A few nights ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to dine at Aria Restaurant, where we tried 12 different dishes off their new winter menu. I was super excited, not only because I always enjoy a foodie night out, but because I have walked past Crowne Plaza many times, but have never ventured in, so it was a real surprise!
Upon arrival, I first noticed how large the restaurant was. It was fairly quiet for a Wednesday evening, but in a way, it was nice having the restaurant to ourselves! The ambience was warm and inviting and the seating very comfortable.
The new winter menu offers an amazing choice of dishes, from seafood to meat to vegetarian meals. For starters, we were served the following:
– Hot Smoked Akaroa Salmon with cauliflower and roasted beetroot (a perfect start to the evening);
– Pan Seared Scallops with braised lentils and cherry tomatoes (the scallops cooked perfectly);
– Shiitake, Button and Portobello Mushroom Salad (not a huge fan, but my other dining companions loved it);
– Sweet Potato Tortellini with spinach, burnt butter and shaved parmesan (very flavoursome, especially with the burnt butter); and the
– Pork and Beetroot Risotto with French goats cheese (my favourite).
All the starters were beautifully presented; hence all the cameras came out at the table (I instantly felt right at home!). I particularly enjoyed the smoked salmon and the pan seared scallops, which were perfectly cooked. However, the pork (wrapped in prosciutto – heaven) was the dish that stood out the most. Sitting on a bed of dark red risotto, it was truly divine. The goats cheese also gave it that extra wow factor – creamy and delicious.
We were then served four mains, which again were all well-presented and included:
– Confit Duck with roasted pineapple, red curry and basmati rice (the pineapple made it sweet and the curry rich and creamy);
– Lamb Shanks with cannellini bean puree and silver beet (the lamb was perfectly cooked);
– Pork Cutlets with mushrooms and potato gnocchi (very tasty and I loved the addition of the gnocchi); and the
– Pumpkin and Buckwheat Salad with onions, Brazil nuts and cherry tomatoes (I didn’t try this dish because I loathe pumpkin, but my other dining companions said it was excellent).
What I liked most about the mains were the excellent portion sizes. For example, it was nice to see two lamb shanks on the plate! Also the meals were quite filling, so well worth the money. My favourite main dish was definitely the lamb shanks – the meat was falling off the bone and it was incredibly tender! I also loved the addition of silver beet, which is not something I see often on a menu.
And last but not least, dessert.
Having heard great things about their Hazelnut Dacquoise (served with salted caramel, chocolate cream, smoked praline and berry sorbet), I was all set on ordering that. However, we ended up trying three desserts. Thank goodness because the Chocolate Melting Pot (made with dark Belgian chocolate) and the Black Doris Plum Tart were melt in your mouth! I couldn’t decide on my favourite dessert, but I loved the berry sorbet (as part of the Hazelnut Dacquoise), as well as the Chocolate Melting Pot – oozing with chocolate goodness! I would love to re-create this at home! Also highly recommend the Black Doris Tart. I wouldn’t normally order something like this off a menu, because, well, it isn’t chocolate! However, it had wonderful textures – the plums were juicy, the pistachios gave it nice crunch and the crème anglaise was rich and delicious!
As well as the amazing food, I thought the service was consistently great throughout the whole evening. Our water and wine glasses were always topped up – for the wine, we were always asked politely if we wanted more or not. The waiters were also friendly and I couldn’t have asked for better service.
Overall, it was a great dining experience for a hotel restaurant and definitely exceeded my expectations, with perfect company, wine and beautiful dishes. I will definitely be bringing my family and friends back to Aria Restaurant – it was faultless.
128 Albert Street, Auckland CBD (can also enter from Atrium on Elliot)
Open 7 days for breakfast, lunch and dinner
Perfect for group dining, birthday celebrations or a winter’s evening dinner
Recommend dishes: Pork and beetroot risotto with French goats cheese + Chocolate melting pot