Located in the Parnell Rose Gardens, in a revamped heritage building, is Auckland’s newest Chinese fine dining restaurant. Grandfather and grandson duo Cheng Ruming and Liu Jian co-founded the original Red Wall 1939 in Beijing, and another three locations since.
Jian’s grandfather, Ruming, famously cooked for Mao Zedong in 1954. He continued on to be one of 16 chefs in China to be named a National Pride Master of Cooking. His success led him to cook for celebrities and important politicians including Richard Nixon and former PM the late Sir Robert Muldoon.
Red Wall provides degustation menus, a new three-course menu or high tea. Each degustation menu is influenced by the eight main styles of Chinese cuisine and spans nine carefully constructed courses. It may sound like a lot, but I assure you that you won’t leave feeling uncomfortably full, nor go home to raid the fridge.
Regardless of your degustation choice, your culinary journey will begin with a delicately-sliced fruit platter, sweet and savoury nuts and a selection of canapés. The fruit is used as an initial palate cleanser and also to aid digestion. From the first course to the last, it is clear that every detail has been thoroughly thought through.
In each menu the canapés are followed by traditional Chinese saffron bread with homemade butter. The bread was slightly sweet, the butter slightly spicy. The fifth course is where the menus each take their own culinary path. For us, this meant oysters. I’m not particularly fond of oysters due to their texture and metallic taste. However, I could appreciate the freshness and pairings of the sauces. Not to mention the beautiful presentation.
For both my boyfriend and I, the highlight of the evening was the rolled mustard lamb. The grass-fed lamb, from Silver Fern Farms, was tender with a moreish mustard flavour. The accompanying mushroom bun was innovative. While not vital to the dish, it was a tasty addition. The Sichuan Style Braised Market Fish – both moist and flaky – was another favourite of the evening.
The dessert was an interesting combination of textures and flavours. Red Wall Sago with Fresh Grapefruit and Royal Mustard Cake. Royal cakes, also known as Emperor Cakes, were commonly served to the kings and queens of Shanghai. We devoured our desserts as if we hadn’t previously eaten eight courses. Oddly, it evoked feelings of nostalgia – a biscuit with grandma, or a school fruit salad (a deliciously upmarket version).
Before leaving, we had a tour around the building. Upstairs there is an exact replica of Mao’s study – an interesting addition. There’s also a second dining room and a private meeting and/or dining space. We were told the tableware – more than 8,700 pieces – is bespoke, hand-painted porcelain by Jianping Li. Each of the Redwall restaurants has its own tableware, with its design based on the restaurant, the space and the locality.
If you're a fan of Chinese cuisine, you'll relish Redwall's innovative take on classic dishes and be happy to part with $179 per person. It’s clear that this restaurant is highly regarded not just within New Zealand’s Chinese community, but also with diners who enjoy a fine dining journey through China.
85 Gladstone Road,
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday: 11am-2.30pm and 6pm-10pm
Friday and Saturday: 11am-3pm and 6pm-10pm