Merlot is a small cosy wine cafe/restaurant on O’Connell street that serves food with a European flavour. I remember walking pass this place when I was still in University and telling myself that I have to try this place. After a couple of years, I finally gave it a try. My friends and I went on a Saturday night expecting a busy restaurant, but it was surprisingly quiet considering it was peak dinner time.
Merlot is known for their extensive wine list with many options that you can order by the glass. However, this can not be said for their food menu as a majority of their dishes are meat-based. They only had one vegetarian dish available which you can have as either entree or main and it wasn’t too appealing, so my vegetarian friend had to get the chorizo neapolitan fettucini without the chorizo. The food was decent but not great. This was the general consensus around the table. The taste of the prawn risotto was average but it was perfectly cooked. The broad-beans was a nice touch. The vegetarian fettucini would have tasted better with chorizo but was fine without. The eye fillet and pork belly were on the dry side but the accompanying sides and sauce were pleasant. The braised beef cheek was different in a nice way and my friend really enjoyed it.
As always, we made room for dessert! The kiwifruit pavlova with berry coulis was pleasant and the chef was lovely enough to pop a candle and write happy birthday with chocolate sauce. The chocolate fondant with average but it was served luke warm and lacked the soft spongy texture. The creme brulee with tamarillo and ice cream sundae were ordinary and unmemorable.
I have to say, I was disappointed with Merlot. Maybe my expectations were too high. Although the food was average, the staff on hand were excellent. They were attentive and friendly and made the environment very homey and comfortable. However, I don’t think I will go back again anytime soon.
Date: Saturday 8th October, 2011 | Location: 23 O’Connell Street, Auckland CBD | Food: European