There's really no beating around the bush when you head out for a meal at a restaurant called Fish.
The Hilton's collaboration with the Nourish Group of restaurants (and celebrity chef Simon Gault) has one of the least creative names of any restaurant I've come across. But there is something reassuring about the restaurant with a one-syllable name even a three-year old could say.
Here we are in a country esteemed for our seafood produce, in a five-star hotel that looks like a cruise ship, surrounded by the sea… a fine dining establishment with a clear emphasis on seafood is a natural fit. And with so much swank and culinary cred, a long-winded sophisticated name is quite frankly unnecessary.
Perhaps I'm a bit of a traditionalist, but when it comes to fine dining I think it's fair to expect three things – exceptional food, top shelf wine (served in the right glasses) and first class service.
From woe to go I was treated like royalty. As I was paying for the cab that dropped me at the Hilton I realised my door was being opened by the concierge. "Are you dining with us this evening madam?" – Yes I am. "Have you been here before?" – No. "Let me take you up to the restaurant." And so it was settled - I was accompanied up and given a short summary of what I was to look forward to at the same time.
The restaurant is clean and modern. Nothing too showy by way of interiors but with all the subtle trademarks of the five-star joint; starched white table clothes, contemporary lighting and art and of course the real show stopper, that multi-million dollar view out from the Northern tip of Princes Wharf to the Hauraki Gulf and back to the city skyline.
The menu claimed to showcase the finest of New Zealand seafood offering only the very best sustainable, and where possible, organic produce. Anyone feeling particularly nervous to admit that they're actually not all that keen on fish can fear not – I'm sure between the high country lamb and the black pepper tofu there'll be something that will take your fancy.
We started with half a dozen tempura oysters served with chipotle mayonnaise and lemon and the seared Atlantic scallops with roasted cauliflower and a chorizo crumb. The oysters were deliciously light and perfectly matched with the creamy mayo. Likewise the scallops were cooked to perfection and melted in the mouth.
For mains we chose the oven baked Akaroa salmon with fennel, capers, chili and lemon and the pan-fried Hauraki Gulf snapper with warm king crab and a tomato and saffron vinaigrette. Clearly this isn't a share plate type of place, but I always like to taste my dining companion's dinner (food FOMO is something I get bad). However on this occasion I completely forgot. It might have had something to do with the fact I was busy devouring the crispy skinned snapper in front of me and enjoying another glass of The Ned sauvignon blanc.
Fact – the fish at Fish tastes sensational. Complements to Head Chef Shane Yardley, who I saw visiting a couple of patrons and chatting about dishes.
We finished the bottle of The Ned and the evening with white chocolate panna cotta with a pineapple capparcio (they were out of the rum poached mango) compete with freeze dried mango (in various forms) and a caramel milk foam. I'm always a little skeptical of the whole molecular gastronomy thing and this dessert was working it, but it did taste darn good and a nice light finish to the evening.
We left Fish comfortably full and merry. Bank accounts were significantly lower but it was a night that reaffirms that sometimes you get what you pay for – a seriously decent feed of fish, surprisingly.