Acclaimed chef and hospitality consultant Lucas Parkinson, is opening his first Auckland restaurant on the site of the former Piha Cafe this weekend.
Aryeh, pronounced ‘Ari-aye’ opens for dinner service on Saturday December 2 and will be open for dinner six nights a week, and lunch, five times per week, closed on Tuesdays.
Offering a sustainable and elevated menu in a stunning setting using local and organic produce, Aryeh aims to put the iconic West Auckland coast settlement on the culinary map, much like 36-year-old Lucas’ debut restaurant Ode did for its alpine hometown Wānaka.
Aryeh is the ancient Aramaic word for lion, which holds a serendipitous dual meaning for the chef who was born in the Coromandel and grew up in Auckland.
Firstly, it nods to Lion Rock, the English name given to the beach’s postcard dramatic headland known as Te Piha by the area’s original inhabitants. Also, In September he returned from a season as chef de cuisine at Le Petit Léon (‘The Little Lion’), the south of France restaurant of his good friend and fellow Kiwi chef Nick Honeyman.
A seasonal offering, Aryeh will welcome all guests until 30 April 2024 when it will winter-down, giving over its space for events and collaborations including pop-ups by visiting chefs, before reopening for the next summer chapter in December 2024.
The site, historically home to Piha’s post office, enjoys a sheltered position nestled into the bush-clad hillside, with an enviable perspective of beach, surf, and, from the outdoor area its namesake Lion Rock.
The interior design of the space has been reconfigured for the restaurant, featuring an open kitchen boasting a 3.5-metre Neolith Phedra stone chef’s table, a bar built from Atlantic greenstone, and elegant wooden tables.
The 89-seater restaurant has an indoor dining area which seats 34, and includes room for an intimate group of up to four at the chef’s table. The covered balcony area seats 21, and a further 34 can be accommodated on The Sun Deck – the outdoor deck shaded by umbrellas.
Lucas describes nature as the executive chef of Aryeh – it dictates what’s on the menu and when. Dishes will change with and throughout the seasons, guided by the best of Aotearoa produce. Wild and premium proteins as well as sustainably sourced kaimoana are favoured and cultivated goods are selected with care for the environment and animal welfare as core values.
Guests in the restaurant can order from the à la carte menu, or to opt for 3 or 5-course set menus priced at $89 and $144 per person respectively.
Debuting on the menu are dishes such as an entrée of sashimi with ponzu granita, finger lime, sunflower and kelp emulsion, and fig leaf sushi rice shard.
Mains see the likes of a hearty portion of prime cut of organic Cambridge Mapari beef, cooked to perfection, served with a three-day Stonecroft syrah bone jus and five year aged balsamic. Another main on the opening menu, wild-shot Fiordland venison backstrap with horopito sauce foyot and Xeres vinegar gel.
Sides – when they read like Piha honey-roasted young carrots with puffed Taranaki quinoa and a Piha herb gremolata, or beef fat fried crunchy jersey bennes with Piha oyster mushroom and black garlic mayo, these cannot be ignored, and are all a tidy $13. For a limited time, an asparagus dish, sautéed in Goose Creek Olive Oil with deglazed lemon, goat’s cheese and crunchy pearl barley makes an appearance on the sides menu.
Dessert offers choices like the super summery Kumeu Strawberry and Cambridge cream panna cotta with strawberry sorbet, fresh strawberries, aerated strawberry milkshake, Far North macadamia crumble, strawberry meringue, and young purple basil.
Diners keen to be at the forefront will rejoice in Aryeh’s test kitchen on Wednesday nights, when an $89 5-course menu comes with a notepad and pen to leave feedback, which Lucas says will be treasured by the kitchen team.
The Sun Deck invites walk ins only with a more casual offering: Lucas’ take on ‘seaside fare’ – think by-the-kilo pots of Coromandel mussels, fish and chips with a light and dreamy nitrous-whipped lemon aioli, and organic chicken wings with moreish horopito buffalo sauce.
The all-New Zealand mantra is upheld in the drinks programme which focuses on organic and biodynamic wines, a vibrant list of beer, and cocktails and non-alcoholic cocktails based on fresh cold-pressed fruits. Wine matching options are available for all menus.
A Life’s Mission
Born in the Coromandel, Lucas was raised in the Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn. His journey to cheffing was a circuitous one, but started as a seasonal job in Ohakune making pizzas in an Italian restaurant, discovering a passion for kitchens, before embarking on a Culinary Arts Degree at Auckland Hotel and Chefs Training School.
An apprenticeship at (now closed) modern French restaurant Tabou (Kingsland, Auckland), was particularly influential, sparking a passion for refined cuisine, and subsequent roles were pivotal in shaping his skill and mentality as a chef. Of note, seafood restaurant Flying Fish (Sydney), Matakauri Lodge (Queenstown) & Bistro Gentil on the shores of Lake Wānaka, where he was head chef before venturing out on his own.
In 2017 Parkinson made his mark on the New Zealand dining scene with the opening of his debut restaurant Ode in Wānaka. The restaurant quickly gained a solid reputation for inventive and delicious fare showcasing the region’s fantastic produce, and was arguably the country’s most sustainable high-end restaurant.
Within its first year of opening, Ode was awarded a spot in the Top 100 list in Cuisine Good Food Awards, followed by a spot in the Top 50 and one hat in the 2019 awards, which it maintained until its closure in 2021.
Incredibly, Aryeh has been brought to fruition in just eight weeks, from Lucas chancing upon the site to constructing the concept and the physical restaurant.
The chef is flipping the status quo of operating a hospitality business on its head, having negotiated a rent system tied to revenue – meaning a busy week at the till benefits both parties. Furthermore, staff will work fewer but longer days, meaning four nights off each week and half the number of journeys for commuting staff members.
“I have a very calm and still feeling about this”, says Lucas. “I’ve settled into the mindset that this (cheffing as a career) is my purpose in life, outside of being a father.
“Wānaka was my training ground, and now I’ve returned to Auckland, my home city – to this, the first surf beach I ever visited, a place I have come to love.
“We invite our diners to relax and enjoy the magic of Piha, to slow down, savour every moment, and connect with friends and family”.
His mission includes operating in a way that betters the situation of everyone involved, from his own family, his team, and the local community to his suppliers, and the environment from which supplies are sourced.
Aryeh opens for dinner service on Saturday December 2. To reduce food waste, reservations for the restaurant are recommended, although walk-ins are welcome. Walk-in guests only for The Sun Deck. Reservations can be made via the website or by phone on (09) 812 8500. For more info see www.restaurantaryeh.com or follow @aryeh_restaurant on Instagram.
20 Seaview Road, Piha
Dinner: 5pm till 9pm Wednesday to Monday (closed Tuesday)
Lunch: 12pm till 2pm Thursday to Monday
Website: www.restaurantaryeh.com Reservations can be made via the website or by phone on (09) 812 8500