After a long and exhausting journey from Taupo, we were too tired to cook dinner so my mum suggested we go out. Usually we visit Vietnam Gourmet Restaurant (38 East Tamaki Rd, Papatoetoe) after long journeys as it’s fast and homey but my mum wanted a change from eating rice since we pretty much had Com Ga (vietnamese chicken on rice) every night on our holiday. I was a bit disappointed at first because I’m so used to going to Vietnam Gourmet, it brings nostalgic feelings like Auckland is welcoming us back home. I highly recommend that place for authentic vietnamese food. It’s not the nicest place to eat in terms of ambience and service, at but the food is legit. It’s pretty much the only Vietnamese restaurant we’d ever visit (for Com Suon everytime) since my mum cooks viet food at home for us so it’s usually a waste paying others to cook it.
Anyway, my disappointment didn’t last long because we went to Merlot on O’Connell in Auckland CBD for dinner! I was a bit sceptical because I’ve read some pretty bad reviews on menumania but this place totally blew us away. The interior is warm and cosy, it reminds me of Lord of The Rings where the fireplace is lit, and everyone is drinking some mulled cider and mead. Entrees were fantastic, they really lit up our mood and expectations for the following courses. I ordered the squid which was deeeeelicious. It was cooked to al dente and the dipping sauce brought a new element to the dish. Although I did find the sauce a bit sweet, I think it could have done with a bit of tang like lime juice to balance it out. The crunchy chicken strips weren’t crunchy, but they were just as fabulous as the squid. Do try these entrees if you come here!
Mains were extremely generous in portion sizes for the rack of lamb. I was expecting maybe 2 slices of lamb racks, but instead they gave us the whole slab of meat O_O Flavours immediately brought back reminiscent feelings of Christmas Roast and BBQ, there was a smokey flavour to the kumara and lamb and it was cooked to perfection. Slightly pink in the middle and retaining the soft edge to the meat.. ahhhh it was a delight.
The crispy pork belly was again, amazing. The crackling was very very crispy (not so much crackly though, more like a hard slab), and the pork meat… forgive me while I doze off into heaven again just remembering it. It was so soft and literally pulled/ melted apart. I had no idea pork could be cooked that soft. You know those beef stews where they’ve been cooking away for 10 hours so that the end result is beef that just falls off the bone? Imagine that, but with this piece of pork. With a crispy skin on top. I don’t even…
For dessert, I had the Homemade apple & rhubarb crumble (wasn’t very picturesque in a souffle mould/bowl so I skipped the photos, but you can spy it in the background of the creme brulee below) which was good, quite nice indeed. I didn’t like the crumble to apple/rhubarb ratio though, it was like 1 part filling and 3 parts crumble (personal preference). The creme brulee was beautifully presented! The biscotti was a wonderful accompaniment to cut through the creaminess and sweetness of the creme brulee and the scorched sugar topping was scorched to the right amount of bitterness.
Would I come back? Definitely. The meal was cleverly executed, and pushed the classic restaurant dishes a step further. I’m keen to try Coq Au Vin next time which I spotted on the specials board after I ordered. And of course, we can’t leave this restaurant without a tribute to the fine alcohol enjoyed by all.