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photo 2I was all set to hate this place. A bar and grill run by a celebrity chef, with a jokey name and cal­cu­latedly oh-so-cas­u­al decor, set up with lean­ers and long tables to cap­ture the rauc­ous suits and out-of-town­ers. And in Cuba Street! Such a con­ceit might fly in Feath­er­ston Street or Blair Street or on the water­front, but surely not on upper Cuba?

The first signs were not encour­aging, as we squeezed up to the bar for a half-hour wait, with nowhere to hang our coats. But a bottle of Quartz Reef Meth­ode Tra­di­tion­nelle put us in bet­ter cheer, and we began to appre­ci­ate the clev­er lay­out: bar and kit­chen provide theatre down the middle while cre­at­ing cas­u­al stand­ing space at each side, leav­ing the front to open towards the street. It was packed, but with a pleas­antly buzzy mood (and only a few suits).

Soon enough we had a table, even if it was tiny and faced a wall, but it was the charm and pro­fes­sion­al­ism of our wait­ress that really put us at ease. She knew the menu back to front, made the spe­cials sound irres­ist­ible, and con­fid­ently sug­ges­ted an 8 Wired Hop­Wired from the impress­ive beer list. Sure enough, its fresh hop­pi­ness was bal­anced by the spice and salt of the sauces, allow­ing the sweet malt­i­ness to shine through.

We star­ted with the spe­cial: bavette steak. I love this chewy, fla­vour­some cut, and the lime mar­in­ade and chi­potle but­ter com­ple­men­ted each oth­er beau­ti­fully. Beef brisket was a dec­ad­ently tender con­trast, served with tangy cor­nichons and habanero mustard.

As we had been told, the courses came out whenev­er they were ready. Among the high­lights were a couple of fusionesque snacks: “Japan­ese fried chick­en”, small nug­gets of karaage served with achingly trendy Sri­r­acha mayo; and “onion knots”, a west­ern­ised take on onion bhaji. Both might be too salty for some tastes, but that’s exactly what you want with beer. The chick­en bur­ger com­bined brined and grilled thigh with gooey, smoky bacon aioli. I nor­mally avoid ribs (impossible to eat eleg­antly, espe­cially for a hir­sute gen­tle­man), but the hop and hoisin sauce made them anoth­er per­fect beer companion.

I’ve heard some com­plaints about small por­tions, but we spent just over $40 each on food and could barely move. It still feels slightly ali­en in Cuba Street, but it did everything so well that we couldn’t help but love it.



Address: 227 Cuba Street, Te Aro

Phone: 04 801 8787

Cost: starters $7–19; mains $18–26

Open: Wed–Sun 12pm–late

Food: bar and grill

Drink: Zeelandt Helles $7; Te Mata Syrah $10/glass, $45/bottle[/warning]

[wp-review] [info]

July Café

About the only thing going on in upper Vic­tor­ia Street has been road­works, as NZTA con­tin­ue to sac­ri­fice what little ped­es­tri­an com­fort there is in favour of more traffic. But Crafters & Co are look­ing to change that. What looks like a small hole in the wall next to the Nation­al Tat­too Museum opens into a spa­cious café, serving Kara­mu cof­fee and counter food from Arobake. It’s also a bar, with a selec­tion of wine and craft beer, and even has an off licence. There are rumours of some unique busi­nesses about to open in the same build­ing, so keep an eye on this block.

Address: 211 Vic­tor­ia Street, Te Aro

Open: Sun–Thu 8am–midnight, Fri–Sat 8am–3am[/info]


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