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Restaurant review: Empty promises at Meat Fish Wine

Sep 15, 2016 Restaurants

What should we expect from a restaurant called Meat Fish Wine?

This looks good. A scrubbed-up art deco building at the top of O’Connell St, delightful round vestibule, parquet floor, spacious interior, an outlook through the large windows to nikau palms and softly lit Edwardian stone. Meat Fish Wine, to all appearances, is exactly the kind of restaurant O’Connell St has been waiting for. I hope they’re allowed to put tables outside: it’ll be the making of Auckland’s loveliest shared space.

Sorry, I said “to all appearances”. In truth, not quite. Despite the beauty of the building, they’ve declared another kind of taste with one of those kitschy 60s-throwback David Bromley nudes dominating the dining room.

There’s a thing with the toilets, too. They’re unisex, with a big central tub where you wash your hands and make awkward jokes with someone else’s significant other, while also looking into the dining room and the kitchen.

But you don’t go to a restaurant just to look around. This is Meat Fish Wine, where the name carries a promise — surely — of interesting and unusual meat, ditto fish, ditto wine. If only.

They do have a wine thing. Racks of bottles everywhere. And the bar area is lovely: a great spot for a drink even if you’re not stopping in to eat.

But the wine. Many cost close to $30 for a 150ml glass. FFS. I had a steak, and to accompany it my choice of big reds costing less than $20 was precisely one.
As for the steak, well. They had two on the night I was there. Both sirloin, one on the bone and hung for 60 days. Sirloin on the bone and hung for 60 days is a cook’s fetish, not a diner’s delight. It’s not as tasty as scotch, and never will be. There were the other ordinaries: pork belly, lamb chops, blah blah. If you call yourself Meat Something Something your meat menu should be far more enticing.

The 60-day sirloin came with “shoestring fries” that turned out to be machine-cut chips like you’d get in a carton at the rugby. Despite its fancy sauce, that dish got boring way before it was over.

And the fish? Butterfish, the night I went. That was good. But what about the rest? Call yourself Something Fish Something and you should be laying on some maritime magnificence. There were oysters, which is not special in this town, served with a “horseradish and shallot mignonette” that would have benefited from some trace of either horseradish or shallots. Seriously, it was vinegar.

Prawns, salmon, prawns, salmon. I kid you not, they’re both on the menu twice and that, along with the fish of the day and maybe a special, is it for the fish.
What’s wrong with these people? The answer is, they’re Australians.

I don’t mean Australians run bad restaurants. I happen to think their best are better than our best. But these are not their best. These are the kind of Australians who run a mechanical operation, talking the talk, posting the Instagram snaps, slapping themselves on the back for being smart enough to come over and get themselves some of that easy Auckland action.

The giveaway is the service. It’s attentively empty. I went for lunch with a friend and we shared. I had soup, but they didn’t bring her a spoon. She had tuatua (the prawns had run out) but they didn’t bring me a fork, and the tuatua came with a lot of broth which she couldn’t drink because, you know, no spoon. I watched the staff sizing up our table several times (they realised who I was), without seeing that we needed more cutlery.

The tuatua and their broth were great. Yet the soup, cauliflower, was saved only by the pieces of blue cheese in it. There was a very tender, very tasty chicken ballotine; there was a boring pasta with irritating little cubes of undercooked pumpkin. It was so random.

As for that bar, I had a whiskey sour that was good on the egg white but underdone on the lemon. Whiskey mild.

Pull your fingers out, guys. Summer’s coming and you’ve got work to do.


How we review
Restaurants are usually visited at least twice and are rated for what they are trying to do: a superb bistro and superb fine-dining place both get 5 spoons. We pay for our meals and if possible do not declare our presence.

We’d eat here if we had to
Good, but it really should be better
Very good
Extremely good
Superb: among the very best of its kind


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