Sometimes, when I feel I have had endured the chef’s philosophy and eaten a tweezer-tortured plate of food one too many times, I close my eyes and imagine my happy place, one where all the food makes sense. Boulcott Street Bistro is just that restaurant.

For 27 years John Lawrence has owned and managed Boulcott with generosity and hospitality. The bistro has a timeless appeal – a bit of brass, linen tablecloths and Thonet chairs. The tables are dressed simply but effectively with solid tumblers and decent stemware. Everything just feels… right.


The bistro has always embraced a ‘family’ ethic; once you are part of the team, you are forever. A number of chefs have passed through its kitchen; Chris Green, now of Annam was the original chef-partner. Jacob Brown of Miramar’s The Larder, Glen File, late of Baduzzi, and John Allred have all manned the stove at some stage. Joe Williams, ex-Depot, ran the floor for a while, as did Clay Toomer from WBC and Steve Morris, now at Avida in Wellington. “Focussing on the art of hospitality, which can be the sum of many parts, ultimately it’s a warm welcome followed up with instant attention at the table,” John tells me, “then everyone relaxes.” The floor staff are committed and don’t miss a beat.

Rex Morgan has been the chef-partner for the past 10 years. The food is a relaxed Euro hybrid, not slavishly French, but down-to-earth and full of fresh flavours. Lightened-up classics are perfectly pitched, here not so much for their nostalgia but for their trustworthiness. There is no trying to reinvent the wheel here, but a reminder of just how good the wheel was in the first place.

The crumbed calamari – an idea embraced by many restaurants – is compellingly crisp and tender, greaseless, crusted in a punchy gremolata without being overwhelming, served with an impeccable anchovy tartare sauce. French onion soup arrives in a deep bowl, the broth rich, dark and sweetly satisfying, speaking of excellent stock. The aged beef fillet comes with hand-cut double-cooked fries, a lip-smacking sticky red wine jus and satiny pool of Bearnaise sauce. So popular is this dish, Rex makes the sauce three times a day, going through 3kg of butter. The leftover whey goes into the creamy smoked-potato mash served with the red-wine-braised lamb shanks. All the desserts are good, particularly the crème brûlée. A faultless eclair, filled with silken apple caramel ice cream, served with a sublime chocolate sauce and chunks of golden hokey pokey is, reassuringly, simply bloody marvellous. Just like the bistro itself.