It was a crime against crayfish. A travesty of crustaceanal proportions. Really, I should have known better.
The Parasol and Swing Company is famous for its drinks and its view. The bar menu is so big, it comes in booklet form. The food menu is so small, it fits on a single page. (In both cases, the font is so tiny it will not be your fault if something catches fire, because you've had to move it closer to the reading candle.)
This is a dimly lit space with a clientele yet to reach peak macular degeneration. They don't need spectacles or the torch function on their phone to order a crayfish waffle ($20).
Who am I kidding? They won't be ordering that waffle. They're Tinder-savvy and they know a catfish when they read one. I learned the hard, chewy, overly salty way.
In short: the crayfish waffle was not great. But — and I mean this so sincerely — there is plenty to recommend about Parasol and Swing Company.
It's the most-recent winner of the "outstanding new venue" category of the Auckland hospitality industry's Lewisham Awards. Alumni include Amano, Saan and Woodpecker Hill. My expectations were high.
Inside options include tables and couches under a parasol-studded roof — but don't let winter deter you from a prime Viaduct vista. The deck is well-heated and all that money is so pretty at night.
You could just choose a cocktail from the extensive list conceived by the team behind the very excellent Mea Culpa. But here's what makes Parasol and Swing so good: tell the knowledgeable friendly staff what you're feeling, and they'll mix the moment accordingly.
I wanted an aperitif. Something grape fruity, maybe. I got a negroni ($20) with a twist of bitter orange peel and a single, dramatic island of crystal-clear ice. I felt like a grown-up and not in a "where did I put my glasses" kind of way.
Erica had a rye whiskey-based (and absinthe slicked) Musket Trader ($18). It was heady with fresh sage. I've seen fewer herbs in an actual herb garden and wondered how all that greenery played on the palate. Her verdict: "The sage worked on the nose as an aromatic that made me feel more outdoorsy and seafaring than the drink itself. It was fresh and tasty enough but didn't quite pack the punch of its name."
Christening cocktails must be fraught. Parasol and Swing has given itself an entertaining back story that is worth reading online (while you research the menus you won't be able to see at the bar without a torch). It pays homage to the noble craft of bar keeping and its drinks traverse the romance of tinctures and elixirs and those explorers who sailed for hotter, spicier climes. I was, well, seduced by Mayfair Seduction (creamed caramel and cacao nib vodka, etc) — a smooth $20 finish to the night.
And yes, along the way, we did find some things we really liked on the food menu. Tuna ceviche ($12) packed a wasabi, soy and fresh apple punch. The tempura calamari ($14) was the lightest and crispiest I've encountered — any bar who still has bowls of squid on their menu should pop along for a lesson. Tapioca fried chicken ($13) was juicy and crunchy and the yuzu aioli ($2) was excellent.
We split a vege burger — crumbed field mushroom on a brioche bun ($14) — and enjoyed the savouriness of its miso-dressed slaw and eggplant chutney. Carbohydrately-speaking, it was definitely capable of soaking up another cocktail but I wanted something sans alcohol. Ginger? Thoughts? The barkeep delivered the most amazing house made honey-lemon-ginger syrup and soda ($5). Every flavour defined and, when I muddled them with my straw, pure essence of deliciousness.
Yes, they use straws — but only when absolutely necessary. Two of our drinks came without and the staff do all their tasting and testing via reusable metal. They're on the lookout for something that won't turn to cardboard mush.
Some people, said the barkeep, take a long time to drink a cocktail. But not as long, I nearly said, as it might take to chew that crayfish.