Mr Uphilldowndale will tell you this was his highlight of the holiday.
We rolled in to the small fishing town of Moeraki looking for lunch, I’d a fancy for a pie, New Zealand makes very tasty pies. Mr Uphilldowndale was scrolling through his phone to see what might be on offer, he announced ‘Rick Steins favourite seafood restaurant in the world is here, it’s called Fleurs Place*’. Well, I thought that puts it out of budget then, you could probably buy a truck load of pies for the price of a lunch with that pedigree.
But we walked down to the harbour, hungry and curious. It wasn’t the brightest of days, to take a look, from the outside the restaurant had a time worn patina, a touch of some village halls I can think of here in the UK, there was a lot of outdoor seating, but it wasn’t that kind of day.
Inside it was warm and cosy, we took a look at a menu; to our surprise the price was do-able for a lunch that had much more promise than a pie; and to our delight, yes they did have a table for three, they’d get it set for us right away.
They were just about to start the lunchtime service, a member of staff was setting flowers on the tables, I’m always going to gravitate to the flowers, they were roses, the deepest red velvety roses I think I’d ever seen, and their perfume was decadent
The style of the decor, was eclectic, the kind of thing that looks like it didn’t take much trouble to pull together, but it did.
The tables, scrubbed; cutlery bone handled, china mismatched.
A wonderful old range, in the corner, made me think of my mother in laws precious range, and her pride in keeping it lit through the winter.
We were guided through the menu**, the starters we were advised are large, the recommendation was that we share a starter. This was good advice.
Tom said if we were paying he’d drive, and we could have some of New Zealand’s lush wine, maybe that is why this photo is not quiet as sharp as it should be?
Fleur herself was front of house, there was no question she is fully in charge of every detail, the food, staff, presentation, the works. With her mane of surf white hair, she exudes energy charm and charisma. You’d never guess she’s 80 years young (Fleur opened this restaurant at the age of 63 after her recovery from cancer).
What Fleur has in boat loads, is the ability to make her guests at ease, it is her homely yet special hospitality that creates an alchemy that makes this place so memorable. After our meal she came and sat with us, chatted with Tom about where he’s working and what he thinks of New Zealand, we in turn bought Fleur’s biography, she signed it for us.
As another customer was leaving I heard him thank Fleur and the staff, ‘I’ll remember that meal till the day I die’. So will we.
*Fleurs, the record, there is no apostrophe.
**I have one regret, that I didn’t try a dish that was on the menu, mottonbird, it wasn’t until later in our trip that a guide at the museum in Wellington, talked about how muttonbirds were considered such a delicacy that they were shipped out to Kiwi soldiers during WWII to help maintain morale.