81 High Street
Merricote comes up with immaculate yet hearty plates, with French influences and a little Asian influence thrown in the mix. It’s fairly intimate, and yet the little dishwasher located in the middle of the counter is most unusual. There is a tasting menu ($60) and the selection for the day consisted of oysters, scallop, tuna tonic, the eye fillet and the Dutch Mess, similar to my choices for the afternoon but my dining companion wasn’t in the mood for meat so we opted to create our own tasting menu.
Intricate little napkin holders, I spotted pigs, doves, horses with fluffy tails and ducks.
A gorgeous array of cheeses quietly await your perusal in the corner.
Our bread came from a beautiful whole loaf.
Soft creamy butter.
Housemade Duck Rillettes ($9)
My favourite of the day. It doesn’t look like much when it arrives. Served with pickled onions, pickles and lavosh with poppy seeds.
The duck rillette was served cold, but it’s divine, rich in flavour and positively more-ish. When they confit the duck, the remaining meat, juices and duck fat form this chunky hearty spread. There’s a little crunch from the lavosh, a little tang from the pickles for acidity but most unnecessary as I wanted to savour every mouthful of the contents within this precious little jar.
Mango, Lime & Verbena // Pink Guava, Strawberry & Violet ($6)
If you’re looking for a cocktail, they do have a selection of beautiful French juices, with a proffered added shot of vodka, which I gladly took up.
Tuna Tonic, Pomegranate & Fresh Wasabi ($19)
To cleanse the palate from the richness, we opted to share the next course, which they presented in two neat plates. Grated wasabi over fresh tuna up top, and buried beneath were fresh kingfish sashimi slices, with sweet and tangy pomegranate seeds, slippery cubes of tonic jelly and little round cucumber balls and watercress were among the fresh greens. An interesting dish, but I’m glad we shared this as it was quite light and my palate was not ready to be calmed and soothed but was craving more of that rich and flavourful duck rillette.
‘Hutspot’ Veal Tongue, Potato, Carrot & Rye ($18)
Remarkably resembling a sweet treat, the veal tongue is quite tender, on the saltier side being cured, celeriac shreds at the bottom, and creamy potato & carrot cubes perched on top. Sweet-ish crumbs ran alongside the dish.
Roasted Quail, Shiitake, Cos, Broccoli & Daikon ($19)
I was assured this was tender and was my dining companion’s alongside the duck rillette.
Hopkins River Eye Fillet, Marrow & Mustard Emulsion ($32)
Thick generous slices of eye fillet, beautifully pink in the middle, visually it looked a little dry but was quite tender and juicy within. It went well with the creamy tangy mustard emulsion, making it a rather rich and heavier dish. The mushrooms have a delightfully thick and crisp bite to them, possibly deep fried. The marrow is soft and lush but the other components were far too rich for me to savour it. Crisp greens of asparagus and squash provided some relief to the richness.
Chatham Island Blue Cod, Congo Potato, Sea Blite & Vanilla ($30)
Dutch Mess, Oranges & Goat’s Milk Ice Cream ($14)
Having had Persian Fairy Floss at Pearl and being rather underwhelmed, I adored this dish. A little on the sweet side, the light fluffy persian floss, citrusy bitter orange peel, soft springy orange jelly, milky creamy ice-cream and icy sorbet with soft juicy orange pieces. I just loved the different textures of every mouthful of this delightful orange dessert.
Macarons by Josephine - Rose, Passionfruit & Pistachio ($13)
Mini macarons. The rose macaron was quite fragrant and not too sweet. The pistachio was quite nutty, while the passionfruit was probably the sweetest, just as fragrant with a nice tang. I still prefer the texture and flavours of the macarons at La Belle Miette.
I absolutely adored the duck rillette. I would come back for this charcuterie alone. The plates are quite hearty yet aesthetically pleasing. I wasn’t enthralled by the dishes I had, but I admit I do sometimes choose dishes based on how they read, rather than whether the flavour profile suits my personal preference. I like how they let the quality of the cut speak for itself, be it meat or seafood. There may be generous and intriguing accompaniments to the dish, but the star of the dish is showcased as cleanly as possible.