A newcomer to the city showed plenty of promise.
Raising the bar
Perfectly poised and a little bit fancy, Fiddlesticks Restaurant and Bar on the corner of Worcester Blvd and Montreal St has raised the bar for inner-city eateries.
On a sunny Saturday evening, staff welcome us inside and show us to an outside corner table overlooking a deserted boulevard and the closed Christchurch Art Gallery. It's quiet where we are seated, but the restaurant's interior looks lively, with most tables occupied and some patrons watching rugby on television in the far corner.
The couple at the table next to us tell their waiter how happy they, as inner-city residents, are that Fiddlesticks has opened within walking distance of their home.
Our waiter presents us with a drinks list offering a vast array of wine, bubbles and beer. Besides the standard options are some that would make my bank manager wince. After a good 10 minutes of perusing, I order a glass of Pegasus Bay merlot ($10) and am gratified when our waiter assures me it is an excellent choice. I nod, although my selection was based on requirements of something red and something local, rather than on oenological knowledge.
Thirsty husband James orders a crisp apple cider ($9.50) and the first sip triggers a satisfied sigh.
The menu offers "tasters", as well as starters and entrées. It suggests combining two tasters to make an entrée, but the entrée options look too good to forego, so we opt for a taster/entrée combination instead. We order the skewered prawns ($10) and blue nose ceviche, marinated in lemon and lime juice, with an avocado taster ($10). Both are beautifully presented and are rapidly devoured.
The selection of starters, including delicious-sounding crisp goat cheese ($18.50) and duck liver parfait ($18), is tempting, but we regretfully skip them to save space for our main course.
Our entrées are more difficult to select. Torn between the king prawns ($23) and the Angus eye fillet ($36.50), James eventually settles on the beef, swung by the accompanying duck-fat potatoes. I order the crisp pork belly with cauliflower puree, chorizo and diced apple ($32). James pronounces his fillet the best he's had - high praise from this meat snob. The crisp pork belly is so tender I can cut it with a butter knife, and the thin layer of crackling is sinfully good. Sadly, there's no room for dessert.
Overall, the food is delicious, the service outstanding and, with elegant décor, Fiddlesticks feels just a little fancy without being pretentious. This part of town is still a fairly lonely outpost at the weekend, but this will no doubt change as more businesses return to the city centre and word of Fiddlesticks' menu spreads.
It's an inspired choice for a special-occasion dinner, breakfast or brunch.
Where: 48 Worcester Blvd.
Prices: A little pricey, but worth it.