Kermadec Seafood Brasserie & Bar, Viaduct Harbour

By Ewan McDonald

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Address: Level 1, Viaduct Harbour
Phone: (09) 307 0072
Website: kermadec.co.nz
Open: 7 days, lunch and dinner
Cuisine: Seafood

The Brasserie at Kermadec. Photo / Babiche Martens
The Brasserie at Kermadec. Photo / Babiche Martens

Just a perfect day
Drink sauvignon on the deck
And then later, when it gets dark, we'll go home.

That was the plan. It would all turn to creme brulee. Serve me right for mucking with Lou Reed.

Jude and I settled on the Kerma-deck. Even under the umbrella we were hot. The inner harbour reflected a sun searing over the Waitakeres and the Westin. The superyachts were too lazy to tug at their moorings.

Kermadec, owned by the Simunovich fishing interests, was one of the original tenants of Eatery Row; it's been here for a decade. Spending a million to re-fit the kitchen and create three distinct eateries was overdue. Asking uber-chef Peter Thornley to come into town from Bracu, the family's Bombay olive estate, was a very tasty idea.

There's a flash restaurant behind, where Thornley and his new crew get jiggy. On the quay below, a cafe for brekkie coffee and bakery and tapas.

We're trying the brasserie, several tads more casual, if not cheaper, than the posh seats. The wait-staff wear sunglasses or carry them in their shirt-fronts - they need them.

The brasserie's menu is not a longline from the restaurant, we noted as we studied it over fresh bread and ... "Where's the olive oil?" "It's coming," Jude said. "The waitress forgot it."

Four young men boarded the table a couple of feet away. And lit up. We're pretty easy-going folks, but a quartet of Bogarts does not help subtle cuisine. The law is hazy but everyone was within their legal rights if not their social responsibilities. We asked to move inside.

Jude's entree was called green gazpacho soup but it wasn't really soup (she didn't get a spoon, for her starters). Four prawns, roasted in herbs, winked from one side of the dish; on the other "one-eye bouillabaisse", migrated from Bracu, reduced to a relish on toast. To mop up the pastiche of the Spanish cooler at the bottom.

My cool roast beetroot salad disappointed. Rather than a collation, with watercress, hazelnuts, gorgonzola and banyuls vinaigrette, it felt like four or five individual flavours. To bring it together, perhaps it needed the glass of ... "Our wines haven't arrived," I noticed. The waiter came alongside, a little more than halfway through, with Valli Old Vine riesling for the salad, Patutahi gewurz for the gazpacho.

Jude chose grilled yellowfin tuna. I say "chose" because a minute after she ordered, the waiter came across. "I'm sorry, madame, the tuna is finished. We can substitute swordfish." They did. This was the most successful dish: delicately cooked fish, fennel barely caramelised, poached not boiled, ilam hardies.

I bagsed the snapper, largely because most of the other fish dishes included seafood and I can't. Hate to use that word again, but I remained disappointed: it was soggy and tasteless. Pureed peas and a lemon-butter nage swilled around. Nage comes from the word for "swimming" and it was. On top, pine-nuts and slices of olive. It felt like a lot of really good ideas had ended up on one plate without asking one another, "Why are we here?"

And it needed something. Like a salad. Or taties. But when one's paid $33 for the main, one hesitates at another $14 for cos salad, or $7 for spuds and $7.50 for beans, even with meyer lemon and toasted almond butter.

Perhaps it needed the glass of ... "Our wines haven't arrived," I noticed. The waiter hove to, a little more than halfway through, with Nautilus chardonnay.

We finished with a nougat parfait and the ingenuously named "trifle" - berries and shortbread and icecream. Good, especially with Campari kicking into orange jelly. Thornley is much better than this. Kermadec should be, too.

From the menu: Saute whitebait, celeriac puree, soya nut, brown butter, $26; Roast monkfish, onions, mushroom, glazed radishes, $34; Bitter chocolate mousse, poached cherry icecream, brownie, $15.

Vegetarian: Not on menu.

- NZ Herald

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