Foodie friend Sarah Lee suggested that we check out the Piko Café at the AUT School of Hospitality, and after enjoying an amazing special Cuisine event meal at the AUT fine dining room earlier this year, I resolved to make a return visit.
Both the Piko Café and its fine dining counterpart, Four Seasons, are staffed by AUT Hospitality students. However, any preconceived notions that you might have of it being in an institutional setting serving institutional food could not be more wrong.
AUT aims to give the students a real-life practical experience, and to their credit, they have started with both restaurants having attractive interior designed decors.
Piko Café is light and airy and has large windows looking out to AUT and across the street to the Auckland Art Gallery.
The day I visited for lunch there were more (student) staff than clients, so I had attentive service. The all-day breakfast menu is particularly good value, but I wanted lunch-time fare. The lunch and dinner menu offers small dishes such as soup of the day $7.50, duck and rabbit terrine $11 and kerengo smoked salmon $10.50. Large dishes (ie mains) included grilled prime rump with vegetables $19.50, fish of the day $19, Southern dry spiced barbeque pork ribs on mustard potato salad $17. The lamb rump was the most expensive item costing $22. Sides are all $3.
I didn’t want a large main meal, so opted for the soup of the day and a prawn and orzo pasta salad with smoked tomatoes. The soup was a crayfish and salmon chowder and was absolutely divine. Rich and creamy with large pieces of seafood. It was topped with a dollop of foam which had a tart mustard flavour. The salad was beautifully presented. The pasta was topped with three large prawns and the warmth of the smoked paprika came through from the dressing.
After this somewhat hearty lunch I had a trim flat white coffee for dessert, but I could have enjoyed hokey pokey brulee or a hazelnut tart, among others. All sweets were only $6.50.
If you are in the Central City on a Friday, Piko offers tapas every Friday night from 4pm-8pm. They have a tantalizing range of Spanish-style “platos” ranging from $5-$9, plus sangria and Spanish wines (and their regular bar menu of course). A perfect place for a bite before the theatre or a concert.
The Four Seasons dining room has a darker and more intimate décor and is extremely good value. The three course set menu including filter coffee costs only $34. You can easily “splash out” on the a la carte menu: entrees are $9; mains $20 and desserts $8. Reservations are recommended.
So go, eat, enjoy and support the up and coming hospitality industry!