Spanish cuisine is not the natural choice to pair with a biopic about one of France’s most iconic fashion designers. But, fan of the non-sequitur that I am, after viewing Saint Laurent at The Civic Theatre on Friday evening as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival, I decided that tapas were on the agenda.
City sister of Casita Miro on Waiheke Island, The Black Hoof declares itself “A Taste of Spain in the Auckland CBD”, a description that succinctly captures the restaurant’s M.O. Upstairs on Wyndham St, Will Thorpe (maître’d) and Logan Coath (head chef) have done a pretty good job of transporting patrons to the land where a mid-afternoon siesta is a legitimate part of the daily routine. With wooden floors, bare brick walls, high ceilings, and legs of cured meat hung precariously from the roof, the ambience could best be described as “rustic”. In using that adjective, I intend nothing pejorative (for those seeking an obscure Gilmore Girls reference, an “Emily-describing-Luke’s-diner” inflection is not at all intended).
The term “tapas” has been unashamedly bastardised to the extent that it is now essentially a synonym for “sharing plate” (“tapas-style Japanese”, anyone?), so it is ironically refreshing to encounter the concept in its original form español. In fact, it’s not just tapas on offer (here, identified as “small dishes”): there are also snacks (para picar) and larger dishes (raciones), as well as a selection of Spanish cheese (queso) and, as if to prove that the charcuterie hanging from the ceiling is not just for decoration, a range of cured meats. Two desserts (postres) round out the menu.
Two-and-a-half hours of movie means we’ve missed happy hour (Tuesday to Saturday from 5 to 7pm), but as is our wont, we sample from the extensive drinks list nonetheless. Sherry is a speciality, but there’s also a long list of beers (including Estrella, to fulfil the Spanish quota), cocktails, and wines Spanish, South American and local. A Campo Viejo Rioja and a Torres Chardonnay, suitably Spanish, are the orders of the evening.
Complimentary bread, to start, is served with a smoked tomato dip. The bread itself is nothing to write home about, but then again, the Spaniards aren’t famed for their bread, the dip itself more than makes up for any shortcomings, and hey, it’s free. A selection for small plates follow: jamón croquetas with aioli, leeks braised in butter, chardonnay vinegar, and thyme, grilled butternut pumpkin with kale, roasted pine nuts, and sultanas, and, my pick of the bunch, chicharrones – crunchy pork served with fennel, parsley, and lemon (I sense a dangerous fondness for crispy fatty porky morsels developing). To finish, we decide to sample one of the cheeses on offer, and rather than the vaguely familiar manchego we instead go for the harder ewes milk idiazábal. It is served with tortas (oddly, but pleasantly, sweet), wafers, and quince paste (what are quinces, you ask? These Bachelor references are just too easy). The food is reasonably priced and not fussy; I hesitate to use the word twice in one post, but “rustic” again seems appropriate.
I pride myself in rarely suffering from order envy, but the generous paella pan polished off by a neighbouring table does nudge the green monster inside just a little this time around. The accompanying jugs of sangría suggest that this group have got the right idea when it comes to traditional Spanish dining.
Not at all overbearing, the service at The Black Hoof is cheery and generous; on a previous, memorable visit, a (potentially wine-induced and completely non-menu related) emotional meltdown on my part earned our table a free pity dessert. Now that’s what I call hospitality. There are often lunchtime specials on offer, and frequent visitors can opt to join the “Little Piggies” club; I have abstained thus far only because the moniker is perhaps a little too close to the truth.
On our way out (thankfully, sans tears this time), a poster informs us that next week is the establishment’s first birthday party. Alas, we’re one week early for celebratory cava, but wish The Black Hoof feliz cumpleaños nonetheless.
$110 for four glasses of wine, one dish para picar, three tapas dishes, and a serving of queso
Open from 12pm Tuesday – Friday and 5pm Saturday
Closed Sundays and Mondays
Level 1, 12 Wyndham St, Auckland CBD