Michael Meredith's eponymous restaurant is discreetly located in an unlikely location on Dominion Road. It is not the most salubrious of addresses but what is produced behind the fairly anonymous restaurant frontage would rival any establishment in the world which claims a place at the forefront of modern cuisine.
The degustation menu with wine options was a revelation. The food was very cleverly constructed and presented and it was designed to deliver a new flavour surprise with each course. The food will not, however, be for everyone and those who prefer their meals to be more about appetite than taste should probably stay away. Even for its fans, this style of cuisine can become a little overwhelming for the sheer effort that goes into each minutely crafted course.
Indeed at times as our meal progressed I was left feeling that some of what had been done took creativity a step too far. For instance a superb lamb rump dish was served with a small medallion of veal bone marrow but the mix of lamb and beef flavours (not to mention the rather gelatinous texture of the marrow) simply didn't work for me. By contrast the signature beetroot/duck sandwich was stunning and the main fish dish contained a fantastic combination of flavours from fragrant pumpkin puree to fresh coriander, which was truly memorable.
The wine matches were equally enjoyable and perfectly in keeping with the meal. The wines themselves were special and often extraordinary, from little known producers at the top of their game. Of special note was a Bordeaux style red from Puriri Hills vineyard in Clevedon which I had never seen or heard of before - i"l be getting out there soon!
Don't come to Meredith's expecting to escape either quickly or inexpensively. The food is an experience and the wait staff play a large part in that by leading diners through the experience over several hours. We did not leave our 8pm table until 11.40 pm. During that time the service was attentive and informative, with a degree of reserve and formality about it, but without being pretentious. The one slightly negative note is that diners must develop a routine of halting the table conversation to permit each course to be introduced with due ceremony and deference. I was left feeling a little that we were part of a ceremony paying homage to the food and that will not be to everyone's taste.
Neither will the price at over $230 a head excluding tip, though I note that there are lesser menu options at lower prices and the wine matches add significantly to the bill but need not be chosen. That price is what can be demanded by and willingly paid to a restaurant whose chef/owner is deservedly considered to be at the top of his profession.
Auckland is lucky to have chef Meredith because his restaurant would hold its own against, and very probably surpass, some of the iconic restaurants of London or New York. If you can, try it. If you can't, plan to at least once.
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