Picture this. It’s a sunny afternoon, edging into early evening. A pavement table, glass of rosé and a plate of delicately seared but substantial tuna slices sitting atop a subtle saffron mayo, Jerusalem couscous and slivers of raw asparagus. Summer doesn’t get much better than this and I didn’t want it to end.
There can’t have been any other restaurant opening that has been anticipated as much as The Milford Café, Bar and Restaurant. As locals observed the old Athenia restaurant being knocked down and a solid new build started, they have watched the progress over the winter and asked if owner Ali Abassy would be back. In November they were finally rewarded as the furniture was placed out and the doors opened: they couldn’t get in quick enough and return to ‘Ali’s place’.
Ali, with his wife Helen, who blends working in the restaurant with raising their two children Bardia and Sofia, had been running Athenia for 13 years and gathered a loyal following. A year ago, a like-minded collaboration between Ali and landlord John Harvey was born. They both, independently, thought it was time for a refresh on this site and to create a new benchmark for dining in Milford. They quickly made plans for a modern, architecturally designed restaurant that would be a core part of this community over the years to come and to entice other Shore diners into their village. Ali loves this community and bringing people together, essentially creating a bigger family in what feels like his second home.
Renowned architect Gordon Moller worked to his brief to ‘make a statement’ of this stand alone, purpose-built restaurant. The concrete and glass give it a modern edge while the pitched cedar ceiling envelopes the diner and is greatly admired. Banquette seating is placed around two sides allowing diners to look over other tables and out to the street. Quality glassware, cutlery and fresh flowers set the tables beautifully and the noise control wall panelling buffers noise so those hard of hearing can relax and enjoy their companions.
This location really does capture the afternoon sun perfectly as light filters into the restaurant through ceiling to floor glass, creating a bright and airy ambience. Auckland chef Luca Villari, known for his restaurants, catering service and food writing for Taste magazine, was engaged to bring his extensive knowledge and pedigree to the team to create modern, Italian and Mediterranean inspired dishes. Head chef Khaled Masraujeh, previously with Ima Cuisine, is tasked with executing quality menus from the kitchen which has a semi-open view to diners.
My tuna was followed by perfectly prepared chargrilled lamb fillets served as a contemporary twist on roast lamb with its tangy labneh an ideal accompaniment, joined by minted fresh peas, roasted heirloom carrots and potato gratin. A classic tiramisu rounds off this experience and leaves you questioning which dish you liked best.
Brunch is available daily – I will be back for the Shakshuka Turkish Eggs – and the Underground coffee is excellent. Have your coffee or Peroni on tap (exclusive to Milford) resting awhile at the bar leaners outside the window.
From December a great value, express lunch special is available featuring a main course dish and a glass of wine or beer; ideal for a work meeting or to break up your fashion and gift shopping session in Milford, and there is plenty of parking across the street in the mall open carpark.
Where else in Milford can you enjoy a modern, full-service food and beverage experience throughout the day, seven days a week? But best you book: ‘Ali’s’ is already full most evenings.
Open seven days from 10.30am weekdays,
7 Milford Road, Milford
P: 488 9388 www.themilford.co.nz