Sydney’s loss is Wellington’s gain: Restaurant Amok
Two shining lights of Sydney’s hospo scene have moved back to Wellington and opened a restaurant that will disrupt your evening in the very best way possible
It’s safe to say that 2020 was a year that didn’t turn out the way anyone expected. At the beginning of the year Tashie Piper and Tom Millott were happily living in Sydney, working in the hospitality scene and taking care of their young daughter, while making plans to open their own place in Sydney, when the time was right.
Then along came COVID-19 and the couple both lost their jobs and suddenly everything changed. But it would change again with a phone call from Wellington.
Three years earlier, Tom and Tashie had been living and working in Wellington – Tashie at Havana Bar and Tom at Frenchie, in the very same kitchen where he now cooks at Amok. In the years since the couple had lived in the capital, Frenchie had been retired and chef Mark Limacher, who also owns neighbouring Ortega Fish Shack, was looking for a new tenant for the space. Down the phone line came the question, would they consider moving back to Wellington and opening a restaurant at 18 Majoribanks Street?
It was one of those decisions that made itself. Tashie and Tom spent their two-week quarantine at an Auckland hotel hiring staff, applying for a liquor license and compiling an excellent restaurant music playlist. Once out of quarantine they were straight to Majoribanks Street, ready to open Amok and hit the ground running.
The menu follows Tom’s food philosophy of preparing fresh, local and seasonal ingredients with thoughtfulness and simplicity. The idea is that the plates are for sharing, so everything gets a good couple of mouthfuls of everything.
At the beginning of summer there’s a tomato and basil salad, using sliced heirloom beefsteak tomatoes that are juicy and full of flavour. There’s stracciatella, mozzarella’s more relaxed cousin, with roasted beetroot that have been partially dehydrated and paired with fresh, crunchy nectarine. Depending on the fishing catch, there might be a whole sole, smothered in a spicy tomato sauce with half a lemon to squeeze on top.
Tashie has years of experience in fine dining restaurants which has given her the relaxed composure to offer an informal dining experience that still leaves diners feeling well looked after. There are nice gestures - between courses, diners are given warm, wet hand towels or oshibori to refresh with, and if you order sparkling water, your glass will be topped up with bottomless Antipodes sparking water throughout the evening.
Amok's new bar upstairs
If you're feeling a bit snacky or thirsty, Amok's upstairs bar is your place. Offering a more extensive drinks list and smaller bites to eat (including their now-famous steak tartare atop a slab of fried potato rosti topped with grated cured egg yolk).
The drinks list is sourced entirely from Australia and Aotearoa, and the non-alcoholic beverages are made in-house. After a few years away from Wellington, Tashie is blown away by the quality of the craft beer and wine being made here and the menu features Garage Project beers and natural wines by Crushed.