spent two years working at… The Ritz in London in 2005.
The dean of the catering college that Avi had attended in India had been keen to ensure all of the students had real world catering experience.
Many of the establishments where placements were provided didn’t allow students to gain practice of working directly with customers – they’d be allowed to clean the tables but they weren’t permitted to wait on them.
The dean was concerned that this meant the college wasn’t preparing students for their careers and started looking around for more challenging placements.
He looked to Europe and he looked to The Ritz.
Avi was the only one accepted from his college, that year.
He was granted a one year visa and after this ended, The Ritz asked him to stay on for another year.
The experience was incredible and several of his friends from The Ritz’s kitchen have gone on to become internationally recognised chefs, one of them cooking for the meal for the 2018 meeting held in Singapore between Trump and Jong-un.
We asked why Avi had moved to New Zealand.
“It’s important to be happy at work,” he said.
And is he?
“Oh, yes,” he smiled. And that seems to be transferring to the food.
Clove Indian Restaurant (formerly known as Bolliwood), at 17 Huron Street, Takapuna, Auckland, New Zealand. Honestly, go there now.