Address: 1 Solent Street
Phone: (09) 309 9514

It was a cold, dark winter's evening. And that was inside.

I can understand the lack of drapes and subdued lighting in a place like Mikano with such spectacular views over the container wharf. It is fascinating to watch all those trucks and container cranes and to try and imagine what the computer system required to run such a mammoth undertaking must be like. And the helicopters ...

But a lack of curtains means that any warmth in the large, high dining room leaks out through the glass and, if you are at a table by the windows, it's jolly cold.

And a lighting flaw, uncharacteristic from such a master of restaurant design as Tom Skyring, meant that there was insufficient light to see what we were eating, or, in some cases, should have been avoiding.

We started with a drink at the very pleasant and comfortable bar, and took a look at the menu. Minds made up, we were shown to a table, but asked to move after the noise from the air extractor fan over the kitchen made conversation nigh on impossible.

Thus, the table by the windows. In retrospect, dealing with the noise would have been better, as it reduced in inverse proportion to the number of patrons.

Our shared starter of house-smoked kahawai came with lemon and black pepper mayonnaise, cucumber salad and bread - and scales and bones. We persevered as far as we could in the gloaming but gave up when the extraneous bits became too numerous. The very sweet waitress, Alex, saw the detritus on the plates, looked abashed and said she'd tell the chef, John Flack. I hope she did.

I had decided to have two entrees instead of a main, and Alex agreed that I would still have room for a mouthful of pudding. The first entree was crab lasagne with crispy leeks and ricotta and a lemon butter sauce.

The crab was plentiful, the pasta sheets meltingly tender and the sauce delicate - a superb dish. The second, honey-roasted quail with preserved lemon tabbouleh, pickled grapes and herbs, was just as good, or at least the little of it that I could see to remove from the bones. It was tender, the grapes were a piquant addition and there was plenty of lemon. I wish I could have got at more of the quail.

Bill's market fish, hapuku, arrived in a light and subtle broth of mussels and clams, braised with tomatoes, saffron and almond and parsley picada. He enjoyed it.

A mouthful of pudding was all I needed. Old-fashioned ginger pudding with rhubarb, apple and vanilla icecream was just that - old-fashioned. It's a great favourite with the men, said Alex, as seem to be most puds associated with Mum's home cooking (or what male memories deem to be such).

Mikano does some things very well. There's a good-looking cheese selection, vegetarians have their own menu, and the dining area, seen from the well-lit bar, is industrial chic and very smart. It just doesn't translate into functionality.

Rating out of 10
Food: 7
Service: 8
Value: 7
Ambience: 6

Our meal: $210.50 for a shared starter, two entrees, one main, one dessert, four glasses of wine, two beers, two liqueurs.

Wine list: Extensive, with good choice by the glass.

Verdict: Mostly good food. It's a great location, with all those grown-up Tonka toys to watch, but maybe summer would be a better season for visiting.