Late Night Diner
After visiting Late Night Diner on Ponsonby Road for supper recently, I have developed a taste for red lights and dimly lit alleyways. Late Night Diner has proven to be an exciting development for Auckland’s after-hours dining scene, where previously the offerings were few and the calibre poor.
Stepping into Late Night Diner’s narrow dining room is reminiscent of stepping into an Edward Hopper painting, only darker and cast in a red hue by the glowing neon sign in the front window. With the option of booths or stools at the counter, from which you can observe the activities of the open kitchen, the place is dripping with nostalgic Americana kitsch.
Everything on the menu, save for three dishes, goes for less than twenty dollars, with dishes to suit every sort of appetite, whether you feel like an old school burger with fries, pork belly with celeriac and apple mash or a slice of butter nut pumpkin pie. Although I was quite taken by the idea of a duck and potato hash with soft boiled egg ($15), I waived this choice for my friend Shivani and instead thought I’d put this diner’s kitchen to the test with the cheese and bacon burger with fries ($15), whilst our friend Emma plumped for the mac ‘n’ cheese ($11).
Although it took a while for our dishes to arrive, when they finally did, none of us were disappointed. My cheese and bacon burger was rather enormous (after a hand-to-mouth trial I concluded it far too large for me to take a bite lest I unhinge my jaw), accompanied by some of the most fantastic fries I’ve had in a long while. Cut to shoestrings, they were piping hot but perfectly crisp with their skins retained and dusted liberally with salt. It took all my will power not to order an extra side of them. My burger patty was thick and juicy and glistened a rosy pink, exactly as a medium-rare patty should. The grilled cheese it rested on had a strong, mature flavour that beat all the other slabs of yellow and orange plastic I’d had in the past and the long slivers of pickled cucumber were refreshing as was the tangy onion relish that lay on top.
Emma’s mac ‘n’ cheese, although rather smaller than expected, was surprisingly light, without that oily cloyingness that reminds one that their risk of a heart attack has just increased, whilst Shivani’s hash was deliciously textured with shredded duck meat, chopped gherkins and some unidentifiable crunchy bits, tied together by the silky runny egg yolk.
Feeling far too full after my American-sized burger, I resigned myself to watching Shivani and Emma eat their chocolate and peanut butter fondant and butter nut pumpkin pie respectively (both $12). The fondant was perfectly executed, with a small torrent of molten chocolate, flecked with blebs of peanut butter, flowing from its centre; the pumpkin pie’s golden filling, though solid in appearance, was incredibly light and warm with spices.
Late Night Diner offers the best of all-American dining with extras, from imaginative mains to the grown-up milkshakes fortified with a shot of something much stronger than strawberry syrup. Whether you’re interested in dinner, some deep-fried pickles to go with your drinks or just dessert, Late Night Diner is certainly worth a visit.