Mikano, Mechanics Bay

By Peter Calder

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Herald on Sunday rating: 3/5
Address: 1 Solent Street
Ph: (09) 309 9514
Website: mikano.co.nz

Mikano's roast is affordable but not quite what Mum would make. Photo / Getty Images
Mikano's roast is affordable but not quite what Mum would make. Photo / Getty Images

Every Sunday, vicious winter and sweltering summer, for every year of my childhood, we had a roast. The potatoes and kumara were peeled, of course, and the cabbage usually went on the stovetop about the same time as the roast veges because that was the only way to achieve the required consistency, of a mush as pale as sago.

If the meat was beef, Dad would be given the bloody juices, drained into a small sherry glass (all things considered, he was lucky to make it to 69). If we had pork, we boys fought over the crackling. If we had lamb ... well, we never had lamb.

As anyone who grew up in the 50s and 60s knows, all the lamb went to England and we had mutton which you had to eat at panic-stricken speed before the fat solidified around the peas. Oh, what fun we had.

The easy availability of mutton probably explains why Mum "put the roast on" before we left for church at 9am. She'd scurry in from the car as soon as we got home and, still in her Sunday best, check on its condition and pack the veges in around the meat.

Slow cooking is a fashion now - I cook Stephanie Alexander's seven-hour lamb as often as the roast-averse Professor will let me - but in those days it was a requirement of good housekeeping, dictated by the quality of the meat the Poms were kind enough to let us keep.

All of which is by way of saying that I was looking forward to a Sunday roast at Mikano as a chance to revisit childhood memories, happy and otherwise. I took the kids along - the Professor, inexplicably, discovered a pressing engagement elsewhere - so that they could find out what things were like in my day. But Mikano doesn't do the roast that I had in my day.

This is meant as both compliment and complaint. The a la carte prices at this well-established restaurant at the eastern end of the Auckland waterfront are up there - you won't get any change out of $75 for three courses without drinks - but they pitch the Sunday roast at an affordable $25 a head.

This sounds pretty good until you see what you get. Mercifully, they don't do Joan Calder's mutton at Mikano, or the 40-minute cabbage either. A platter placed in the middle of the table is nominally stacked with pork, beef and lamb (I think you need a group of four to qualify for all three), and roast veges.

But when ours landed, I found myself wondering when the rest was coming. The selection of meat - I could find only one piece of pork the size of a matchbox - filled barely a third of the plate, which was cheaply puffed up with piles of roast spuds and carrots.

There was no accompanying gravy - although a little had been poured on the meat and there were tiny dishes of nice mint salsa and apple sauce. No greens. No crackling.

For $100 for four, it seemed miserly and spartan.

To be fair, they did bring more meat when I complained (and the maitre d' later explained the frugality by saying that meat returned uneaten had to be binned) and what was served was of very good quality.

But I couldn't help thinking that Mum wouldn't have stood for it. She always tried to save enough to have cold meat for Monday's dinner, but she did allow us to eat up large.

That's sort of what Sunday roast is about.

Need to know

Value: $$$ a la carte/$ Sunday roast
Look: Room with a view
Taste: Succulent
Want: More, please

$ = $20-$40; $$ = $40-60; $$$ = More than $60
(Price guide reflects the cost of three courses for one person without drinks)

- NZ Herald

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