Unbeknownst to many a commuter down Ponsonby Road, Conch Records doubles as a café by day, and mojito bar by night. Past a collection of well-arranged vinyl through the alleyway towards the back, Conch has cleverly set up a café spot that transports you to another world. And let me tell you, the pizzas are delicious.
As you make your way down the stairs to the cobbled alleyway, strolling past the kitchen and pizza oven, the jumbled façade of the Conch Kitchen and Bar is lined with individual huts perfect for a quiet catch up. Wooden bench-tops graced with simple floral table settings, Conch pairs a lively South American theme with a subtle rustic influence that is complemented well by the colourful bench seats and malted window tiles. Vibrant and warm. Sunlight beams into the outdoor setting, with the warmth of the open air being filled with hip hop, soul and Brazilian bossa nova influenced music that adds a touch of funky modernity to the experience. Friendly staff members provide the perfect amount of sass to jive up the experience, which, although calm, is cut with banter between you and your waiter. And a touch of knowledge in the cuisine was an impressive note to make, boasting a menu loaded with foreign influence; our not so kiwi waiter was very precise in describing Conch’s less than kiwi fare. An on-point experience from the word go.
Photo Cred // Auckland Vegan
With Ponsonby packed with internationalism incorporated into it’s dining scene, Conch fits right in. Its menu also balances itself perfectly in the realm between foreign and familiar. Foreign, with Arepas’, a Colombian flatbread posing as toasted sandwich, with a lot more heart. Familiar, with wood-fired Pizzas, providing a canvas on which Conch does extremely well in stretching your imagination further than Ham and Pineapple. Even the breakfast menu tosses in a South American jive. My personal favourites were the Conch Tacos. Bringing apple and mint slaw together with beautifully braised organic lamb was outstanding and, a black bean, guacamole and chipotle taco topped with green onion and cilantro. Delicately poised. The fine tuned menu balanced subtle flavours with classic favourites.
And the pizza. Oh my god. Wood-fired, amalgamated with more than your fair share of South American flavours, but well met with your typical pizza ingredients. Starting with your usual Margherita pizza; tomato and mozzarella; a staple to any wood-fired pizza menu, ranging to throwing in organic beef chorizo, caramelised onion and hot sopresso salami (an aged Italian salami), mixing together in something I had never tasted before. Conch are expertly aware of the vegetarian population of Ponsonby by providing the crispiest of pizza bases topped with spinach, kalamata olives, mushroom, and freshly made ricotta cheese. The menu was well constructed, playing a balancing act in the way it tempts the more daring of diners, but yet not being too far from the familiar. A welcome addition to Ponsonby and again, on point.
Photo Cred // Conch
Moving from the menu, I wanted to mention the freshly squeezed juice providing a kick start to the drinks list. Boasting a juice of the day, those behind the scenes at Conch clearly enjoy their fresh fruits, with acai berry smoothies, and a sugar cane juice freshly processed through their in-house sugar cane mill. Also the focal point around their cocktail menu, the sugar cane plays sweetener for their famous mojitos. Being told of the mojitos being made with freshly ground sugar cane, the essentially Brazilian influence on a classic cocktail was received excellently. They go down a bit too easily. Who would’ve known rum and lime could go together so well - made so much better with fresh sugar cane processed in-house. The wine list is mostly NZ based, and Hallertau headlines a craft beer and cider menu. If you’re feeling less alcohol inclined, All Good Organics lead the way in the soft drinks department yet again - think Gingerella and Karma Cola.
Photo Cred // Conch
So next time you're wandering down Ponsonby Road thinking, “I’ve tried all of these places already” (I'm guilty of thinking this too), look further than the record store in Conch down to their kitchen and bar. Its cool. Its calm and collected. Its slightly funky. But all in all, it’s the perfect spot for a quiet catch up under the sun, away from the foot traffic of Ponsonby Road. Prepare to be spun into a different headspace when you hit them up on their website here, or their Facebook here. Don't forget to check out Conch Records themselves, these guys know their music.