A long time stalwart of the Metro Top 50 Restaurants list, The Tasting Shed has long been on my to-do list, yet I’ve never quite made it there. Its semi-rural location in West Auckland’s farming region of Kumeu means you either need a dedicated driver who doesn’t mind missing out on wine tasting at neighboring Cooper’s Creek, or a lot of people to pitch in for what is no doubt a substantial taxi ride. Heading up to Matakana for a weekend away with friends, the opportunity to finally tick The Tasting Shed off the list was too hard to resist.
Knowing nothing about the menu before walking in the door, the heavy amount of Asian influence on the rustic Kiwi-European menu definitely surprised. In a good way, however – this is definitely unique food. Ponzu, wasabi, laksa and kimchi pop up alongside mac’n’cheese, tartare and meatballs, the result working surprisingly well.
I always imagined the The Tasting Shed to be set in a big field with lots of sunshine and views…the reality isn’t quite so poetic, but pleasant nonetheless. The biggest upside of the location is that it shares a driveway with the Cooper’s Creek tasting room – make sure you allow time to pop in.
I do like to judge a restaurant on its bread, and the moreish Bread, olive oil, balsamic ($7) fills me with hope (though I still don’t agree with NZ restaurants charging for bread…). Being the tartare fanatic I am, I of course cannot resist The Tasting Shed’s Venison, pomegranate, wasabi and sesame ($22), which can definitely be judged a success, equally, the tender Lamb shoulder, romesco, fennel, gherkin and walnut ($28) is tasty enough to have the table fighting over the last morsels.
The Beef brisket, kimchi, radish, peanut, cucumber, pancakes ($28) is a delicious take on Peking duck, but the brilliant Pork belly, pigs head, cauliflower, soy beans, mirin, radish ($27) was the dish of the day. Our sides of Carrots, buttermilk, sumac, pistachio, chimichurri ($15) and Grains, spiced pumpkin, coconut, chickpea and coriander ($14) were also both fantastic and shouldn’t be missed.
It’s not just about fine food at The Tasting Shed, fine wine also gets a look in. The wine list is so good, in fact, that we asked the staff if they wouldn’t mind splitting each glass into two so my fellow diner and I could try as many of the interesting selections as possible. They happily obliged, also accommodating some complicated dietary requirements amongst our party easily and without fuss.
I had reasonably high expectations for The Tasting Shed – and even still, myself and my fellow diners were blown away. So much so, that we were still discussing just how good the food was the next day while lamenting our disappointing experiences at other Matakana vineyard stops. The Tasting Shed is definitely worth the special journey – take a large group so you can try as much of the sharing style menu as possible. I’m already planning my return visit.