Restaurant Review: Gusto at the Grand

Situated inside SkyCity Grand (where the old Dine by Peter Gordon once stood), Gusto is a rustic Italian cuisine with plates designed to share. It is advertised to use simple food and ingredients with a menu designed by Sean Connolly.

I have been to Gusto previously (prior to me keeping a food blog) and unfortunately I didn’t enjoy the food there too much as it was quite salty. Months later today I thought I’d give it another chance when my friend wanted to have Italian cuisine for dinner.

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The menu

My friend and I were looking for a smaller meal tonight, so we went straight to the pasta and leave a little room for dessert. We ordered the mushroom risotto and fresh clam spaghetti, with seasonal asparagus tossed in lemon butter sprinkled with Parmesan cheese as a side to share.

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I love the freshness in the clam spaghetti, in fact, it was so light and tasty I felt I could have another order of that. My friend who had the risotto felt her food was very salty and I agree. We couldn’t finish the risotto in the end (despite me still feeling I was able to eat another main) because it was really quite salty. (Felt like my kidneys had to work hard to get rid of the salt!)

For dessert we ordered the much loved Lewis Road pannacotta, with strawberry and rhubarb, and the Bombolini filled with nutella (guilty pleasure). They were both really good but the portion is seriously for sharing only. I’ll recommend sharing between 2-3 for these desserts as they are quite big.

Overall the mean was fulfilling but I won’t say it is up to the standard or expectations of the other restaurants within the complex.

I’ll give it 2/5 for the amount of salt used in food!

SKYCITY Grand Hotel
90 Federal Street, Auckland


Monday-Friday 6.30am-10.30am
Saturday & Sunday 6.30am-11.00am

Daily 12pm-2.30pm

Daily 5pm–late


Fresh pasta!

This is a simple recipe which I’ve learnt some years back. The portion of the ingredients is so simple it’s hard to unlearn once you have acquire the technique. The only tip to this is picking the right sort of flour (sorry if you are gluten free). It is pretty fool proof.

Tipo “00” flour
Semolato flour

(Left) flour for pizza and (Right) flour for the surface

(Left) “00” flour for pasta/pizza and (Right) flour for the surface

1. First decide how many you are cooking for. I am cooking for four tonight and have measured 400g of the “00” flour to start. When you get the “00” flour at the supermarket, you will see that it says it is for pizza base. I have chosen this because it will give you that lovely al dente bite when cooked.

"00" flour for the pasta

“00” flour for the pasta

2. The recipe is pretty simple – with 100g of flour you add one full egg and one egg yolk. Here is 4 + 4 (oops, egg yolk does break on impact!)

100g flour = 1 full egg + 1 egg yolk

100g flour = 1 full egg + 1 egg yolk

3. I like to mix the eggs and flour in a bowl before transferring on to a flat surface, simply because with a wet dough it will stick more on the surface than to itself. So I usually have it roughly mixed in a large bowl until the eggs and flour are all together, then transfer the dough on to a clean, dry, flour dusted surface.

Roughly mixed dough

Roughly mixed dough

4. This is the fun part. Knead the dough for as long as it takes for you to feel boyancy in the dough AND until it doesn’t stick to your fingers. So during this process you may have to continue dusting the dough with more “00” flour. You do end up with a bigger dough, and how much flour you’ll need depends on the size of your eggs and the moisture in the atmosphere. The kneading usually takes a good 5-10 minutes.

knead the dough

knead the dough

5. Once complete, rest the dough a side, best to wrap in a bit of glad wrap and put them away in the fridge for 30 minutes or until it stop being so bouncy (press firmly with a finger and you can leave an imprint). During this time you can prepare your other dishes, grate some cheese, cook up your sauce…etc etc

shhhh....have a good rest zzzz

shhhh….have a good rest zzzz

6. When the dough well rested, dust your table surface with the Semolato flour and roll your dough out to a thin sheet. Semolato flour will give your pasta a lovely rough surface to cling on to any sauce and flavouring you want!

Wakie wakie! Time for a big stretch!

Wakie wakie! Time for a big stretch!

7. If you don’t have a pasta machine you can just roll it out by hand and cut using a knife. If you have a pasta machine just roll the dough out slightly until you can put it through for a good press.

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8. To set the machine, I usually go for level 1 and run the pasta twice through the machine, dust more Semolato flour on top, then thin it out to level 3 or 4 for the optimal thickness.

Lazy bum setting

Lazy bum setting

9. Once you have the pasta in the thickness you like, you can start cutting.



10. Once the pasta is cut into the desire width, dust with more Semolato flour and hang the pasta out so they don’t stuck together. If you don’t have a pasta tree, you can also leave them together with lots of Semolato flour on the surface to avoid sticking together.

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11. To cook – bring to boil a large pot of water, add salt and make sure your pasta can swim in it comfortably. Once boiled, the best way is to taste test your pasta and not trust the clock. If you are going to have sauce served separately, DO NOT drizzle your pasta with olive oil or only the oil will cling on to the pasta and not the sauce. So ideally, you’d cook your pasta last when everything else is ready. Enjoy 🙂

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Thick tomato soup with beef and elbow pasta

Quick meal tonight for two. All we want was something warm and filling for a wintery night. So we had diced up tomatoes into chicken broth and boil until the soup thickens. Prepare some elbow pasta separately and divide them up evenly into shallow bowls. If you want to save time, blend the tomato and broth together until smooth. Bring it back to boil and add in thinly sliced beef with the remaining heat in the pot.

Serve while hot!

Thick tomato soup with beef and elbow pasta

Thick tomato soup with beef and elbow pasta

Tuna filled portobello mushrooms

Quick cooking tonight because there were just the two of us.

First we have portobello mushrooms filled with tuna fish and drizzle with truffle oil. For a difference, we also have a second portobello filled with mashed potato and bacon (guilty pleasure). Both of them were covered with Parmesan and mozzarella cheese.

Cooking time was 10-15 minutes in the oven, grilled at 200 degrees Celsius or until cheese were melted and golden.

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Finished product, garnish with fresh mint leaves

Finished product, garnish with fresh mint leaves


Nutella Brownie

This is as close to a paleo diet as you can get! Nutella and eggs are all you need. If you like to be more fancy, you are welcome to add some hazelnuts. Yup, no flour required!

1. Prepare hazelnuts by crushing them to half or quarter (fine crushed hazelnuts will disappear as you heat up your brownie). Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Crushed hazelnuts

Crushed hazelnuts

2. Warm/softens Nutella either by sitting jar in hot water bath, or scoop Nutella out of jar and heat with microwave.

Medium size jar 220g nutella

Medium size jar 220g nutella

3. For a medium size jar (220g) use four eggs. Beat eggs until it all gets white and fluffy, takes a good 5-6 min with an electric beater.

Beat four eggs until white and fluffy

Beat four eggs until white and fluffy


4. Empty the jar of Nutella into the eggs, fold gently until mixed thoroughly. Add in the hazelnuts.

Fold nutella into whipped eggs, then add nutella

Fold nutella into whipped eggs, then add nutella

5. Pour mixture into pan lined with baking paper and put into oven set at 180 degrees Celsius.

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6. Takes about 15 min to cook. Checking by sticking a skewer through. For a thoroughly cooked brownie the skewer should be dry.

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7. Once ready take it out of oven and cool before cutting.


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8. Feel free to sprinkle icing sugar on top. Can be served with yoghurt, whipped cream, cream, ice cream, strawberries, addition nuts…etc etc. Enjoy 🙂

Restaurant review: The Grill

This restaurant is my all time favourite so far. First time time I went was not because of Sean Connolly’s name, little did I know about him, nor the fact that it was a new eatery at SkyCity Grand Hotel.  All I was looking for was a great steak! I was not disappointed. Friday night was my fourth visit and I am still loving this restaurant.

We had two visitors in this party of five for a Good Friday dinner.  We were lead to our tables on arrival, but to found that there was one missing set. After it was all settled, we were brought back to the table, happily set on our way.

We were first served with bread – choice of macadamia nuts white bread, white sourdough or brown sourdough, with Lewis Road Creamery butter.  Those who live in New Zealand would know the latest craze with this creamery’s chocolate milk. Their other products are just as nice. The butter is creamy and rich, slightly salted, but I wish it was less salty. I had it with a piece of white sourdough.



For five people we ordered a seafood platter with Queensland prawns, Cloudy Bay clams and king crab claws and scampi sashimi with olive oil, chilli, coriander and lime to start. This was my first time having seafood at The Grill. It was alright but I was hoping for more variety. To be fair we asked for no oysters as three people in the party were not interested in those. I was still hoping for other types of seafood, or different clams to replace the oysters.

Scampi sashimi

Scampi sashimi

Seafood platter - Queensland prawns, Cloudy Bay clams, scampi, king crab claws

Seafood platter – Queensland prawns, Cloudy Bay clams, scampi,
king crab claws

As for the main I asked for my usual “Study of Beef”. They never disappoint. Recently The Grill introduced a lot more wagyu so we had wagyu beef skirt, wagyu scotch fillet, and grain fed angus on the board. The wagyu had just the right amount of fat and nicely distributed.

Study of Beef

Study of Beef

We also ordered a slow roasted lamb shoulder with raspberry vinegar in star anise gravy. It was slightly crunchy and the lamb shoulder was so tender we didn’t need knifes. The lamb literally melted off the bone.

Slow roasted lamb  shoulder

Slow roasted lamb shoulder, raspberry vinegar and star anise gravy

As a guilty pleasure, I ordered a potato gratin. Yes, one where you overdose yourself with cream, butter, and lightly sprinkled cheese for the crunch. Hmmmmm, no words could have described it. This one, you will just have to try for it yourself.

Potato gratin

Potato gratin

Pity we were too full for dinner. Otherwise the valrhona chocolate soufflé with vanilla ice cream is always my faviourite.

I simply don’t go there enough, but I’m sure will be back again.


The Grill by Sean Connolly

SKYCITY Grand Hotel

90 Federal Street, Auckland

Phone: +64-9-363-7067

Booking can be made online, or via email:

Food Review: Libby’s Free Range Pork Crack


Libby’s Free Range Pork Crackling

Pork Crackling! Yummo~!

Being an almost monthly Air New Zealand flyer, I saw the Air New Zealand’s January Kia Ora magazine did a small and very favourable review of Libby’s Free Range Pork Crack. And having eaten pork crackling since I was young, of course I had to try it!

I ordered 3 bags of 30g mixture – namely 1 small bag each of the available flavours – Au Naturel, Moroccan Spiced and Hot & Spicy. They also come in individual larger bag of 80g, or 3 bags of 30g of the same flavour.

Yes – the picture only showed two, because I devoured 1 whole bag immediately before even remembering to take pictures.

Definitely very tasty, crunchy, and you’ll need some good strong teeth to eat them! Personally my favourite is the Moroccan Spiced flavour, but only because I can’t eat very spicy food. If you can take the heat – hot & spicy is the way to go. There is a hint of fatty taste sometimes (which I personally dislike), but definitely more apparent in the Au Naturel ones than any others.

I do find the pork crackling a bit pricey. They will definitely be something I order when I have a very severe craving for them. You can order them directly at Libby’s Pork Crack website. Preordering may be required.