Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32. No. 25. October 9, 1969
A guide to eating and drinking in Wellington
Sunday was one of my eating days. I was treated to a magnificent roast dinner at two o'clock at the hands of my bird's mother, but by seven I was ready for more. I was interested in eating at the Centreway Cafe, as I've heard its good, but it was closed, which is a very bad thing for a Chinese restaurant to be on a Sunday.
Mumbling imprecations, I proceeded down the Cuba Street Mall, the sight of which made me glad that I had not consumed a meal prior to perambulating among the stone dung-heaps that pass for decoration in the three day sale mind of the Cuba Street businessman. Eventually I turned into Dixon Street and thus chanced upon the Parisienne.
The resemblance of this place to the dining room of a private hotel in Torquay cannot be fortuitous. I sat down at a table with two tablecloths: a particularly grimy white one underneath and a fairly recently (say within the last week or so) grease-stained yellow one overlaid. I ordered a fillet steak and a pencil and paper. The waitress debated whether I wanted these last to consume or to use and finally decided that I couldn't have them anyway. That point settled, she returned with a plate of bread and some rock hard butter. Light music of the Muzak variety tinkled in the background, presumably to aid mastication, an aid, I discovered, that was vitally needed, given the staleness of the bread. Throughout Thailand, whenever you order fillet steak you know in advance that you are going to be served water buffalo. It is somewhat of a standing joke. In New Zealand when I order fillet steak I do not expect to get water buffalo. I was therefore a little surprised, not to say annoyed, to be served with a piece of beast which must have been a perilously close relation.
On the menu, one notes that one may telephone for reservations. God help those who do. On the bill the management thanked me for my attendance and requested that I call again. I won't. ½ point.
* * *
Went on a minor pub crawl with Mike Mitchell on Thursday evening, during the course of which we decided he was precisely the right man to be the next M.P. for Wellington Central.
After toying with the Midland and aiming Arthur at the Armitageware in the Grand, whose conveniences have been eulogised in another publication, we struggled manfully up Willis Street and in a vain attempt to recapture our lost youth we entered the portals of the St. George.
The Seven Seas bar was the first to come under scrutiny. The most noticeable change here was in the quality of the beer. It is almost, dare I say it. good. I well remember some four years ago being so revolted by the taste of the beer that I got one of the directors to complain about it at a directors' meeting. I would like to think that my labours have borne fruit, but I rather fancy that the management have at last got round to cleaning the tanks.
Basically, this is just another bar. A radio blaring out commercials did nothing to raise the tone.
Upstairs we tramped past a beautiful staircase into the cocktail bar. The barman was so pleased that we ordered only one Stein-larger between us that he carefully placed the change in a puddle of spilt ale.
A very formica-ish bar this. The decor and the lighting might win a prize if the same group of nitwits who awarded the Rankine-Browne building a prize were judging. There is a very good ceiling. I almost missed it actually, but I had the mischance to slip, or something, and when I awoke I was staring right at it.
Although hard to assess, the St. George is really not worth more than two points.
* * *
Although I had scarcely thought it possible, we reached a still higher plane of dreariness at the Brunswick, on the corner of Vivian and Willis Streets. This is an ideal situation for developing a cosy, woody, suburban pub. The development has been retarded.
The colours throughout the tavern are simply startling. Fascinating combinations of stale grey, drab green, listless pink and washed-out yellow.
The barman upstairs is nice, and for his sake, two points.
* * *
The Town Gate is a new steak bar just about opposite the Duke in Manners Street. The management are most anxious to please and the food is good, albeit about 20 cents above usual prices.
I probably would have enjoyed my meal there except for the presence of two other diners. One was an itinerant Israelite of fleshy middle age and the other an hennaed screw he had picked up somewhere and was trying to impress. He did not impress me with his disgusting eating habits and stentorian voice.
"You know (chomp, chomp), the food here is not as good as it was in Hamburg (spit). The meat there ( dribble) was really something. But the vegetables (chomp) they really had these bad vegetables. In Switzerland of course it's just the opposite. Beautiful vegetables (dribble). But the meat stinks."
Suppressing the desire to regurgitate my food over the dreadful fellow's bow-tie, I paid up and left. But don't let me put you off. Three points.
* * *
I had the most extraordinary experience in the Masonic Hotel the other night. There were signs saying "lounge bar upstairs", so I went upstairs and it was pitch black. I stumbled around trying to find the bar but succeeded only in awakening some bald old maid and at one stage got so confused that I got into a fight with myself.
I was finally forced to test the public bar, Yegods! This is something you've really got to see. They've got quite ornate tablecloths on some of the tables. Incredible!
When I walked in everybody stopped talking and turned round to stare at me bleakly. Either it was a board meeting of Cosa Nostra or else only regulars drink there. It really shook me up. I mean, just because I have two heads is no reason to treat a decent fellow like that.
* * *
This is the last of the Noshingrogs. While I allow a wistful tear to trickle down my cheek, let me recall to you the good places in Wellington.
In bars, the Paekak and the Prince of Wales provide excellent non-neckwear facilities, while the Imperial gets the top prize for the well-dressed young man's paradise.
Restaurants in Wellington are by and large appalling. For cheap meals I recommend you stay in the Caf. The Nanking provides an acceptable substitute. But if you really want to splash out a bit of bread, then there is one really world-class restaurant to go to, and that is the Coachman.
Finally, on a more personal level, may I wish you all to eat hearty, drink up large, and keep New Zealand green. And if you should awake feeling dyspeptic, take