Monday, June 17, 2013


Getting there is not easy. Turn seaward from SH1, cross the railway line and drive down the cliff on a winding lane as narrow as the road to salvation. In winter be careful in the car park, it is full of puddles so step carefully. And the wind off the sea tastes of Antrctica. There are no signs or hoarding, everybody knows it is Fleur's place.

She bought an abandoned fish plant on the jetty at Moeraki, added what looks like an old schoolroom from post WW1 days, corrugated iron with sash windows,  and built a restaurant. She had some battles. Bureaucracy did not like her buying her fresh fish from boats coming to her jetty. She fought them because her idea of a harbour side restaurant did not include serving fish that had been packaged and frozen weeks before then transported the length of the South Island. Fleur won., she buys her fish from fishermen who bring it to her jetty.

The abandoned fish plant is now her kitchen, The restaurant has an understated 'Beach combers' theme.with  none of the clanging metal furniture and ersatz decorations rife in tourist spots. Winter sunlight pours through the windows and reflects from scrubbed wooden tables, a variety of very old, sturdy wooden chairs, A wooden staircase that might have been salvaged from a Victorian homestead winds above the bar to a mezzanine floor which opens on to a deck, complete with authentic ship's wheel, and a panorama no billionaire could afford to buy. We sat in the warm and stared through  French doors to Moeraki Bay, North to a hazy outline of Banks Peninsular and East to the Great Southern Ocean.

Fleur brought us that day's menu, freshly written every day. She had only two soles left, but there was plenty of blue cod, caught that morning. Joe decided on scollops, Kim and I had blue cod. While we waited for the main course we nibbled fresh, fresh bread dipping it into a dishes of olive oil with a bay leaf at the bottom, a pesto that had never seen the inside of a jar, and a fish spread.

Our cod fillets were so fresh I could taste the brine. They were wrapped in bacon and served on a bed of very fresh vegetable, broccoli, silver beet, potato. It came with a spoon so we could sup every drop of the mornay sauce. And our cutlery included bone handled desert knives; not plastic, real bone, ivory yellow and warm to the touch.

We did not really need desert, but Kim wanted crème brulee so Joe had chocolate sponge with ice cream and I had cheese, an assortment of tasty blue veins that I could not afford to buy in any supermarket. What we could not finish was packed into a clip top box for me to take home.

The atmosphere was leisurely and quiet, no banging trays, no crashing plates, no shouted orders. The restaurant was busy, but the staff served everybody cheerfully and efficiently. After our superb lunch we drank tea. Tea that was brewed in a china teapot and we poured it into lovely antique bone china teacups. The kind that have 'Royal Worcester' or 'Spode'  on the bottom and my mother's generation kept in a glass fronted cabinet in the sitting room and only used when we had company.

As we were leaving Fleur introduced us to the fisherman who had caught our cod that morning.

I could go on for pages talking about Fleur, whom I respect and admire tremendously. Fleur's Place is a superb little restaurant with genuine character. Fleur herself does not put on an act, she has earned a place in the world by being supremely good at what she does, and by being her own person.


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