Restaurant review: The Grove, Auckland
Runner-up: Sanpellegrino Best Metropolitan Restaurant
Cuisine rating: 18.5/20 (three chef's hats)
More than a decade after it opened, The Grove remains a truly great dining experience. It's clear that you're in for a good time from the moment you walk in from St Patrick's Square. The long, well-lit room suggests sophistication and contentment, while the bar at the front is an excellent place to start getting acquainted with the stupendous wine list that's the loving work of owner Michael Dearth (above left). Chef Ben Bayly (above right, winner of the title of Vittoria Coffee Chef of the Year) has recently adjusted his menu so that diners can opt for three, five or nine courses, and the menu begs repeated reading, not to mention eating. The rib of rose veal with pomme puree, mushrooms, hazelnut mustard and shaved deli pickles is all salty-sweet savoury deliciousness, while a lamb rack is transformed from fine dining stalwart to work of art, with accompanying white anchovy, ricotta dumpling, turnip and vanilla. Meanwhile, the service is so slick they should be offering lessons.