Apero Restaurant Review
In a former tattoo parlour, nestled between a store selling legal highs and a karaoke bar, you can eat sausage by the metre and drink Lagrein by the glass. The recent opening of Apero has given wine lovers a good reason to head to Auckland’s infamous K-Road. French chef Leslie Hottiaux (ex-Baduzzi and The Grove) works her magic with pork meat in the kitchen, while partner Mo Koski (The Grove, Sidart and Meredith’s) is front of house, providing a laid-back yet efficient service that is all too often hard to find in Auckland.
The intimate wine bar is a family affair: the wooden tables were made by Hottiaux’s father during a trip to New Zealand from his native Toulouse; Koski’s Finnish father, now a Pakuranga man, is in charge of the greenery that adorns the riddling rack on the wall, while the wine bottle lampshades were cut by Koski using his dad’s “old school bottle cutter that’s older than me”. The list is a reflection of Koski’s wandering palate, providing a blend of New Zealand and international wines. While there’s a good showing of local wines, you’ll find just one Pinot Noir and one Sauvignon Blanc by the glass, as well as some refreshing alternatives, including a Martinborough Cabernet Franc and a Central Otago Grüner Veltliner.
There are more than 25 wines by the glass, and Koski offers a try-before-you-buy sample at the table. And if there’s a wine you’d like to try by the glass that’s only by the bottle, a note at the bottom of the list advises you to pipe up as “Maybe the Wine Gods are Smiling”. Many people leave the wine choice to Koski, who asks a few questions about your wine preferences before making suggestions. He nudges me gently towards a glass of Argentine Torrontés, a style I’d normally steer clear of but am pleasantly surprised by its restraint. “The Torrontés has had a good run, as well as the [Domaine Lafond] Lirac – that’s probably my favourite – and sales reflect that,” he tells me. A Stellenbosch Pinotage is one of his biggest sellers and the Meerlust Red “is killing it”.
To soak up the wines, there’s a floaty light pair of goat’s cheese croquettes that are sweet yet salty. The daily fish is kingfish sashimi-style delicately decorated with pickled cucumber, micro dollops of avocado and shallots. While terrines can often resemble a cold slab of cat food, the warm duck terrine of the day of chunky breast and leg meat could convert a vegetarian. And save yourself for the sausage that’s served by the quarter, half or full metre. It’s pure pork meat with no rubbishy filler in sight and the accompanying walnut mustard kicks Dijon into touch.
Apero throws open its doors every night except Tuesday from 4pm, and it would be easy to spend an evening grazing your way through the menu and the wine list. And if you want to make a night of it, you can head to the karaoke next door to belt out one of your guilty pleasures. You won’t be the first.
This article was originally published in Wine NZ magazine