Jul 19, 2016 Restaurants
Words by Alice Harbourne, photos by Ken Downie.
“$2 million-fit-out” stood out in the press release. The new openings we’ve previewed on Metro Eats lately have all been resourceful, family-led affairs, which means mums, dads, sons and daughters have spent hours sourcing, scrubbing and painting to stay within budget. By the time the owners are ready for press, they’re excited but visibly weary.
That’s not the case at Meat Fish Wine. Executive chef David Schofield is relaxed and cheerful as he shows me around his new restaurant in the heritage Chancery Chambers, a joint venture with Australian restaurant group Apples + Pears Entertainment. It’s the group’s first restaurant in New Zealand, but Schofield is keen to stress it’s not been a simple copy and paste job, referencing the fact the original Melbourne Meat Fish Wine has essentially always been a Kiwi operation in staff and culture. “Bringing it to New Zealand feels like more bringing it home than importing an Australian brand,” he says.
While that sounds like PR spin (believe me, I cynically anticipated glossy, soulless, restaurant group stuff) the reality pleasantly surprises. Everything from the careful fit-out – which features locally-sourced materials and handmade ceramic tiles – to bespoke crockery made by Peter Collis, signals a restaurant wishing to celebrate what’s already here rather than colonise. That’s visible in the menu too; ingredients are sourced from New Zealand, with suppliers like Neat Meat, sustainability-loving fishery Yellow Brick Road and Kokako Coffee represented.
Dishes centre around (you guessed it) meat and fish, and are presented in the shared-plate format. They’re intended to be “middle of the road” price-wise, because Schofield hates pretension; he goes so far as to suggest he’d cook steak, chips and egg to order if a customer so wished. That’s not to say his own cuisine is limited in imagination; guided by the seasons his plate of winter gnocchi with three textures of cauliflower is comforting, creamy, crunchy and smoky in all the right ways. It’s so promising. So too is the wine list, curated by Matthew Lamb of three-hat Melbourne restaurant Vue De Monde. 500 bottles makes it one of New Zealand’s most extensive, with over 40 available by the glass as Meat Fish Wine use the Coravin system.
With four private dining rooms and morning takeaway coffee and croissants available, this former 1920s baths and tea parlour will once again be servicing the social requirements of Auckland’s nearby lawyers. And the rest of us too, of course – it’s a great reason to visit this part of town again.
Meat Fish Wine
Corner of O’Connell and Chancery St
Open Mon-Sat from 25th July with “soft opening” this week, for details see website above.
This article was edited to remove references to a soon-to-be rooftop bar, which has until further notice been suspended.