For 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At last, it seemed that our prayers might have been answered, for the Fisherman’s Table had been replaced by a new venture.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.[warning]
Address: 245 Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay
Phone: 04 801 7900
Cost: entrées $10–18; mains $18–35
Open: Mon–Sun 11am–late
Drink: Peroni $7; Kahurangi Riesling $7.50/glass, $39/bottle[/warning]
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[/info]