Mezze Bar, 9 Durham St East, Auckland, New Zealnd
Improbably, a flight of steps off a street in central Auckland leads to a tapas bar, where the cosmopolitan menu has a strong middle eastern orientation. The lentil soup is tasty, despite the absence of mint, and comes with bread and a piece of butter. A lemony hummus is served with a tomato salsa and triangles of pitta bread as well as slices of lightly toasted white bread. While the fried patatas bravas that come with paprika and tomato salsa are more Latin than Middle Eastern, they work well. Cumulatively there’s a fair bit of starch in these dishes, but they can be nicely complemented with the bowl of vegetables, which consists of a rich, oily mix of carrots, green beans and potatoes. As befits an establishment that represents itself primarily as a bar, there is a strong wine list. This is international in its focus, but we settled on a pinot gris from Obsidian, a winery located on New Zealand’s third largest island, the wonderful Waiheke that is a short ferry ride from Auckland and should be much better known.
You order at the counter, without picking up a number or anything that would identify you, yet as if by magic the staff always deliver the food to the correct table. This tribe is cool and the vibe is funky. While I am not sure that I qualify as either cool or funky, it is easy to feel very much at home at the Mezze Bar.