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Review: TMR Restaurant & Bar

There’s a delightful intimacy in the mezzanine overlooking both High Street and down into the bar and dining room of slick new offering TMR Restaurant & Bar. That fab carpet – the dark crimson floral that’s been around so long its hyper-fashionable again – has survived The Monday Room’s relocation and transformation to its new digs, and made its way down from the walls and onto the floor in the process. It’s joined by shiny black metal post-quake supports, industrial lighting and exposed brick to create a cosy haven that’s conducive to both romantic dining and overdue catch ups with a bestie. Downstairs, larger tables are the order of the day, and the former venue’s library makes a high-ceilinged appearance and a well-stocked, impressive, rustic lux bar holds court. We watch manager Ryan Simonsen crest the carpeted stairs ferrying glasses of Black Estate chardonnay and Circuit pinot gris, fished from a cellar focussed on the region’s finest. We’ve taken his advice and opted for the Trust the Chef option – given the culinary prowess of head chef Hannah Cooper-Grieve, it’s a no-brainer. First up we’re treated to the flavour burst of freshness that’s the spinach leaf wrap, an explosive combo of crisp granny smith, creamy avocado and edamame all shined off with the nutty crunch of toasted coconut and the slight sweetness of a delicate coconut caramel, setting the scene for the serious gastronomic goodies still to come.

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The leaf wrap’s partner in crime is the seriously trending and oft-attempted (though seldom mastered) vegan buffalo wings, where chunks of cauliflower are totally transformed by way of a humming crispy coating into some of the city’s most dangerously addictive morsels – and that’s before we pour over the chilli-spiked Szechuan sauce. I’m savouring the light oakiness of cool sips of the chardonnay when our eye-widening mains arrive, with the perfectly-timed dishes ensuring we’re neither rushed nor feel like we’re left waiting between courses. Taking pride of place is the porchetta, where fall-apart-tender meat punched up with peppercorns joins perfectly rendered fat encased in crackling, and is cut through by the freshness of a silken apple and celeriac puree, and the cunning addition and slight chew of semi-dried apple. It’s joined by the day’s market fish; perfectly pan-fried ocean-fresh groper, crisp on the outside and delicately just-cooked-through beneath. This winner is paired with fried red cabbage, pumpkin (in the forms of pickled, puree and dust) and a tangy dill aioli, with its artful presentation mirroring its next-level flavours. Admittedly our culinary adventure could easily, and happily, end here, but when the dessert menu is one of the city’s finest, that’s a potential regret that nobody can live with. We’re immediately drawn to the vegan snickers bar, a harmonious marriage of whipped cream, peanut and salted caramels that satisfies more than its confectionary counterpart ever did, allowing us to tap the vegan goodness at both ends of the menu.

TMR Restaurant & Bar
161 High Street
03 377 5262

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