Mecca Cafe, Devonport

The back room at Mecca, EsplanadeIt’s been a week of eating out. We had an overseas visitor in our office who only had two days here and had never been to New Zealand before. We wanted to give him an Auckland experience and decided that taking him on the ferry to Devonport and finding somewhere to eat there would be a great way to do that.

It turned out that of our group, a couple had never been on the ferry to Devonport, and for most of the rest of us, it had been years. So the trip across the harbour was very pleasant and as always, Devonport looked beautiful. We found our way into Mecca Cafe, which has its entrance off to one side of the stately Esplanade Hotel.

For a Tuesday night, it was surprisingly busy. The decor is fresh and bright with cheerful red walls and a skylight in the middle of a big room. There is a large open fireplace and a window into the kitchen. This proved to be both good and bad. It was good because you could see that the kitchen was controlled and organised. It was bad because I could see food coming out for other diners who had arrived after us. This would be my biggest complaint about Mecca – our food was very slow and it was about an hour and half after ordering that our mains came out. Some of us had entrees, and we were a group of 12, so a substantial number of us, but even so, an hour and a half was far too long.

The menu looked wonderful, and had a small note at the very bottom advising me to discuss any dietary requirements with my waiter. I did this extensively, and my waiter had to return to the kitchen several times to check if something included gluten, as there were no notes on the menu to indicate whether gluten was present or not. It turned out that the chicken livers only had a crostini which could be omitted, but the roast salmon with its pistachio crumb topping did have breadcrumbs. I was tempted by a lamb cutlet dish with polenta (long-term readers will know that I love polenta).

My chicken livers were excellent, but I did miss having bread to mop up the creamy sauce. No offer of gluten-free bread was made. My lamb was cooked beautifully with a nice combination of flavours, and had plenty of seasonal vegetables with it. Sadly it did NOT include the polenta cake as advertised.

Prices were reasonable, and everyone else thoroughly enjoyed their meal as well. I felt that our waiter was poorly informed about the contents of the dishes and had no idea what gluten was. However I did appreciate her willingness to return to the kitchen to get my questions answered.

Once again, I strongly suggest that Mecca Cafe look at their menu and note which options are, or can be, gluten-free. They also need to do some education with their wait staff. On the plus side, delicious food, an excellent wine list (a yummy Trinity Hill Viognier was consumed by yours truly) and a nice environment made for a pleasant meal. The ferry trip back across the harbour with the lights of the city and a stroll around the Viaduct Harbour made for a perfect end to the evening.

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