If you’d told five-year-old Michael Meredith growing up in Samoa that he would one day open a high-end Pasifika restaurant in the heart of Auckland city, he might not have believed you. Still, he couldn’t be happier that it’s turned out this way.

The acclaimed New Zealand chef is proud to be throwing open the doors to Metita, named after his mother, in The Grand by Skycity today.

Michael came to New Zealand when he was 12. His culinary journey has been well documented – from his time at fine diner The Grove to driving the Eat My Lunch charity with Lisa King and opening Meredith’s on Dominion Road, right up to his most recent (and still very popular) venture Mr Morris – it’s a story of success, great food and an ever-growing following of fans.

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Metita is, in some ways, his coming home – going back to his Samoan roots to proudly bring the beauty of Pasifika cuisine to Auckland, the largest Polynesian city in the world.

“Having grown up in Samoa, I have some really strong food memories. From our more traditional food like raw fish, meat and taro cooked in coconut cream, to things like corned beef and chop suey, which have become part of our food story over time,” Meredith tells Broadsheet. “I guess what I’m trying to do now is use my experience as a chef to bring different pairings to the Pacific ingredients we already have.”

And of course, those pairings are as skilful and creative as you’d expect from a Meredith eatery.

Corned beef is embedded in a steamed bun, draped with lardo and topped with caviar. A 900-gram Royalburn Station beef rib eye is served with a side of palusami (a Polynesian dish of meat, onion and coconut cream wrapped in taro leaves). Crab comes on a puffed taro crisp with macadamia cream and pickled mango, and desserts include pani popo – the sweet coconut buns Meredith also serves at Mr Morris – paired here with spiced-rum caramel and banana ice-cream.

This type of menu has been on Meredith’s mind for a while. “I thought about it when we were looking at Mr Morris – there was a nod to that with some of the stuff we did with the interior – but then it became more of a New Zealand twist with Pacific influences in it,” he says. “I kept the idea in my head, and when this came up, it was too perfect not to do it.”

Design studio Ctrl Space oversaw the direction of the fit-out – which was directly influenced by Meredith’s contemporary evolution of Pasifika cuisine. “Rather than a focus on flavours and ingredients, we told our story through Pasifika objects, buildings, crafts and tools related to the hunting and gathering of food,” creative director Sam Griffin tells Broadsheet.

The finishes echo Samoa’s natural beauty: handwoven decorative panelling, spliced-timber joinery and natural-palm-frond hanging sculptures all create a serene and tonal effect. “A deep-blue-hued plaster has been hand applied to the ceiling and walls, which references the rough and wild seas – the home of seafood and many moments in the menu,” says Griffin.

On the drinks menu, you’ll find New Zealand wines, French champagne and rum from Fiji. Cocktails will be on-theme and include the Nucifera Nightcap (a coconut Old Fashioned). The Gin Sour has a soursop twist and there are plenty of ingredients like pineapple and mango liqueur in the others. Those not drinking booze are well catered for too, with several non-alcoholic cocktails.

What does Meredith think Metita herself would make of her namesake restaurant? While Michael’s mum is no longer with us, he thinks she probably wouldn’t make a fuss over his new gig, “In fact, she’d probably come and tell me that it wasn’t the traditional way of cooking things,” he jokes. “At least she’d think the portions are a good size – when she first came to Meredith’s I don’t think she was that impressed with ‘all these small pieces of food!’”

Metita is one of Auckland’s most exciting openings this year and it joins a diverse selection of restaurants at Skycity, which draw from many of the cultures that call Aotearoa home. These include Sid and Chand Sahrawat’s Cassia, Masu by Nic Watt, Al Brown’s Depot Eatery and Federal Delicatessen, and Huami (overseen by Raymond Xue). Federal Street is becoming a snapshot of the variety of cuisines visitors can choose from in Tāmaki Makaurau.

90 Federal Street, Auckland CBD, Auckland
(09) 363 7030

Dinner: Mon to Sun 5pm–9pm
Sunday lunch: 11.30am–3pm
Bar: Mon to Fri from 8am
Sat & Sun from 11.30am