The Sugar Club
Oolong Panna Cotta
Not known to many, Level 53 in the Sky Tower used to house a buffet restaurant called Observatory. That was four years ago, before Peter Gordon had the brilliant idea to turn it into his well-known restaurant, The Sugar Club. While this name brings joy to the sweet tooth like myself, The Sugar Club is best described as ‘Fusion Cuisine’ combining both Asian and European influences. Ingredients are carefully sourced only from the best in New Zealand and overseas, while dishes are prepared and crafted by 21 people behind the scenes, with head chef Neil Brazier taking the lead.
The Crayfish Linguine is one of their most popular dishes - which I can attest to as I never fail to order it whenever I dine at The Sugar Club. Handmade linguine served with a soft buttery sauce and topped with a delicate serving of crayfish. Sounds easy but the little details makes such a difference - the tapioca pearls doused in salmon oil are designed to look like caviar, adding a clever depth. The original dish was made with crab sourced from Wellington but when the stock became difficult to source, they experimented with substituting it with crayfish. Peter Gordon recalls this as one of those “happy accidents”, as the Crayfish Linguine paved its way to become one of their best and most favourited dishes.
It took three weeks for the roof to be built on Level 53 because of the marble detailing. Not your usual timeframe for building a roof for a restaurant, but one that was made meticulously - no one wants to dine while being blown away by Auckland winds! The Art Deco inspired interior gives off an opulent yet homely atmosphere, from the details in the decor, to the tables and the pottery, most of which were chosen by Peter Gordon. The Italian vases sitting in the wood-covered walls are a particular favourite.
When asked about his favourite dish on The Sugar Club menu, Neil Brazier found it tough to answer - spoken like a father treating his children with equality. It depends on the mood, he said. Fair enough. It was a thrill to watch as he prepared the venison with coriander, toasted sunflower seeds, and avocado sauce. I’m not usually one for venison, but Neil’s was good. The greens, the sauce, and the venison (which could be wild or farmed, depending on availability) all came together in refreshing bites. It’s a dish I’ll definitely be ordering again.
The Sugar Club wouldn’t be its namesake without dessert. When I visited Peter Gordon and his team they were creating a dessert with Oolong tea from Zealong - a panna cotta with matcha sponge and calamansi syrup. It had taken pastry chef, Ellena, ten days and counting to perfect this tea-based dessert, and having been one of the first few to have tasted it, I can definitely say it doesn’t fail to impress. It looks like a little garden of panna cotta heaven - and tastes like it too.
The view up the 53rd floor is spectacular. The staff find it funny how most of their reservations are made with a window seat requested (how could you sit anywhere else?). But, in reality, every corner at The Sugar Club gives you one of the very best views you could possibly see - in all its 180 degree glory. Neil Brazier finished up by saying he is excited for the three new dishes that are coming to the menu in a few weeks, and now so am I. Will you be trying them also?
In collaboration with SKYCITY; views and opinions are my own.