One of the joys of being a journalist is the invites you get, invites to some of the best places and things New Zealand (and beyond) has to offer. From accommodation and new cars to new technology and restaurants, we do have to review them but you do get to taste and feel things that can often be out of my normal pay grade. The downside of this is the fact that most of the time you don’t get the chance to take your family and in particular – your wife.
Personally, I find it difficult not to rush home and tell (gloat) about some of the adventures to my significant other (the person that has to put up with the tantrums and daily issues that come with our 6 year old son). For some inexplicable reason she rarely shares my enthusiasm about the luxurious hotels I have stayed in or the supercars I drive and try as I might to tell her about it all (in the minutest of detail) it still fails to bring a smile to her face – in fact, often it makes things worse.
Anyway, things have been a little tense recently (it really is a head scratcher) so I thought I’d take her (and our son) along to review the Hilton’s newly refurbished FISH restaurant, in an attempt for her to see my side of the story.
The new look FISH restaurant is part of the Hilton’s 15 year anniversary upgrade which includes the 166 rooms (they now truly embrace both the Hotel’s premium harbour location and Auckland itself) plus the gloriously revamped Bellini bar.
We chose a Wednesday night to dine and as I found out meant that the dinner included free parking, a real bonus as I’m not keen on Auckland city parking rates and tend to rush meals to save a few quid (FISH offers free parking Mon-Thurs by the way).
Climbing the stairs from the expansive reception you get to see the City of Sails inspired mural by Steven Dews in its entirety, it really does capture the nautical theme and I could have spent ages letting the scene wash over me but there was food to be had and a family to impress – no time for picture gazing.
The Maitre d was expecting us but I get the distinct impression that the smile would be the welcome greeting anyone and everyone that climbed the stairs would get – it was as warm as the room itself. The first thing you notice (apart from the hospitality) is the openness of the room, the lighting inspires exclusivity and yet the main dining area is widespread and un-sectioned. To our left was a huge glass display case filled with fine wines and straight ahead was a long white table with candles (I think this pays homage to White). The windows look out to the harbour but being winter outdoor visibility was limited to lights on passing ferries and the neon of the city. We were seated next to the open flamed fire out in the patio area and all attention turned to our son – I really respect a restaurant that understands the need to ensure children are properly attended to; it makes the whole meal run smoother.
With his choice of meal taken care of and the colouring menu started – it was back to the adults. Drinks of choice were sparking mineral water (I was driving) and a Caiparinha cocktail (from Bellini) for the wife – happy days.
The menu isn’t expansive but somehow manages to cover all bases – from seafood (obviously) to lamb and beef. Their ethos is to celebrate land and sea and they do it deliciously. We were offered oysters or a choice of ‘shared’ temptations but we headed straight for starters.
My wife chose the Argentinian red shrimp, lardo di colonnata (a type of salumi) and garlic while I opted for Torched Salmon, ras el hanout (an African spice), beetroot and pickles – we could have gone for Paua dumplings, Burrata or slow cooked pigs cheeks in case you were wondering.
The plates that arrived were beautifully presented, I guess that would be expected but I am always in awe at the way professional chefs lay out food (certainly not the way I deliver food to the table).
The mains were something else too! We had the Crayfish ‘grenobloise’, with capers, citrus and squid ink toast, and I opted for Wakanui Beef, red cabbage, black garlic and confit egg yolk. We could have had the Roast Monkfish, Market fish, Lamb loin or Sheeps cheese gnocchetti. As for sides; we grabbed maple glazed yams and ember roasted potatoes – my mouth is watering again. Oh and I did sneak in a glass of Merlot to wash it all down. The beef was incredibly tender and rich and plenty of it (so much so I couldn’t eat it all) but I have to say that looking at the Crayfish I did have food envy – hopefully I’ll be invited back to try that out…
Between main and sweets I took the chance to walk around the restaurant. There is an area overlooking the bridge that can be used as a separate area and it boasts an amazing wooded ‘rib like’ light, it is quite the feature and an ideal area for a small group to dine. The rest of the décor fits in with the newly renovated Bellini bar below, it (pardon the pun) really is a fresh looking FISH, the whole plaice looks great.
To top off the meal we went for White chocolate cremeux + Sorbet (with tamarillo gel, gingerbread and lie sherbet, while I had dark chocolate tart, hazelnut sponge, walnut candy w.salted caramel ice cream – it’s a wonder we didn’t roll down those stairs afterwards!
The meal was amazing, as was the establishment’s new look. It’s a restaurant that is easy to get to and offers outstanding views (especially as the nights become lighter). It’s a place that caters for an intimate meal for two, it’s family friendly and yet can also manage a group of varying sizes.
On the drive back in the Ford Focus RS, I had one happy family vibe going on – maybe giving them a taste of what I have to go through is a good thing. So top tip; I would say that if you have found yourself in the doghouse (for whatever reason) grab a table at FISH, you’ll all enjoy it and it’ll get you off the hook.
Funnily enough I may have to go back there soon, I called home to tell the wife I couldn’t join her at the mother in laws for tea as I had a helicopter flight to take to a vineyard – she sounded really grumpy. I have no idea where I’m going wrong; I guess I’ll never quite understand her…
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