The Federal Delicatessen will always have a special place in my heart for personal reasons but even if that wasn’t so, the food that keeps me coming back for more! Anything associated with Al Brown has been a culinary success in New Zealand and The Fed is his best work to date. Described as his ‘Take on an old-school New York City Jewish Delicatessen’, this diner transports you back to the ‘80s with waitresses and waiters dressed in pinup fashion.
Booth seats, chairs at the bar and cosy little tables along with the constant flow of people all add to the hustle and bustle of this busy deli. You can see an open food prep area and a display of their desserts and other bits and pieces on their menu the moment you walk in. I’ve never seen the place less than half full, even during off peak hours which is what you would expect from a diner.
A lot of the ingredients they use are on display to purchase behind the counter – much like the candy stand at the checkout. The temptation was too much for me and I couldn’t help getting a jar of their New York Deli Style Pickles ($12.95) to make my burgers and sandwiches with at home.
To me it doesn’t seem like the menu has changed in the past few years – after all why fix something that isn’t broken? The portions are small-medium compared to alternative cheap eats in the city but is worth every cent. The food is designed to be shared although you would most likely want to hoard it all to yourself.
Whenever I eat here, I always get my two staples – Duck Liver Parfait and Pastrami. We decided to sample something new from the Appetisers and chose the Schticks Croquettes.
They were beautifully crispy on the outside (you might need to wait for it to cool because they were super hot when they were served) and soft on the inside, just as a croquette should be. The mayo was good too but I’m a bit of a spice fiend so there wasn’t quite enough ‘kick’ to it as I would have liked. There was also a generous amount of it which we kept for later to use up with the Pastrami.
Next came the Duck Liver Parfait. Let me tell you, this stuff is AMAZING. It is hands down the smoothest thing you will spread on their crunchy toast and the flavours are spot on every time. That paired with their pickle juice jelly – the delicious combination of sour and sweetness of a pickle condensed into this wobbly goodness – they’re a match made in heaven. The parfait portions are quite generous so don’t be afraid to spread liberally, I always seem to misjudge the toast to topping ratio…
Last but not least was the House Pastrami (Medium $19/ Large $25). I’ve found the medium size to be enough to satisfy any hunger you have that your appetiser hasn’t fulfilled. The meat is always of the highest quality and comes in its own juices, bursting with flavour and tender every time. The sourness of their pickles and mustard also helps cut through any fattiness from the meat.
(Their Pastrami Toasted Reuben sandwich is also amazing due to their addition of Swiss cheese and Sauerkraut but I felt this was a bit too much bread overload for the night. At $22 a pop, the sandwich is one of the priciest I’ve had but worth it every time. Other foods I’d recommend are the Montreal Poutine (Small $9/ Large $12) or if you have more of a sweet tooth, the Combo of any three of their pies ($18). Trust me, you’ll want to try all of them so this is a perfect taster at a fraction of the price).
It’s always been a waiting list situation as The Fed doesn’t take bookings but the turnover rate seems relatively quick and you can always grab a drink while you wait which is what we did – generally allow 15-20mins of waiting time during peak hours, maybe more if your group is larger.
The staff are all at the top of their game, constantly topping up our water and checking in on how our meal was going throughout the night. I haven’t had anything less than top notch service here with this friendly bunch and they’re always willing to go the extra mile to enhance your dining experience. I once asked about the mustard they used with the pastrami and the lady at the till went to the back and got me a tiny container filled with it (free of charge) for me to enjoy at home!
Quite reasonable for a night out. Because most of the menu is designed to share, it’s best to go with a group of friends so you can try out a decent amount of things on their list. For two people, it usually comes to an average of $40 each person including a drink (we each had a cocktail this time).
I don’t think I’ve led anyone astray so far and this is one of my staple recommendations for anyone in Auckland. It’s a fun time whether you’re going for breakfast, lunch or dinner and not too hard on the wallet either. The menu does vary slightly between these times so it might pay to check they serve what you’re looking for before you go.
If you’re lucky, you might also get to see Al Brown pottering in the background, serving coffees and having a general chat to customers. It’s very much a ‘Where’s Wally?’ situation whenever you walk in because he could pop up anytime. On the rare occasion, I’ve managed to see him, it’s been nice to see the down-to-earth approach he has to both his customers and staff.
Breakfast 7.00am till 11.00am
Lunch/Dinner 11.30am till late
Sat & Sun
Brunch 7.00am till 3.30pm
Dinner 4.00pm till late
Late Shift 11 pm till 1 am (Fri & Sat Only)