It had been 11 years since I'd dined at Flames Restaurant and I was pleasantly surprised.

The décor, I was happy to note, was as I remembered it - a Mediterranean-style terracotta-tiled terrace, complete with palms and, inside, a tranquil water feature flanking the bar, but I wasn't expecting the many diners to already be seated and chatting happily.

The maître d' greeted us warmly, his sense of humour shining through from the beginning and becoming a continuing theme of the night.

We quickly settled into the pleasant and spacious atmosphere of Flames, taking in the faint background music and surrounding conversational hum as everyone unwound on a Friday eve.

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First up we ordered the Buffalo Chicken Stix and the Kumara Bites. The warm oven-roasted kumara bites were the perfect blend with feta cheese and wholegrain balsamic dressing.

For mains, my dining partner ordered the Kiwiana Beef with mushroom sauce, seasonal vegetables, two poached eggs and fries. Between mouthfuls, his verdict was "ni-ice!". Apparently the steak was cooked to perfection.

I ordered the Lamb Shank, which came with gravy and served on a bed of mashed potato, accompanied with fresh al dente vegetables. Once again, perfection, with the New Zealand lamb cooked in succulent true melt-in-your-mouth style.

Although the meals were certainly filling, a meal isn't complete without a sweet treat and we opted for the traditional apple crumble, which had a strong and pleasant cinnamon flavor, and the white chocolate and raspberry-infused continental styled cheesecake.

One word - Yum!

As well as top food, good staff can make or break a dining experience and our jovial and attentive maidre d' certainly enhanced ours.

We will certainly be making a return visit to Flames soon!