Where: 365 Dominion Rd
Phone: (09) 623 3140
Given the exuberance of imagination characterising the dishes at Meredith's it might seem odd to go on about a side order of vegetables. But the green beans did typify the well-nigh perfect technique that goes into the food here, the beans being crisp but not raw and the sesame seeds just enough to provide a grace note without being overwhelming.
Even in this simple dish the ingredients were treated with respect and meticulous care. When restaurants start their careers with the spectacular success and recognition which Michael Meredith's venture immediately attracted, it is always interesting to see if they can keep it up. If our recent visit is typical, and judging from the difficulty in getting a table at short notice, it is, the challenge of consistency is being met.
I singled out the simple side order as exemplary but it has to be admitted that simplicity is not the keynote. The dishes may seem plain, as described on the menu, but when they arrive the process of having them lovingly explained in detail by the exceptional staff takes quite some time.
Space and the fear of exhausting your patience will not allow me to list all the treatments and variations in our meals but even the most fleeting mouthfuls were an enjoyable experience.
My first course was quail. But it came prepared as two portions of roast quail with more of the bird rendered into confit and stuffed into a little case. There was paua, enoki mushroom and peanuts and the whole was then bathed in a delightful broth.
This actually sounds, I suppose, a bit of a mess and too clever by more than half but you will have to take my word for it that it worked to provide clean and clear flavours.
Our other first course was a ceviche of hapuka accompanied by grapefruit, avocado, mirin and crab and, again, the subsidiaries made their presence known, with the crab providing a piquant note.
Inevitably with such creativity, there are bits which fail to find favour. The chocolate parsnip with the duck was judged to be something less than essential, although the rest of the treatment with walnut, date and dukkah was excellent.
My beef fillet was another reminder to myself that while I might be swayed by the intellectual arguments in favour of vegetarianism (and Meredith's offers three vegetarian options) my taste buds will always triumph.
Here the accompaniment included whole garlic confit, snails and an extraordinary dark green emulsion described as chlorophyll. This reminded me of the era when chlorophyll was seen as a miracle ingredient, in everything including toothpaste. This incarnation, with the watercress and spinach, provided a terrific counterpoint to the meat.
Our dessert choice was, like much of the food, a designer's visual dream described as a cinnamon and geranium pot which featured a brulee and came with yoghurt, berries and a marshmallow which almost, but not quite, overcame my inability to understand the popularity of this Kiwi favourite.
The rosewater pannacotta with fruit was wonderfully subtle and the vanilla pearls turned out to be grains of tapioca, rather different from the nightmare of school lunches. As our British visitor neighbours, and this is a small restaurant where the neighbours may be in quite cosy proximity, said of their dessert choices: "Well, they are very different." And this is, perhaps, the point.
Meredith's is not a place to come if you like the familiar but if you want something exceptional, intriguing and brilliantly executed.
Rating out of 10
Our meal: $252 for two entrees, mains, desserts and five glasses of wine.
Wine list: Not an encyclopaedic list but more than sufficient. Our Clos Marguerite Pinot Noir 08, Churton Sauvignon Blanc 08, a good Barossa Cigale GSM 07 and a Chapoutier Beaumes de Venise were all thoroughly enjoyable.
Verdict: Formal without being stuffy, comfortable if a little cosy, and with superb staff. But the outstanding food is the essence of an evening here.