Merediths- 4 Hours, 7 Courses And Only 1 Dud

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Virgil Evetts

The other night I had dinner at what many have claimed to be Auckland greatest restaurant (of the moment anyway): Meridiths.  It was fab.  Really.  But I’ve gotta say, the lack of possessive apostrophe irks me deeply.  Can I take from this that the premises not only house the much lauded eatery of one Michael Meredith, but also  numerous other persons named Meredith?  Apparently restaurants have diplomatic immunity when it comes to punctuation. Yes, I love your food, but this ain’t over Michael. I have a long and proud history of annoying people with my pedantic pro-apostrophe leanings, including a run-in with the Hellers (again, no apostrophe) marketing team over the bewildering inclusion of said punctuation in their Purplo’s sausages brand. My email to them went something along the lines of: Purplo’s what? And who is this Purplo?  

Anyway. Meridiths.

Damn fine restaurant however you choose to punctuate it.

We turned up on a Saturday night – well ‘turned up’ makes it sound like we just wandered in off the street as an afterthought, but actually it was a carefully planned occasion – we were there under the auspices of our 13th arbitrary anniversary (we’re a bit vague on the actual date, we were friends for years first and can’t agree on when the lines blurred). Getting a table at this place within the space of a month has become impossible to all but the seriously la-de-da lately, thanks to the endless accolades laid upon it, but also due to the very justified cult following of owner/executive chef Michael Meredith and his often remarkable cooking.  Meredith’s food is simple, uncluttered, but often startlingly sophisticated.  His most recognisable hallmark is the deep and – I kid you not – often moving reverence he shows for quality ingredients.  There is a sense that every piece of the plated puzzle- from the perfect, shelled, broad beans to the bijou baby beets – has been carefully selected and coddled like a new-born babe, from the moment it arrived in the kitchen until it is released to the table.

The seven course degustation menu is the only option on Friday and Saturday nights, and at $100 per person (not including wine recommendations), represents quite remarkable value by high-end Auckland standards.

We had told them in advance that one of us was up the duff, and accordingly fussy in the dietary department. They happily agreed to modify her food accordingly – and did so, I might add, very creatively on the night.

The service started as it was set to continue – discreet, observant and perfectly pitched, if a little paint-by-numbers at times.  The décor and ambiance of Merediths have that slightly austere anonymity favoured by a certain end of the Auckland restaurant scene – it’s fine really, but is perhaps just a little too anonymous.

Although worrying at the time, it was ultimately for the best that the only really bum-note of the evening turned up in the guise of the first course, because the jarring experience was quickly overlaid with the pure brilliance that followed.  This dish does, however, deserve mention as being one of the most egregiously ill-conceived mistakes I’ve ever paid to eat:  tomato consommé – very nice in itself – with white chocolate and sorrel ice cream. I tried to like it, tried to see it as whimsical and inventive and something… but eventually had to concede it was just bad.  Horrible actually. Even the best chef is entitled to eff-up occasionally; less forgivable is the migration of such a mess from the test kitchen to the set menu.

But it’s ok; I can let it go, along with any grammatical frustrations, because the following courses were charming, prodigious, exuberant and great. They were also quite numerous, so here goes:

Tuna sashimi with tempura oyster, iodine-rich seaweed and lightly pickled cucumber. To paraphrase Rick Stein – it tasted like a rock pool.

Cured ostrich loin with a tres luxxe duck liver parfait.

An astonishing trio of quail, including a confit-stuffed tortellino which left me quite speechless, served with a quivery froth of coconut mousse,  tiny enoki mushrooms and flecks of toasted peanut.

An exemplary and generous portion of salmon, served with longitudal slices of perfect, seasonal sweetcorn, prawns, well-textured chorizo and crustacean foam which has forced me to reconsider my previously scathing stance on all things plated and frothy.

A trio of free-range pork, including loin, belly and unctuous black pudding, very bravely and successfully served with kohlrabi

Dessert arrived as a perfect, sopranic high, in the form of a barely composed milk chocolate mousse served with fresh blackberries, blueberries and cherries, contrasted with shatteringly crisp and stridently flavoursome freeze-dried strawberries and raspberries.  In a final flourish of point/counterpoint charm, the whole business was underscored with a sphere of intense and distressingly good sour cherry sorbet.

A highly misguided first course, and some slight niggles about the pacing of dishes aside (half an hour between courses dragged the meal out to nearly four hours), this was an experience that served only to reinforce the accolades of many others.  All too rarely am I left short of breath and confounded by brilliance when I eat out these days – but Merediths delivered on both fronts.


The strangest kitchen dynamic I’ve ever observed is at play here. The chefs work in almost complete silence in the open-plan kitchen, and in a state of methodical, Zen-like calm.  There are no (visible) stress-fests, machismo or adrenalin-fuelled Ramsay-esque  fisticuffs here. It’s a wonder to behold and just a little bit disturbing.

Bookings essential.
Ph: 09 623 3140

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5 thoughts on “Merediths- 4 Hours, 7 Courses And Only 1 Dud

  1. Instead of worrying about apostrophes, I suggest you polish up your spelling. You might like to start with parfait (no relation to toffee)and kohlrabi (which is a type of cabbage, not a mascaraed Jewish religious teacher), before moving on to fisticuffs.

  2. Yes, it was nearly all food you could create with standard kitchen equipment-if you had a small team to do the prep, anyway.
    I’m crazy about freeze dried berries too, so full of flavour and that texture is incredible! Unfortunately you need a dedicated freeze drying unit to make them, and that’s one seriously pricey piece of kit- as in MANY thousands of dollars. I haven’t even been able to find a reliable source of the pre-dried fruit yet. I think it’s Nestle who make those chocolate-covered freeze dried raspberries though. Damn fine.
    Freeze dried ice cream is interesting. Brittle and dry but still tastes exactly like fresh ice-cream.

  3. My peanut butter sandwich for lunch is tasting pretty plain after reading this….
    I haven’t been to Merediths for ages – the couple of times I went involved foam, beads and the dessert was made out of something that I didn’t think dessert should be, can’t remember exactly now.
    It sounds as though there has been a shift from the molecular gastronomy into well executed real food so I will definitely be going back.
    Have you ever made freeze driec berries or can you tell me how to do so? They have been puzzling me for a while as I really want to have and use them.