The town of Kaikoura has a very unique location. It sits just to the north of the Kaikoura peninsula, which juts out five kilometers into the Pacific Ocean and is north of a massive underwater trench. The trench reaches up to 1300m deep and attracts a huge amount of sea life, from the very tiny all the way up to sperm whales and orcas, and the prevailing currents bring this sea life closer to the surface around the peninsula. This means there is an abundance of seafood ready to be caught, especially crayfish — which is why the town’s name actually means “meal of crayfish” in Maori.
All of this explains why I was excited about my dinner at White Morph, one of Kaikoura’s top seafood restaurants, especially since it was my last night in town and I hadn’t yet tried any seafood!
The restaurant is very classy. There was quiet music (except for the one time that a waitress leaned on the volume button), the lighting was dim, and there were candles on all of the tables. The service was very quick and my waiter was very friendly and quite helpful with explaining different options on the menu. I didn’t spend much time considering other options before choosing a starter and a main that amounted to a seafood feast (although sadly, the crayfish, starting at $65, was out of my price range).
To say I was happy when my starter arrived is an understatement. It was a heaping pile of Marlborough green-lipped mussels, presumably fresh from the sounds. They were served in a chili and white wine sauce which added just the right amount of flavour without being overwhelming. I finished the entire plate and then wondered how I was going to somehow fit in my main!
That main was a citrus marinated Akaroa salmon with veggies and a beautiful Romesco sauce. It was just the right size after having a huge starter, and I thought it was very tasty. I wasn’t as big a fan of the wine — a local chardonnay from Kaikoura’s Papatea winery. It was just a bit too tart — I much prefer a smoother wine. Maybe I shouldn’t have ordered a chardonnay in that case, but I wanted to try something as local as possible!
I would definitely go back to White Morph if I got the chance. I’d even be tempted to have the same seafood feast all over again because it was delicious and fresh — exactly what you would hope for from a restaurant sitting across the road from the sea.
White Morph is located at 94 Esplanade, Kaikoura. They are open for dinner 7 days a week from 5.30pm.