26 March ’13
An attempt at a restaurant review x 2 …
The Lovely Man and I have been married for 21 years. We decided a dinner out was called for to celebrate this milestone. Our anniversary fell on Thursday, but we already had commitments involving a guitar lesson and a parent/teacher conference. Friday worked out better all around.
After checking out some menus on line, and tossing up between a restaurant we love and trying some thing new, we settled on the Village Inn Kitchen in the Hokowhitu Village. We had been to the Village Inn many years ago, but it’s now under new management so figured we should check it out. Who knows, it could become our new favourite!
Walking across the road toward the restaurant we could here live music. Turned out it was this guy, Benny Tipene, playing in the courtyard. Have a listen, he’s really good.
A group of ladies, who turned out to be from Rotorua, appreciated his music. “We don’t have anything like this up there”, one declared. Somehow that seems unlikely, but I’m sure Benny appreciated the thought.
We were greeted by a friendly waitress who was more than happy for us to sit outside and enjoy the evening with a drink before we sat down to eat. However she did leave us hanging with out taking our order. Full of apologies she finally remembered us and brought out dinner menus. Then a wine list. Eventually we got our drinks. My Gewürztraminer was delicious. (I didn’t note the wine maker at the time, and an attempt to contact the restaurant through their website’s contact form has been unsuccessful.Edit – as luck would have it, four hours after publication I got an answer. 2010 Whitehaven Gewürztraminer – thanks, Lydia) The Lovely Man opted for a Peroni, the beer we’d discovered and enjoyed in Europe. Our waitress took our dinner order and left us to enjoy the atmosphere. It was indeed very pleasant sitting out on the veranda as the sun set on another beautiful Manawatu evening, listening to Benny play his guitar. We moved indoors when a cool breeze started ruffling the leaves on the trees.
We had our pick of tables, it was a slow night for dinner. I’d chosen the Prawn Cocktail to start, the Lovely Man just went for a simple bowl of Fries with Aioli. Our entrées arrived promptly. I loved the glass that my cocktail was served in. But the dish itself was better. The tiny prawns were smothered in that pink sauce we all remember from the ’70s, only better. It was complemented by a salad dressed to perfection. The whole thing was gone before I remembered to get a picture. Which just goes to show that Jem Beedoo is not entirely correct. The Lovely Man’s fries were crunchy and floury, just as they should be – I had to steal a few to mop up the remains of the sauce in my cocktail glass. The portion of fries was too many for one person for an entrée, it really should be offered on the menu as enough for two.
Our mains arrived, again in good time. However out entrée dishes hadn’t been cleared, so serving them was a little inelegant and awkward for the waitress. The Lovely Man had chosen the Strip Loin – he’s a steak man through and through. It arrived cooked perfectly rare as requested. He declared it excellent and exactly to his taste, a winner. The sauce, while tasty was maybe a little overpowering. The steak was served with crispy potato wedges and a salad. The menu listed asparagus as well, but it came with green beans instead. While the beans were tender-crisp and delicious it would have been good to have been advised that asparagus was not available.
I’d gone for the Traditional NZ Fish Pie. It was served in a white ramekin, looking gorgeous with golden melted cheese on top, garnished with a dusting of paprika and chopped herbs. I really couldn’t wait to dig in. Under the cheesy potato top was a creamy filling with that proper old fashioned flavour, just like the ‘smoked fish’ Mum used to make. Four or five good sized prawns in the bottom were a nice surprise. The only let-down was that they still had their tails on. Peeling the tails off prawns that are covered in creamy fish filling is a little messy. The tail-less prawns would be a better choice for a fish pie. Also a spoon would have made the imperative of scooping out the dish more effective – I really didn’t want to leave anything behind. The salad on the side was fresh, refreshing and dressed well.
We finished up our mains, the waitress came and cleared our plates away. No offer of further drinks, dessert or coffee was made. We paid our bill and left. Overall the food was fabulous, the atmosphere welcoming, only the service lacked a little polish and attention to detail.
We decided we’d head to our favourite cafe in town for dessert and coffee to finish. As the breeze had dropped right away we went for a walk around the Square first, to get some fresh air, enjoy the evening and let our dinners settle a bit. It was still fairly early so there were families and children out and about enjoying the night too.
We’ve been to Barista a number of times to complete a night out. As always it was busy, the staff almost running, but we felt welcome and comfortable. There’s a new art work under way on the wall, a collage of well known images, from Dr Suess to Star Wars to the Hobbit.
The menus are just too cool – recycled Encyclopedia Britannicas! What a great idea. We ordered a flat white each, I had to go for the chocolate terrine and the Lovely Man choose a New York baked cheese cake from the cabinet. When our coffees were delivered I was a little disappointed to see that they weren’t decorated with that amazing frothy art that we’ve come to enjoy.
My chocolate creation was something more than I expected. The bavarois was barely-there delicate, the ice cream perfectly vanilla-creamy, and the chocolate terrine to die for. If you get a chance, you must try a slice. Melt-in-the-mouth rich chocolate velvet is my best description. Sadly this triple treat was more than I could eat, I had to sacrifice most of the ice cream. Next time I’ll have to order it on an empty stomach. The Lovely Man’s cheese cake was served on a quaint, old fashioned china side plate – very cute. He enjoyed it, though he did say is was super-sweet, maybe a little too sweet for his taste. Our cheerful waiter wished us a good night as we left, we’ll definitely be back.
All the evenings photos here were taken with my little Cannon P&S in low light, so the quality is not too good.