As an aunty of five and a friend to many mums and dads, I’ve had my fair share of catch ups at family friendly restaurants, but what I have come to learn is that ‘family’ friendly is not so friendly to the whole family. I think what they really mean is kid friendly. Squished, loud cafes, with quick and easy food options so everyone can get in and out as fast as possible.
And then there is The Grounds. A modern family eatery, that is exactly that. A contemporary, spacious restaurant, with no compromise on fresh, attractively styled food and an impressive playground that has become an attraction in itself. And at the heart of its success are two loving West Auckland dads, Ben Bayly and Executive Chef Mike “the Russian” Shatura. Together they have crafted a menu that combines elements of their previous fine dining experience, with fresh produce sourced from some of the best local Waitakere suppliers, displayed in a space that as dads, they know appeals to the entire family.
With its high stud and open plan layout, the restaurant is spacious allowing families and groups both large and small to relax and enjoy time together. The large open kitchen provides as much entertainment for the kids as the playground, with the theatrical preparation of dishes creating both curiosity and fascination.
Here’s What We Had
Sashimi King Salmon: lightly cured and marinated in shiso and soy, with lime and avocado puree,cucumber radish, shallots and puffed rice. A simple fresh dish, which they have let the ingredients speak for themselves.
Homemade Pork and Prawn Dumplings: an Asian twist on MIkes traditional Russian dumplings. Served with a Korean dipping sauce, chili oil and a little coconut milk which tames the heat slightly, pickled mushrooms and spring onion. The team spent hours refining their dumplings until perfect and they haven’t left the menu since day one.
Hand Rolled Ricotta and Spinach Agnolotti: sits on a butternut puree with grilled and slightly charred broccoli, sauteed courgette, fried sage and parmesan. It is a classic Italian dish, classic flavours and classic combinations.
Roasted Te Mana Lamb Rump: Slow cooked, sitting on cauliflower puree, sprinkled with olive crumbs, with fresh brussels sprouts, little bit of jew, gremolata and dukkah of pistachio sesame and thyme.
Hot Chocolate Fondant: if you can, I would absolutely insist you leave space for this dish. Hot molten chocolate sits inside the warm cakey outside, served with whipped white chocolate, blueberries, blackberries and a sprinkle of mint.
With an entertaining and theatrical open kitchen serving dishes on par with some of Auckland’s best inner city restaurants, you have the chance to chat with friends while the kids explore. The spaciousness means no worrying about them banging their chairs into the table behind you and having to apologise and go into that ‘correct behaviour’ mode. Ben and Mike have nailed it.
And one more intriguing point of interest, The Grounds share the space with Whoa Studios, a film studio that offers live puppet and animation shows for the kids. Owner David Sutherland had the concept of a playground, meets restaurant, meets theater, meets movie studio.
Not always looking to dine in? The Grounds have Happy Hour every Thursday and Friday afternoon from 5pm – 6pm, a perfect opportunity to let the kids let go of some steam in the playground while you enjoy one of their half price seasonal wines or beers with a friend.
Address: 8/14 Henderson Valley Road, Henderson, Auckland 0612
Hours: Wed 9:00am – 3:00pm, Thurs – Sat 9:00am – 9:00pm, Sun 9.00am – 5.00pm