Top Chef Michael Meredith is about to begin another chapter in an acclaimed career with the opening of his new restaurant, Mr. Morris this month.
Nestled in the old Cafe Hanoi site in Auckland’s Britomart precinct, Mr. Morris is a warm, welcoming restaurant whose name pays homage to a close family member who passed away last year.
With an interior designed by Cheshire Architects, the main restaurant seats approximately 70 diners and is comfortably rough around its carefully crafted edges. It features big round booths for families and friends, perches at the stone bench bar, sofas at the centre of the room and intimate tables amongst the plants and dappled sunlight.
Almost everything in the room is made from oak. The consistency and soft colour of the raw timber is a counterbalance to the rough old brick and plaster of this once roaring trading house. The loading dock is now a conservatory, the warehouse a dining room. A green painted ceiling and a lot of plants slow the room down.
Also tucked away in a former bank vault is the private dining room, known as Mrs. Morris. A dark and delicious cave with its own Miele kitchen, it offers an intimate, up close and personal dining experience with a dedicated chef, for up to 20 guests.
The menu at Mr. Morris is all about championing hero ingredients and is less technique-driven than Michael’s previous restaurant Meredith’s, with the team describing it as ‘local, ethical and seasonal with a devotion to flavour, no matter its origin’.
Head chef Fabio Bernardini, also formerly of Meredith’s, returns to the fold after stints at Pujol in Mexico and Elmer in Sao Paulo, and, with chef Meredith, will be weaving his magic on a new menu that’s divided into snacks, small plates, mains, tasting menu and desserts with a seasonal tasting menu for Sunday long lunches.
An open fire grill will feature in the open plan kitchen, bringing even more flavour and intensity to the dishes. Michael says cooking with fire plays a large part in both his and Fabio’s heritage and he’s looking forward to drawing inspiration from that.
“The style of food on offer at Mr. Morris is all about fusing flavour with cultural inspiration – contemporary creativity meeting ancient methodology,” he says. “I feel very fortunate to be going back to my roots and cooking with fire as our guests gather around and enjoy the relaxing ambience we’ve tried to create.”
Kiwi expat Leah Kirkland has returned to New Zealand as Mr. Morris’ restaurant manager and resident sommelier after more than 15 years in London, including 13 years as general manager at Trinity Restaurant and Bistro Union, a Michelin starred restaurant in the heart of Clapham Old Town.
The beverage offering at Mr. Morris begins with a concise and considered seasonal cocktail list, New Zealand craft beers, a range of homemade non-alcoholic alternatives and some artisanal vermouths for those wishing to try something new.
The wine list showcases 160 New Zealand wines alongside small batch quality wines from around the world. There is a strong focus on organic practices and low intervention wine-making, with many wines harking from small, family-run estates. Wines by the glass have been carefully selected to provide succinct pairings to the menu.
Mr. Morris is also one of the few restaurants in the country pouring the special cuvee from Tattinger – Les Folies de la Marquetterie by the glass, one of Michael’s personal favourites and feature top-end wines under Coravin for those wishing to indulge.
Michael’s previous restaurant, Meredith’s was renowned for its dine-by-donation evenings, raising more than $340,000 for various charities. This concept is set to be revived at Mr. Morris, with four charities benefiting each year. The first of these will be Starship Foundation with nights already confirmed for December 14, January 18 and February 22. Ten percent of all gift card sales will also be donated to charity.
“I was very fortunate to be able to take time out and enjoy life with my family, however it was always intended that I would eventually come back and establish a simpler, ingredient focused approach experience with the support of a knowledgeable and experienced team to share the responsibility, plus create and deliver a professional and caring restaurant on all levels.
“With an incredible dining space that is designed and elevated by the talented Nat, DJ, JT and the team from Cheshire’s, plus onboarding a great in-house team, I feel we have created the perfect place and engaged the right people to bring our vision of Mr. Morris to life and once again contribute to the spirited Auckland dining scene, and also continue our philanthropy efforts.
“Mr. Morris has played a part in our lives in the last three years and I couldn’t have done it without the support and patience of my partner Claire.”
Michael’s long-time partner Claire Baudinet will manage the marketing and operations for Mr. Morris bringing her previous experience in the industry as marketing manager for Winetopia, Taste of Auckland and Auckland Restaurant Month. Mr. Morris will be open six days a week for lunch and dinner service (Tuesday-Saturday) with a special set tasting menu for a memorable long lunch on Sundays and closed on Mondays. Address: Excelsior Building, Cnr Galway & Commerce Street, Britomart, Auckland CBD Website : www.mrmorris.nz