Where: 422 Mt Eden Rd. Ph (09) 638 7236.
Our meal: $188 for shared bread, two entrees, two mains, one dessert, two beers, three glasses of wine.
Wine list: Wide New Zealand selection, with a few Aussie mates, and overseas visitors when required.
Verdict: Well above average suburban restaurant, with sophisticated taste combinations. Owners Belinda and Michael Van de Elzen know their business.
Out of 10
Oh, yes," people said vaguely when we announced our intention. "Molten. It's supposed to be quite good, isn't it?" The vagueness is unworthy.
Molten has been a fixture in the heart of Mt Eden for five years, which in restaurant terms almost makes it a veteran. Little brother Liquid Molten, the bar next door, is a comparative newcomer, having only been open 10 months or so.
If Molten's record is anything to go by, Liquid Molten is set to become an institution too. But we weren't in Mt Eden to check out the bars. We had much more serious business - eating. It had been a horrid day in Auckland, although the much-vaunted "weather bomb" had failed to materialise.
Molten was warm, almost steamy, in the sultriness that followed the rain. It's plain and clean-lined, with splashes of colour from three large paintings.
Our table, which unfortunately left Bill facing a pillar and exposed pipework, allowed me a view through the passageway to the elegant and inviting garden behind the restaurant.
We started with breads, with Te Arai Estate olive oil and avocado aioli ($8.50). Great olive oil, slightly spicy, and bread baked on the premises, as it should be. Bill's Dos Equis beer was better than he expected (and he had two to be sure), and my Craggy Range Te Muna Road sauvignon blanc was up to the usual standard. I had heard that the salt and pepper squid at Molten was a must-have. It comes with sesame oil, cucumber, peanut relish and chilli manuka honey ($18.50), and is served in squares. This keeps the texture firm without being chewy, and it lived up to its reputation.
Bill found his roasted mushroom tarte tatin with melted ramara cheese, Parma ham and rocket ($19) bland, with insufficient cheese flavour to enhance the mushroom. The game fish of the day was broadbill, served with confit duck risotto, lavender mayonnaise and a veal reduction ($34).
Daryl the waiter, who is as proficient and charming as the other staff, recommended that the fish be medium to well done, to get the best from it. Bill was well pleased, although he felt that the veal reduction rather over-powered the delicate fish. My chicken - no, make that chook, as the menu describes - was excellent. With tarragon and butter stuffed under the skin, seared and roasted and served with warm brie gnocchi and a lemon and broadbean slurry ($31.50), it was succulent and tender. The lemon cut any over-butteriness, if there can be such a thing, and reduced my chances of heart attack.
Well, the rationalisation worked for me. And the chunkies, which we didn't need but they looked so good, were fat, cauterisingly hot chips. Molten, one might venture. I'm not a dessert eater as a rule, but I'm not averse to a little pudding-theft. I had a spoon to avail myself of Bill's mandarin curd and mascarpone-stuffed ginger snap with poached mandarin and chunks of shortbread ($14.50), but I didn't get much.
Molten does generous bistro food with flair and elegance. It's too good to keep just for special occasions.