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[Pictures: David Straight]

The Grove is a long, still room in the middle of the CBD: white-painted brick walls, timber floors, leather panelling and gentle art and pot plants. In a city that’s suddenly full of high-design restaurants, it’s a welcome respite. It is one of those restaurants that no longer needs to try very hard – it’s won countless awards, including the Metro Restaurant of the Year two years in a row – but still does, without making it very obvious.

There are two reasons. First, owner Michael Dearth’s enthusiasm, especially for wine, has not waned in the seven years he’s owned the place. He is generous: this is the man who introduced us to the idea of splitting glasses of wine between two, so we could have a different wine with each course. Splitting glasses in a fine-diner!

Then there’s chef Ben Bayly, who walks a delicate fine line between theatre and nourishment. It is finely produced, delicate and it is, naturally, beautifully scattered about the plate – wild deer came with roasted red beets not so long ago and it was a thing of wonder and we paused before we ate it while we turned the plate about to admire it, which is what you want to do in a restaurant like this. Sometimes, there is a tortellini or a cannellini with seasonal vegetables – this is special, because it is so simple. Our favourite (currently not on the menu), is the wild boar confit: wild boar cooked for 24 hours, then breaded, deep-fried and paired with a perfect egg yolk cooked sous vide. Last spring, this came with a piece of grilled asparagus and we were very happy. We’re saving up to go back. SFG

HOURS: Monday to Friday, 12 to 3pm and 6pm to late. Saturday, 6pm to late. Closed Sundays and public holidays.

ADDRESS: Saint Patrick’s Square, 43 Wyndham Street, Auckland City, ph 368-4129.

IMPORTANT DETAILS: This is fine dining, so it’s not cheap. Currently, mains are $43 and entrees are $27; not so long ago we paid $26.50 for a glass of wine. Save up and enjoy it, because it’s worth it.

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