Tucks and Bao – Newmarket, Auckland

Tucks and Bao Newmarket Auckland Review

Having read some good things about this new eatery, it’s Newmarket location made it the perfect location at which to catch up with local friends on my most recent trip to Auckland. I previously worked just up the road from this venue, and knew it’s previous occupants well – I still remember Market Kitchen’s stellar eye fillet, celeriac and watercress dish fondly. I have to admit the venue has always seemed a little ill-fated – off the beaten path from the Lumsden Green eateries, and plagued by building issues over the years. After Market Kitchen, it was home to Miss Saigon for around a year – and the new occupant has kept the Asian theme and fitout. I’m hoping Tucks and Bao is going to turn this venue around.

Tucks and Bao Newmarket Auckland Review

I hope the kitchen is cleaner than the menus

We arrive a little before opening, and as twelve strikes we are offered a menu to peruse waiting for our other diners. To be honest, I was a little (ok, make that very) shocked at what we were handed. The paper menus were torn, stained with food, crumpled and had pen marks erasing most of the contents of the wine list. I simply could not believe the disgusting state of the menus – I felt like I needed to get the Purell out. Surely printing new menus would have been less effort than painstakingly drawing lines crossing out wines and prices across so many copies of the menu?It definitely was not a good look, and in hindsight, I should have realised it would foreshadow our meal to come.

What we ordered…

Tucks and Bao Newmarket Auckland ReviewI’m a bit of a bao fan, and they seem to be popping up left, right and centre in Auckland and around the world. The bao bun wasn’t too shabby, and you get two for the listed price – that’s pretty good too (and unexpected). You’d need to have someone to share with though, as two of the same variety bao for one person is a bit of overkill. I’d prefer you could order in single baos so you can try more of the offering.

The best dish from our selection was the Eurasian – hella messy, but those wonton tacos are a great idea. It’s another dish that comes in multiples – this time in servings of three, and again I would have preferred being able to have a mix (but I know that places increased workload on the kitchen so I understand their reticence).

Tucks and Bao Newmarket Auckland ReviewThe pork belly bao was the pick of the two, though I still will stick by the belief that I don’t think pork belly is the right cut for baos, as you just end up biting into huge chunks of fat. Not appealing. The flavour was good – but hey, drench anything in hoisin and it’s going to taste good.

The ‘Bok Bok’ on the other hand was, well, I don’t think I’ve ever had to say this about a dish before, but downright inedible. The batter was so thick and gelatinous (rice flour I’m guessing) that it was like trying to eat congealed glue – it just ain’t going to happen. The chicken inside the batter was almost non-existant – I dug through pieces of the ‘chicken’ in vain, trying to find some edible protein – and I came up with a couple of 1cm scraps.Or smaller. (Those black spots on the pieces? That’s the chicken. Bizarre.) I’m honestly in disbelief about how this dish is still on the menu at Tucks and Bao. Karaage/fried chicken is too easy to get right guys (as shown by the countless Auckland eateries that do it well), there’s no excuse for how this dish was served up.

Tucks and Bao Newmarket Auckland Review

Flaky, but in a good way

Our dining companions tried the ‘SWEET PAD, BRO’ but were sadly disappointed, commenting it didn’t really resemble or taste like Pad Thai at all. As a staunch Pad Thai lover, I’m glad I dodged that one. They did seem to enjoy their chocolate milkshake however, complete with not one, but two flakes.

Service was very hit and miss, the tables were sticky and not pleasant to lean on (we weren’t quite sure whether this was due to food residue, from oiling the wooden table, or a bit of both), and the playlist was a minimum of ten years old. I really, really don’t want to be listening to ten-year-plus old pop music guys! It was bad enough the first time around. Despite some good dishes (the Eurasian and the Thai style salad were pretty good) there are just too many ticks in the ‘misses’ column to justify returning for round two. Maybe there’s just something about that venue…

The Verdict:

Food: 12.5/20
Service: 6/10
Ambience: 6/10
Decor: 6.5/10
Value: 7.5/10
Overall Rating: 6.4/10

Don’t forget to check out my other Auckland Dining Reviews here!

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