Archives for Restaurant

Poor service reflects bad organisation in Day’s Bay Cafés

When you’re eating a rather indifferent toasted sandwich at ten past two on a fine September afternoon having first tried to order to order food at 12.45, you know things have not gone well. We called into Chocolate Dayz in Day’s Bay for lunch, a place which served me a stale, partly uncooked vegetable frittata the last time I was there. I stood in the queue to order food. I was tenth in line, and the line doesn’t move quickly. Twenty minutes later I am finally in front of the lady taking the orders. (Two other customers had abandoned the queue and gone elsewhere).  On the way to the front, I noticed a small sign by the till that meals would take about 45 minutes. Will it really be that long, I asked? What about if I order something from the cabinet? Yes it will be about that long, and no, ordering from the cabinet rather than the menu won’t hasten delivery. It’s now ten past one. I’d already wasted 20 minutes: to wait another 45 minutes (or more) looked
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Profiling three Kiwi Chefs in New York in the Listener

  As a result of my travels in the US earlier this year I’ve had a piece published in this week’s Listener on three Kiwi chefs making a go of it in New York, including the big guy Matt Lambert whose restaurant holds a Michelin Star. The others are Pauli Morgan of the Nelson Blue bar and restaurant and Mark Simmons of the Kiwiana Café in Brooklyn. A pleasure to talk to all of them.
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Vista delights with steak on pearl barley dish

I’ve not generally been very enthusiastic about VISTA the indoor outdoor café in Oriental Bay. I’ve been there frequently enough over the years, never finding much to complain about, but never having a great experience either. At least not until today. To be fair my low-ish regard for this place is somewhat at odds with the prevailing opinion in Wellington where it is rated highly for food, location, service and general ambience. Certainly it is pleasant to sit outside on a good day and sip some wine, and I have done that.  And inside the food is sound, but not adventurous, but that is not a strong criticism in a town where there are plenty of experimental places if you want that sort of thing. VISTA is much more about being solid, reliable and predictable. But for my money it was (and is) a bit pricey for what it delivers. Eggs any style on ciabatta is $11, which is at the higher end of town, and with bacon and sausage (or another item) added, you hit $20 and you haven’t
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Elements Cafe lets me down

Elements Café in Lyall Bay ought to be good. It won the award for best café in Wellington last year, and generally it doesn’t disappoint. It did on Sunday for me anyway, and with one of its signature dishes – the liver with caramelized onions and mushrooms. This dish used to be served on mash but now it comes with toast or rather it comes with soggy ciabatta as the base. It’s soggy because of the rather nice sour cream and meat juice sauce poured over the dish. I’d asked for an extra piece of liver, and yes there were two pieces there, so I guess they got that right. The dish would have been rather sparse with just one. The bacon was lovely and I had an egg as an extra too. But the basic compilation was askew. The supposed caramelized onions were tasteless, and there were just two paltry slices of mushroom. Frankly this was ordinary. On the plus side the service was prompt and attentive, and the prices were reasonable, but I left feeling depressed. A popular
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Whangamata is my favourite beach place

  Whangamata is my favourite beach resort because in summer it combines reliable weather with good swimming and enough shops and other attractions to occupy my time enjoyably. In January it is buzzing, so much so that the police draft in extra officers, close streets and keep a watchful eye on proceedings over New Year. Not that there has been any trouble for many years. If you want fishing and deep sea activities then go to Whitianga, where deepwater activities are top rate, but the beaches and swimming are second rate compared to Whangamata. At the northern end of Whangamata is a marina which opened in 2009 and is based on the harbour inlet. Apart from providing moorings for dozens of yachts, the area around the wharf has developed into a lovely place for young children to frolic and paddle unchallenged by waves. The main beach faces east and runs several kilometres to another estuary, this time with the Otahu River. The town now has 3471 permanent residents, but this swells to two or three times that in peak summer
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Marche Francais gets extra points for olives

At Marché Français a diner can have endless fun with the French style café menu picking out what looks good and enjoying the sight of other dishes. I was with a group of seven which lunched there recently, in my case after a long absence. The best thing about the place is that it is as French as ever. Some customers struggle with the staff’s heavily accented English. Equally the staff may well have difficulty correcting deciphering customers’ requests. I have learned from experience not to use my rather fractured and garbled French to native French speakers. It only upsets and confuses them. I ordered a tarte provençale, the classic pastry tart with onions as a base, layered with sliced tomato with black olives mixed in. Or in my case just three little pieces. I casually mentioned this to the waitron, as she was clearing the table, as the chef had asked for feedback, and out of the kitchen came five black olives on a serving spoon to make up. A nice touch, nicer for being unexpected. A small crème
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Dragonfly intrigues and delights

Oddly for a Chinese style restaurant (and also for me) I thought the dessert was the best of the three courses we ate. Not that the others were bad – they weren’t, but the apple pie was particularly special. Dragonfly is riding the crest of a wave of popularity, which taken at its peak leads on to the restaurant equivalent of fame and fortune. It was named as one of David Burton’s twenty best modern restaurants in Wellington – a list which includes the very over-rated Charlie Nobel’s where the food is only average and where staff may deign to serve you if they can be bothered. Popularity is not a reliable guide to quality or authenticity but Dragonfly doesn’t seek the label of best genuinely Chinese restaurant. On the contrary it is determinedly modern and innovative, which is precisely why it resonates with the younger dining out regularly set that filled the bar and tables on the Saturday night we visited. Our little party of two shared the spring rolls which were three long rolls in a firm case
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Virtuoso will be shortlived

Virtuoso is the new café on the corner of Manners and Willis Street the site where many similar operations have started optimistically only to come adrift. Most recently it was a Mexican café and restaurant on the site is on what used to be called Perrett’s Corner. The Perrett family ran a chemist shop there for many many years before it became Perrett’s Café and Bar somewhere around 2011. Now Virtuoso is poised to follow the footsteps of failure that have befallen some many hospitality operations in that venue. Why? In a town crowded with cafés, bars and restaurants, the minimum requirement is to serve interesting food and satisfying coffee. Virtuoso doesn’t do either. That’s unfortunate for whoever has paid a good deal of money to refit the place and sad for the staff who work there. The fresh appearance with black tables, black high back chairs all neatly arranged and a long black bar is simple and appealing. The flat white I ordered arrived promptly, but it was thin, sharp and bitter. The crema was scant and at $5.50
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Loretta good; Rockyard not.

Ethnic restaurants operating in New Zealand have a choice: either they can be true (or as true as possible) to the cuisine of their country of origin, or they can “Kiwi-ise” their food so it is more acceptable to local tastes. Rockyard, the Vietnamese restaurant in Allen Street in Wellington, takes the first option and suffers for it, even though it seems temporarily popular. It’s an unfortunate choice because Vietnamese food is not so strange or so chilli hot that it needs to be blanded down, unlike Thai or Indian food arguably needs to be. Personally I am a believer in and advocate for the ‘keep it authentic’ approach, but some modifications can be either necessary or popular. In Auckland I once had a tom yum soup for lunch which was rated as medium on the restaurant’s scale but was so blisteringly mouth numbingly hot that my palate was out of action for the rest of the day. Some Indian restaurants dare diners to eat their hottest curries at their own risk. Those rare instances aside I firmly believe Kiwis
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Front Room Disappoints: food was bland

When four old friends gather for lunch there is much talk, laughter and enjoyment. That’s what meetings of old friends are about; a catch up over food, coffee and whatever other liquids we fancy. So the Front Room (www.frontroomcafe.co.nz) on the beachfront at Waikanae seemed ideal; casual, not likely to be too crowded, a good reputation and we had all been there before, and enjoyed it. To be blunt this latest experience was disappointing and perhaps even a bit overpriced. We agreed to share the Spanish tasting plate ($18), because we just fancied a nibble to start. There was one croquette, three small pieces of fried chorizo, some almonds, some piquillo peppers, a small pot of pesto, a couple of slices of manchego cheese, about enough for one biscuit each, some ham, and four small pieces of coca bread. The list makes it sound more generous than it was. So among the four of us, a nibble it was. To follow two of us had the pork sandwich, ($19) and two choose the salmon stuff on toast. In the sandwich
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