Long the preserve of those in need of lazy, summer, destination dining, The Tasting Shed has been a favourite of large groups for family celebrations, hen’s nights, the odd corporate function and weddings.

This is due in part to the charming outdoor garden and dining areas nestled beside Coopers Creek winery. The covered cabana is just peachy and on a recent visit a vast open marquee stretched between it and the indoor restaurant, so kudos too for being both sun safe and offering much needed rain protection (always a necessity in West Auckland).

A recent arrival in the kitchen here is Alok Vasanth. Formerly the head chef at Cassia and with a fine cooking pedigree, Vasanth has created a light and summery menu that fits neatly into The Tasting Shed realm of comfort food that is recognisable but leaves room to incorporate a few nifty and welcome tricks.

Plates are designed for sharing, varying in size and with a strong vegetable component.

A stellar start to our meal was the fried cauliflower with a crunchy, lightly spiced coating and a soy and sesame mayonnaise. The 11-year-old was hoovering them up so fast I barely got one past my lips. Charred zucchini and patty pan squash were pleasingly caramelised and juicy while the light gremolata dressing and toasted almonds provided a welcome roundedness to the dish. Roasted potatoes with feta and cumin was always going to be a winner, but the highlights were the larger dishes.

Asam laksa with its clean but tangy, sour and fishy broth with crisp shallots was a delightfully light take of this fish-and-tamarind-based soup. The fish was terakihi and cooked just so, the herb garnish delicate and appropriate. I would seriously consider changing the name though as a laksa, by any book, needs noodles and this was sadly omitted here.

Lamb with nettles, curd and walnuts featured some flawlessly cooked lamb, perfectly pink and well rested. The hay ash coating gave a rich, savoury crust while the nettles cooked and puréed with spinach helped to mellow the rich, house-made fresh curd. The rancid walnuts marred what would have otherwise been an excellent dish.

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