210 Symonds Street
(09) 377 1911
Tuesday - Saturday
6pm - late
12pm - 3pm, 6pm - late
This, arguably the most famous restaurant in the whole country, has been welcoming diners in this unlikely spot in Eden Terrace for more than twenty years. It’s been owned by the same couple that entire time, Chef Simon Wright, who learned his trade under the watchful eye of Marco Pierre White, no less, and his wife Creghan Molloy Wright.
These two are the reason that The French Cafe is the most celebrated, awarded fine-dining restaurant in the country. Their energy and passion is infectious, inspiring, and seemingly endless. They have built a team who are equally as passionate, led by Michelle Moore and Craig Lovie.
Let’s start with the interior, which was refreshed to stunning effect in 2014. It’s crisp and white and beautiful in the three interconnecting rooms that make up the restaurant. An element of playfulness is added by large, colourful artworks and bespoke wallpaper. The light fittings are handmade, naturally. Outside there is a courtyard with a kitchen garden and beehive, designed by Xanthe White, and beyond that is The French Kitchen, a stunning space for events and private functions with its own kitchen.
Chef Simon Wright is passionate about cooking to the seasons, so much so that his most recent cookbook is an ode to them, called Saison. This is a chef with immaculate technique and precision, who is constantly striving for a new form of perfection. The nine course degustation with wine at The French is the closest I’ve ever come to understanding what “perfect” really means – every element is executed so well, so precisely, that the idea of an error seems impossible. One of the best dishes I’ve enjoyed here was a signature quail ballontine dish with mushroom, chestnut, smoked bacon and a heavenly croissant sauce, I was overwhelmed. When I was 19 I came here for my Dad’s birthday, my first fine dining experience, and had a goat’s cheese and beetroot tart that I’ve never forgotten, and never will.
Food of this calibre is nothing without service to match, and this is Creghan Molloy Wright’s domain. Again on that first adventure into fine dining, I remember staring at my water glass in bewilderment, wondering how and when it had been filled, I remember asking my dad a question about the wine, only to have the bottle appear before me in answer, as if by magic. The service at The French Cafe is attentive without being intrusive, formal without being stuffy. They have turned service into an art, and they are regularly celebrated for it.
For most Aucklanders, The French Cafe is the place to go for special occasions. It’s hosted countless graduations, anniversaries, birthdays, and proposals. Regardless of whether or not you’re celebrating a special occasion when you visit, you can be sure that a trip to The French will make you feel special, it’s just what they do.