Good food, good wine and good company the perfect formula
They’ve been open barely a year and already Apero on Auckland’s infamous K Road has become the go-to local for inner-city dwellers with good taste. Chef Leslie Hottiaux (ex-sous chef at The Grove and Baduzzi) and partner Ismo ‘Mo’ Koski (ex maitre d' at Sidart and Merediths) have reinvented an old tattoo parlour to create an intimate and laid-back ambience, where the wine and food get equal attention. We asked Mo to tell us more about the concept, and how it came about.
Was it always your dream to own/run your own restaurant?
Definitely, I have talked about it for many years, but really only seriously in the last two years or so.
How did Apero come about (and with whom)?
The idea was hatched between me and my partner Leslie. She is a chef by trade and we figured to come up with a concept where we could both be creative in our fields – her in the kitchen, and me front of house and wine. The idea was a wine bar with equal focus on wine as well as food. It was always very important for us that from the beginning we would operate focusing on both aspects. So far so good!
Please describe your restaurant for us in a sentence.
A welcoming, comforting environment based on good food, good wine and good company … essentially it is our house
Running a restaurant is a tough job. What makes it all worthwhile?
The satisfaction that people walk through our door, and enjoy what we have created, that definitely makes it worthwhile.
What constitutes a good wine list to you?
It’s got to be interesting, there are too many ‘usual suspects’ lists out there. When I go out I want to try new wines, good or bad. I think this adds to the experience. I also love having a decent amount of wines by the glass.
What is your personal favourite food and wine match?
There is something deeply satisfying about a beautifully cooked piece of beef, and a wicked glass of red wine, probably Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
What is the Apero’s signature dish and what is your perfect wine match for it?
Our signature dish is definitely our pork sausage, matched with a red that has that perfect balance of juiciness to dry finish and subtle tannins. Currently I am loving the Charles & Charles from Washington State, it’s a blend of cabernet and syrah.
Can we ask you to match two wines supplied by Planet Wine to two dishes on your menu?
We have a mushroom dish on the menu – four types of mushrooms roasted with confit garlic & butter, and it’s amazing with the Kanonkop Kadette Pinotage. The other has to be our Chocolate Fondant with Delgado Zuleta Pedro Ximénez … delicious.
Which are currently the most popular drinks at Apero?
The most popular wines sold tend to be whatever I am loving at the minute. By default I push those, but we sell pretty evenly across the board when it comes to wine.
How did your relationship with Martin and Planet Wine begin?
I first met Martin around 2007 when I was working at Merediths Restaurant. I would say the first wine I tried of his was his Marguet Champagne – stood out in a blind tasting of champagnes. Since then he has always had listings on any list I have put together.
What is it that you appreciate about Planet Wine as a supplier?
Definitely one of the best wine portfolios around – full of interesting wines from around the world, always very reasonably priced. And I have to say Martin’s passion for wine is infectious. His is quite a bold portfolio, but there’s always something new and original to try. It’s perfect for me to try out new things.