The elementally-named Meat Fish Wine opened in late July, an Auckland outpost of the Melbourne-based Apples & Pears Group (I’m sensing a titular theme). Perhaps excessively, I visited twice in as many days in its first week; my enjoyment of the first of those visits was significantly stymied by too much Wine elsewhere the previous evening. Even in that state, I found the ‘steak & onions’ (250g of butcher’s cut steak with slow braised onion puree & bordelaise sauce) palatable. Hangovers aside, it clearly made enough of an impression for me to return for Visit Number Three, and a table for two at 6:30pm on a Friday was not hard to secure (about which, more later).
Unlike its predecessor (a perfectly respectable if oddly-situated Thai BYO), they’ve made good use of what is a very large space. In part this has been achieved by the utilisation of wine paraphernalia for interior design purposes: a wall of stemware; an upturned-wineglass chandelier; shelves and shelves of bottles of various shapes, sizes, hues and origins.
A human dining companion was, despite my assertions in a previous post, infinitely preferable to a book, and not only because it legitimised ordering multiple dishes from all sections of the menu (“Smaller Plates”, “Bigger Plates”, “Bits on the Side” and “Cheese & Sweet Things”). After complimentary bread rolls (satisfyingly dense and served with lemon & herb butter), I started with beetroot cured Ora King Salmon with avocado sorbet and pickled cucumber & quinoa salad, a highlight of which was an adorably petite savoury beetroot macaron. Across the table, herb gnocchi with pumpkin puree, roasted portobello mushrooms, cauliflower and sage butter smelled, and apparently was, mouthwateringly delectable.
With “fish” achieved on my part, the “meat” element was well and truly satisfied by our main selections: for me, pork belly with roasted kumara, miso & maple dressing, pickled apple, roasted peanut and coriander; for him, cutlets of lamb with grilled eggplant purée, rosemary and a lamb shank croquette. Our bits on the side, so to speak, were roasted cauliflower with Arabian spices, marinated raisins and labneh (moorishly moreish) and broccoli, chilli and almond & lemon butter (a substitution of brocollini wouldn’t have gone amiss, IMHO). For dessert, the crème brûlée, served with apple compote and puff pastry gelato, passed with flying colours. My 40g cheese selection (a blue and a cheddar, accompanied by grainy mustard, pistachios, apple, lavosh and an apricot fruit loaf fondly reminiscent of Bürgen fruit toast) was completely unnecessary in that it pushed me to just shy of too full, but it was worth it.
And for the trifecta, the wine list is certainly impressive (there is even a Coravin system enabling plebs like me to sample 75 or 150ml pours of some of the top shelf selections; we can’t all drop $300 on a bottle of Dry River Pinot Noir, let alone $1,500 or so on a bottle of 2005 Grange, on the reg). Opting instead for wine by the bottle, 750ml of Jim Barry “The Veto” Shiraz was eminently drinkable.
I’ll be honest, though: I’m a bit worried for Meat Fish Wine’s long- (or even medium-) term prospects. We dined on a Friday night, and it was ominously quiet. At first we put this down to the relatively early hour of our booking, but things didn’t pick up in the two hours or so that we were there. But why? The staff were good (if a little green), the food delicious, the fitout impressive (check out the toilets and their disconcerting one-way glass view out to the restaurant, should the opportunity arise). Perhaps a feature that is part of its appeal for me – proximity to my place of work – is also its weakness. The Chancery/O’Connell precinct has notoriously high turnover in terms of tenancy, and I guess only time will tell whether Meat Fish Wine goes the way of Sukhothai, or whether we have a more lasting entity on our hands, to compete with the likes of Wine Chambers or the newly reincarnated O’Connell Street Bistro. I’ll happily Meat, Fish and Wine there again, in the meantime.
Meat Fish Wine
Cnr O’Connell and Chancery Streets
Open for lunch Monday to Friday 12-4pm and for dinner Monday to Saturday from 5pm. Closed Sundays.
$250 for two smaller plates, two bigger plates, two bits on the side, one cheese, one sweet thing and a bottle of wine