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photo 1 copyFor years, Wel­ling­to­ni­ans have looked at the band rotunda and sighed. Wouldn’t it be won­der­ful if Wellington’s most pic­tur­esque loc­a­tion had a res­taur­ant to suit? Noth­ing fancy, just any­thing bet­ter than the Fisherman’s Table, an insti­tu­tion that some­how clung to the beach with all the vile tenacity of a con­gealed lump of fat from its ven­er­able deep fry­ers. Con­spir­acy the­or­ies attemp­ted to explain its longev­ity in such a desir­able spot: was it a rel­ic of some Mul­doon-era scheme to cre­ate a mar­ket for ran­cid tallow?

At last, it seemed that our pray­ers might have been answered, for the Fisherman’s Table had been replaced by a new ven­ture. Would the Blue­wa­ter Bar and Grill win the hearts of loc­als by offer­ing Ori­ent­al Bay a decent res­taur­ant on the water?

Sadly, the answer is “No”.

Let’s start with the ser­vice. When one of our num­ber ordered a Per­oni from the deris­ory beer list, the serv­er replied, “Corona?”

My friend cla­ri­fied, “No: Per­oni. Pe-ro-ni”, but of course, what even­tu­ally arrived was a Corona. He sent that back, which is what I should have done with my Mojito, since I doubt a fresh lime had ever been near it. Later, a couple of eager lads brought an ice buck­et with our Riesling, but seemed incap­able of set­ting it on its stand: under­stand­able, since they seemed too young to have star­ted shav­ing, let alone be of drink­ing age. When asked wheth­er we wanted the dessert menu, we replied that it would be nice, but first we’d like the mains we’d ordered 30 minutes ago.

Of the food, the high­light would have been the Moroc­can lamb, which was a nice piece of meat. I emphas­ise the past tense, because by the time it arrived it was dry and leath­ery. My friends dealt with rub­bery squid, taste­less blu­enose, crumbly peas, under­cooked pork belly and tep­id ven­ison. My “fresh sal­mon crudo” was two super­mar­ket sliv­ers still bear­ing the imprint of the pack­et. The salad bar had tinned beet­root cubes and gluggy potato salad under the same sneeze guard as the unla­men­ted Fisherman’s Table, but it had lost even its kitsch value.

The res­taur­ant is “fam­ily-friendly”, which means that a spoiled tod­dler was encour­aged by its gurn­ing fath­er to run amok, with squawks that made the clam­our of seagulls seem like an exchange of bon mots around the Algon­quin Round Table. To top this off, the man­age­ment had the gall to demand that we chose a 6.30 or an 8pm sit­ting, when the eight or more staff who served us struggled to deliv­er three courses in two hours.

The food was not actu­ally tox­ic, and the staff weren’t act­ively hos­tile. That, and the undeni­able charms of the view, were all that saved it from a 1 star rating.




Address: 245 Ori­ent­al Parade, Ori­ent­al Bay

Phone: 04 801 7900

Cost: entrées $10–18; mains $18–35

Open: Mon–Sun 11am–late

Food: seafood/Mediterranean

Drink: Per­oni $7; Kahur­angi Riesling $7.50/glass, $39/bottle[/warning]




May Café

After many years as a pleas­ant but slightly tired Wel­ling­ton stal­wart, Neo has under­gone a ser­i­ous over­haul. The neo-Neo is now all about light and airy min­im­al­ism, yet it man­ages that without feel­ing clin­ic­al. Some people keep com­ing back for the counter food and Supreme cof­fee; some will be attrac­ted by even­ing pitch­ers of san­gria; some are drawn by the full menu. There’s a lot for salad lov­ers, includ­ing car­a­mel­ised beet­root, Thai beef and shred­ded duck, but my favour­ite is the bacon and egg butty. It’s hard to get that wrong, but the addi­tion of bar­be­cue sauce and may­on­naise adds a sweet extra touch.

Address: 132 Wil­lis Street, Te Aro

Phone: 04 385 9553

Open: Mon–Wed 7am–4pm, Thu–Fri 7am–7pm (5–7pm happy hour), Sat 9am–3pm, Sun 9am–2pm


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