Has anyone else noticed the recent spate of restaurants adopting names that feature variants of the female honorific? Miss Clawdy in the Wynyard Quarter, Miss Ping’s at City Works Depot (with us no longer, but replaced by another femininely-named venture, Odettes) and, south of the Bombay Hills, Mrs Hucks, Mama Hooch, and Madam Kwong in Christchurch, not to mention the original Madam Woo in Queenstown. This proliferation was highlighted for me on Saturday night, when a failed attempt to dine at the newly-opened Auckland branch of Madam Woo in Takapuna (fully booked – I blame the Josh Emmett effect) led us back across the bridge to Miss Moonshine’s in Ponsonby. I don’t want to dwell too much on the possible feminist readings of this phenomenon, but it’s food for thought. To be honest, I’m more interested in food for eating.
Which brings us to Miss Moonshine’s. Secreted away on a back lot alongside The Street Food Collective, with lane access from both Ponsonby Rd and Mackelvie St, it’s a little hard to find, but worth the search. Upon arrival, we are informed by a very pleasant front-of-house that there’s a half-hour wait; given it’s 7:30pm on a Saturday, this is par for the course, so we happily trundle down the road for a drink at Golden Dawn. Barely a sip of wine has passed my lips when the phone rings to inform us that our table is ready. Swift front end service? Check.
The joint is going for a Southern BBQ vibe, and embraces the theme without overdoing it. The use of gingham print, dropped Gs on the menu, and a giant painting of a cow on the wall may suggest otherwise, but I swear it’s executed with enough subtlety to stay on the right side of kitsch. Seated under the watchful gaze of said cow, we surmise that she may be the eponymous Miss Moonshine.
Vegetarians may want to sit this one out; the menu expressly states that “we hope you wore your meat-eatin’ shoes”. Well, I worked at a butchery for five years, and my carnivorous tendencies are well-known, so I’m in my element. There are smaller dishes to start (featuring impishly-named “magic mushrooms”), the aforementioned meat “from the pit” (beef brisket, beef short rib, pulled pork, pork belly, beer can chicken, and lamb chops – all free range, naturally), a range of sides, and three sweet options.
My dining companion is a mac n’ cheese aficionado, so mac n’ cheese balls served with pancetta and truffle mayo to start are compulsory. From the pit, we choose the beer can chicken, patriotically made using a New Zealand beer (Garage Project “Pills n’ Thrills”) and served with smoked bone sauce and “house” pickles (the flavour of which evoked memories of a McDonald’s cheeseburger, in the best possible way). To accompany, we choose butter lettuce with goat cheese and pecan crunch, and pig tail fries with “bobby john” (tomato chutney) and aioli – necessary with this spicy derivation of the curly fry.
Spurred on by our bovine overseer, we engage our second stomachs and order dessert: chocolate peanut butter cheesecake with pralines, and low’n’slow apple served with gingersnap cookie and moonshine custard. These arrive swiftly – as Miss Mac n’ Cheese notes, there’s nothing slow about the service, even if the apple is said to be – and while the presentation is a little hokey (it’s been a while since star-shaped sprinkles have adorned my plate), the cheesecake nails it in the taste department.
The drinks list is pretty gosh-darn fun. There are two pages of cocktails (Fizzy Rascal, Gin Reaper, and Stubborn Ass, to pick a few choice examples), and moonshine (allegedly) features heavily as an ingredient. There are even alcoholic slushies on offer. However, with my mind still on the unfinished rosé abandoned at Golden Dawn, I forgo the fun, turn to the back-page list of “grapes”, and replicate my (admittedly unseasonal) order.
If the food is “grilliant” (I got that gem from the website), then the staff are brilliant. From a slick start, to double-checking for food allergies before serving a nut-filled salad, to sporting off a top-notch moustache, to offering remote Eftpos machines at the table when it comes time to pay (it’s the future!), they hit all the right notes. We leave protein-full and fancy-free, our meat-eatin’ shoes more than happy to have made it, albeit circuitously, to Miss Moonshine’s, and just a little bit relieved to escape from her baleful stare.
$94 for a glass of rosé, one starter, one main, two side dishes and two desserts
Open 7 days for lunch and dinner
Lot 3, 130 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby