Phone: 021 261 8172
Rating out of 10: Food: 9, Service: 9, Value: 9, Ambience: 6
Back in the 1980s there were entire restaurants dedicated to death by chocolate. Friends met for coffee and cake, lovers licked each other's spoons. In the decade of excess, pudding was a destination.
Then fat went out of fashion. Sugar became satanic and the only "baking" you could find in Auckland was made from compressed carrots and activated cashews. I am pleased to report dessert is back.
From the recent MasterChef finale that rested on the contestants' abilities to blow sugar and temper chocolate, to the rise and rise of the extreme milkshake, the sweet-of-tooth can, once again, indulge.
Nowhere is this more evident than Miann. The Fort St restaurant converts cake to sculpture and chocolate, caramel and praline to the prettiest calories you will ever ingest. Eat with your eyes, definitely - but be assured this also tastes good.
We were three women intent on dessert for dinner. It did feel weird contemplating an alcohol-free beverage menu at 6.30pm, but the bonus was a cheap drinks bill ($7 for an okay mango and passionfruit shrub and $8 for a highly recommended virgin plum mojito).
The a la carte menu's selection of four $15 offerings changes weekly, but, according to our waitress, will almost always include the cranachan, a signaturedish reflecting the chef's Scottish heritage.
Miann is a husband-and-wife operation. Brian Campbell (formerly of Milse) does the food, and Roselle heads the phenomenally patient service. The latter is particularly worth noting in an establishment where the front counter invites pause, and frequent questions, from customers.
We sat street-side for our a la carte selection. Meaty smells drifted toward us and I momentarily wished we were somewhere that served wine and fries. Then our plates landed. Cranachan is kind of a Scottish trifle - oats, soaked in whisky, with the addition of honey, cream and raspberries. At Miann, the oats were crunchy clusters, and the alcohol and cream were in a panna cotta that featured Valrhona's blonde "dulcey" chocolate. The latter was so creamy I could have licked the exquisite ceramic plate (a Peter Collis original, reported the waitress after she cheerfully went inside to check).
A "Black Boy Peach" across the table was fruity and light. It was, technically, a second course - a vegan chocolate and raspberry gelato had already been voted best grown-up rocky road.
That night's "balloon" (a piece of liquid nitrogen-frozen trickery) came with a coconut outer shell, sago filling and mango and pineapple flavours. Visually exquisite, the contrasting textures and the "light" sweetness of the tropical fruit made this a table favourite.
We were technically, having dessert. But the flavours were so balanced by fresh fruit and the plating so elegant, we were compelled to move inside for, well, dessert (and extras to take home).
Miann's interior is functional. A handful of tables provide views into the busy kitchen, but the star turn is a counter cabinet with steady take-out custom. The $9 gateaux at Miann are ridiculously attractive. Valrhona bases are supplemented by the likes of coconut, pandan and peach; plum, tonka bean and Earl Grey tea. The decorative work is inventive (tiny choc feathers sit on top of passionfruit and almond); and, if you're not into cake, there are macarons, tarts or gelato on sticks. We chose chocolate. Richer and sweeter than our plated "mains", we ate with half-closed eyes and shared only when prompted.
Our meal: $130 for three plated desserts, six cabinet cakes, two virgin cocktails and two cups of tea.
Verdict: Dessert as high art in a restaurant where the service shines and the pudding is so good we ordered twice.