$25 per person
1/492 Queen Street, Auckland CBD, Auckland
Far from the city centre and surrounded by cheap Asian eateries, Al's Deli is a little bit unusual. The decor in Al's; a mix between an American diner and a cafe, sets the tone as casual dining. Walking in the door; doughnuts leaking cream and monster sized pieces of cake greet you. Walk a little further and you'll find racks of freshly made bagels. Al's knows how to get your mouth watering before you even order.
Happily everything in Al's is freshly made, including the bread, smoked meats and cakes. It's rare to find a Queen Street eatery where they make everything in house. The Western diner/deli menu is comprehensive with wings, sandwiches, bagels and even alcoholic milkshakes for the daring.
Breaded items like the Mexican bagel of the week featured shredded beef, with avocado and salsa in a sesame seed bagel. The thick beef slices led to hearty bites, but the avocado and salsa were lacking, resulting in a meat heavy snack. Other sandwiches had similar themes: heaps of meat, a sprinkle of vegetables and fresh springy bread. If you love your meat, you probably won't complain. I would have preferred more balance.
Dessert slants to the hearty side as well, with Canadian dishes like Moose Ear dribbled with maple butter. Moose Ear? It's a fried, flat, whole wheat dough. While the premise sound interesting, in reality it was like eating a large, crisp pancake. The maple butter was a treat, but the whole dish was as a novelty and nothing more.
Cheesecake is one of my all time favourite desserts, so I was very much looking forward to digging into Al's mammoth piece. The base was crunchy, with a slight citrus sharpness. The cheese struck the balance between firm and soft. It had just the right consistency to hold together on your fork, but melt in the mouth. The topping's strawberries were fresh, though the jelly was perhaps too sweet. One of the cities best cheesecakes I've had the pleasure of eaten.
While the casual, hearty food more than satisfies service times can leave much to be desired. On occasion it's taken 20 minutes for plates of fries or broccoli to be presented. It's as if there's only ever one or two chefs working, regardless of how many customers there are.