Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Meredith's: more than just great parking

The Grove restaurant sure knows how to pick chefs. Their current wunderkind is Ben Bayly, the guy who first introduced me to the amazingness that is Samsung induction cooking and who pops up in all sorts of glamorous places. I last spotted him preparing food for the Gucci enclosure at the races on the weekend. What was I doing there? Oh, I was interviewing promo girls at the Sensodyne Iso-active Gelato Garden for the racetrack big screen. So I guess both Ben and I had our share of glamour that day.

Former chefs at The Grove include Sid Sahrawat, who now has his own place Sidart, home of the new Tuesday Test Kitchen. And before him was Michael Meredith, who now owns Meredith’s restaurant, which I wanted to take a moment and tell you about just in case you don’t know anything about it, even though it won a national Restaurant of the Year competition last year. Hey, don’t feel embarrassed. For a long time I thought the place was owned by some woman named Meredith.

The restaurant is part way down Dominion Road. Past Walters but not as far as McGlashan. Such a strange place for a fine dining (white table cloths, polished everything, free bread) restaurant but I love it – there’s plenty of parking and … okay I just sat here for five minutes trying to thing of something else but I think it’s mainly the parking.

Anyway, inside you could be anywhere. You wouldn’t describe it as a breathtakingly beautiful but it’s pretty bloody smart. And as you’re shown to your table you walk past a big open window into the kitchen where Michael Meredith looks at you and you’re not sure whether to say hello or not so if you’re like me you settle for something like “arrrrgum. HEY! Hi.”

And then the food comes, I was going to describe it but I’ve told you before, I hate hearing about food in a food review. Also, I drank too much last time when I was there and forgot everything. That’s probably the real reason this time. Ooh, look at this pretty photo, a picture’s worth a thousand words:

So yeah, it’s amazing. You can do six courses ($90) or eight courses ($120) during the week and a compulsory nine course degustation ($140) on the weekends. Yep, it’s a special occasion restaurant but it’s probably the best special occasion restaurant in the country.

This is cool: we got through that whole tasting menu without eating any beef or lamb. It was seafood this, venison that … probably the first time I’ve finished a meal like that without feeling physically repulsed at the thought of eating any more protein. Oh yeah, that venison was done like a steak tartare, but with all these extra textures – some sort of horseradish snow, some eel I think … wow.

Ooh, some more of it’s coming back to me now. The duck ‘sandwich’ is actually two beetroot-pink meringue halves, filled with, I think, duck, chicken liver parfait, pecorino and rocket. I’m bound to have got some of that wrong.

Then there was a ‘bacon and eggs’ dish which was nothing like bacon and eggs but tasted of both of those things. It was all in the way he put it together. I think. Oh this isn’t going well. Thank god I took a photo of it (in fading light).

So what do I want to tell you? That it’s one restaurant in Auckland you absolutely have to go to once before you die. The service is precise but warm as toast, the food is delicious and breaks your brain with its level of invention, and it turns out that if you talk through the hole on the way out, Michael will talk back. But what are you going to say? ‘That was yummy’? You can do better than that, you’re a Metro restaurant reviewer for god’s sake. Yummy. Get a grip, man.