Even though the Franklin had been open for only three weeks or so, it had not gone unnoticed. The tables nearest the door were occupied by 30-somethings celebrating the end of the working day or jacking things up for the next. The interior has had an appropriate fit-out for this part of town (black walls and banquettes, bronze and white lights, jazzy and R&B music) and there is a long, communal table. Here is where general manager Justin Clark hopes the locals and outlanders will congregate, talk, eat - and make plans to return.
And return they surely will, if it's good food they're after. Irish chef Sinead Boyler knows her stuff.
As we were but two, we eschewed the long table for one in a back corner, all the better for observation purposes. We would have preferred the small courtyard out back, but all the tables were taken, and the wind was a little chilly.
The menu is not long. There are plates to be shared, of the olives/fries/
squid/nachos persuasion. At a table with a bunch of friends on a work night, these would be appealing, although unadventurous.
The alternative menu offers three types of focaccia, six mains covering all of the usual suspects, and three desserts.
We started with the focaccia with olive and rosemary tapenade. We were surprised by the time it took to arrive, but the wait, explained Salla, the Finnish waitress, was because as far as possible, everything is cooked on request, and our bread was still in the oven. It was worth it - hot, chewy on the outside and soft within and accompanied by very good tapenade.
We were now prepared for an interval before our mains arrived. Having looked over the range of beers and been mildly disappointed that no bottled varieties were available, Bill took solace in a glass or two of a Five Flax merlot. I was better satisfied with my Awatere Triplebank sauvignon blanc but, while sufficient, there is nothing on the wine list that would raise an eyebrow.
The mains were an unexpected surprise. Bill's fish of the day, swordfish, came with new potatoes, green beans and salsa verde. I had never tried swordfish, and was surprised by its fineness of flesh and delicate flavour. The accompaniments enhanced without overpowering and the whole was excellent.
My chicken meal was just as well presented, with couscous laden with dried fruit and pistachios, and small sides of harissa and labne. Good matching of flavours, and well balanced.
Not unexpectedly, Bill was tempted by the bread and butter pudding, and crestfallen to find it had sold out. He made do with a rather retro chocolate sundae, which was of such a size it defeated even such a trencherman as he.
If it continues in this manner, the Franklin will rival similar establishments in the area, and with good reason.
Rating out of 10
Our meal: $174.50 for one starter, two mains, one dessert, one beer, six glasses of wine and two digestifs.
Wine list: Short and sweet, comprising New Zealand whites and half and half New Zealand and Australian reds. The beer is limited to Monteith's brews plus Tiger and cider on tap.
Verdict: A very accomplished operation for one that, at the time of visiting, had been open three weeks. The food is well above average for such establishments.