The elaborate chandelier suspended from the ceiling at Meat Fish Wine initially screams 'earthquake hazard' rather than 'work of art'. The stunning feature is made of 2000 wine glasses in the shape of a hei matau fish hook carving, and besides the restaurant's name, is further indication that this place really loves wine.
The new opening is the brainchild of two-time 'Chef of the Year' David Schofield and Melbourne hospitality group Apples + Pears - a company that boasts four prized restaurants across the ditch. The Auckland version of MFW is located in the historic Chancery Chambers on the corner of O'Connell and Chancery Streets, a building once home to Turkish baths in the basement and an unfortunate Thai restaurant slated online as "an embarrassment". The slick $1.5 million fit-out refit retains some of the building's heritage charm: wire mesh safety glass in the front doors, vintage window frames that peer out on to O'Connell and an old safe fashioned into a wine cellar. New features include curtained off private dining rooms, well-stocked wine racks bordering the space, and contemporary Scandinavian furnishings.
With a straight-arrow name like Meat Fish Wine there are already three things you can expect from the menu. The wine list is a major attraction, boasting 600 varieties across 28 pages. The 'wine bible' is filled with local favourites and lesser known varieties that can ring up to $59 per 75ml pour. While most are only available by the bottle, a selection of 50-odd can be purchased by the glass. We were lucky enough to sample the incredibly smooth 2011 Andre Brunel 'Cuvée Reserve' Grenache blend ($14), the 2015 Mount Vernon Pinot Gris ($13), the Agrapart '7 Crus' champagne ($24) and the guzzle worthy 2013 Baumard 'Carte d'Or' dessert wine ($65).
To start you'll be presented with your own individual loaf of Maori bread with seaweed butter, an opening nod to the use of local ingredients. While it doesn't immediately jump out on paper, the grilled Wagyu tongue is a must try. The large and naturally very tonguish portion of meat is a far cry from the dry slithers you may have encountered elsewhere. The smoky and salty flesh collapses upon the force of utensils. Further 'smaller plates' include the Agria gnocchi that comes with cauliflower purée, cauli chips, brown butter and sage ($19). It resembles an enhanced version of cauliflower cheese - creamy and comforting. The rest of the list is completed by staples like seasonal oysters and cured and fermented meats.
The 'bigger plates' menu reads like the Yellow Pages of purées. It includes the twice recommended lamb cutlets ($35) with a dark, grilled eggplant purée and a croquette that erupts with juicy lamb shank. The market fish ($35) on this occasion was a sizeable kingfish steak joined by dots of lemon purée and corn purée shaped to resemble actual of corn kernels; a boggling experience if you were expecting the normal crunch of corn. The tarty dried scallop sauce is another unforeseen, almost purée-ish, element on the plate.
Further to the a la carte menu, MFW offers a $79 set menu for three courses, a pre-theatre menu and an express lunch - covering all bases and scenarios. Exuding a tone somewhere between fine dining restaurant and bistro, MFW is suitable for those after a stylish afterwork drink and celebratory dinner.