Friday, March 6

Useless

How is it possible for the New Zealand Postal Service to be so fucking incompetent?!
Last year I sent half a dozen cards to Singapore which never made it.
I posted a bunch of Christmas cards locally and I have no idea how many of them made it.
Recently a doctors note took 7 days to reach me.
Now I've posted another letter locally and it hasn't reached 3 days later.

Never going to use these shit birds again, I'll travel 2 hours to deliver postage myself if I have to.

Food Review: Kintaro On Fuji

Cuisine: Japanese
Price: $29.90 for large sushi platter
Location: 17 Swanson St, Auckland
Website: http://www.kintaroonfuji.co.nz/

Ah Kintaro. You were the first Japanese restaurant that I truly enjoyed in Auckland. The first that excited me. And while you've been supplanted as my favourite Japanese restaurant by others, you still hold a special place in my heart.
Your tacky decor and music are endearing, your staff earnest and friendly. Many of your dishes are delicious such as the comforting, rich, umami tonkotsu ramen. The sushi is always fresh and affordable.
Okay sure, your menu is a bit crazy and unfocused. Some of the items are bizarre, hair brained creations. But I can forgive, for there are real gems in there. Dishes made with passion, by a talented team. Karaage chicken, ho!

You're the best casual dining Japanese restaurant Kintaro, and I'll never forget you.

8/10.

Tuesday, March 3

Food Review: Grand Park

Cuisine: Chinese
Price: Extremely varied!
Location: Gate B, Alexandra Park Raceway, Green Lane West, Epsom, Auckland
Website: http://www.grandparkrestaurant.co.nz/

Grand Park is one of a handful of premier Chinese restaurants in Auckland. With its packed, red abundant dining room and chaotic service it certainly leaves a lasting impression. At peak times, weekend brunch (for yum char) and dinners, the restaurant is busy to the point that even if you book, you'll have to wait for your table. Like many Chinese restaurants the service is awful, so be forewarned. 
The yum char is undeniably tasty, with a wide selection of dishes including the favourites. Of the many dishes I tried included belly pork, siumai, har gow and carrot cake, all were delicious and fresh. Like in Hong Kong, the food is wheeled out on carts and you simply pick your fancy. Don't see what you want? You can ask one of the staff and you may get it...Or you may have to wait for the requisite card to come by. The outcome seems to be depending on the direction the wind is blowing.
While the dim sum charmed, the dinner is another story.

On my last visit, we went for dinner on Chinese New Year's Eve. The food took extremely long to come out, to the point that we were portioned one dish every 20 minutes. When Chinese food is best shared generously, having to ration while you wait for dishes sucks! 
What was perhaps more offensive was the blandness of the food. As it was Chinese New Year, the dishes were of the more exuberant variety, but were tasteless at best. The salmon sashimi was squishy and decidedly fishy. The fried squid meat was clearly cooked from frozen. The sea cucumber dish; gloopy and banal.
Adding to the frustration of these delayed, dull dishes, we were still limited by the two hour table allocation. Yes, this is a restaurant where you are only allowed to use the table for a set amount of time! Despite the restaurant failing to provide us with all our food, we were still rushed out after our allotted time. In fact they were clearing away everything I didn't have my hands on (including my glass), as I finished eating!
While it was Chinese New Year, and it was extremely busy, surely a veteran Chinese restaurant would be able to cope with demand and plan accordingly? The ridiculously slow service, as well as inattentive staff, was insulting. The biggest slap in the face was that this meal cost in the high three figures. We could have gone to any number of high class, excellent, restaurants for the same price.

While Grand Park serves an enjoyable yum char brunch, the last dinner service was completely insulting and amateur. I certainly won't be going there for dinner again.

6/10

Food Review: Hulu Cut (Wellesley Street)

Cuisine: Bubble Tea
Price: $6.5 for bubble milk tea
Location: 16 Wellesley Street West, Auckland CBD, Auckland
Website: http://www.hulucat.co.nz/

Bubble tea. The real drink of champions. After I  discovered this gem in Singapore, I found myself unable to survive more than a few weeks without the best of Taiwanese exports.
With multiple bubble tea cafes in the city, you're generally never more than a ten minute walk from pearly goodness. Hulu Cat is one of these cafes, with three stores in Auckland, my haunt being the one on Wellesley Street. 

Hulu serves concoctions of milk teas, slushies, fruit teas and others. There is a wide choice of toppings, such as grape jelly and the unusual wheat powder. I'll stick to my tapioca pearls though. This variety enables Hulu Cat to stand out among its many competitors. The combinations of teas and toppings are addictive, and are distinct enough that you'll enjoy trying many of them.
Otherwise the staff are friendly enough and Hulu has its own seating area, though you'll find that ordering can be a cramped affair. 

Bubble tea isn't complicated and Hulu Cat makes its acquisition very painless. The best bubble tea is still at Hulu Cat.

8/10

Food Review: Mad Mex

Cuisine: Mexican (Tex Mex)
Price: $12 for a burrito
Location: 16 Fort Street, Auckland
Website: http://www.madmex.co.nz/

Mad Mex's menu consists of the usual ‘Mexican’ staples such as burritos, nachos and quesadillas. Don’t expect anything unique or authentic from the menu. Unimpressed, I ordered a simple beef burrito with beans and the hottest sauce they had. The burrito was served room temperature, which was ridiculous. It was pretty big, so in that sense it was satisfying. However the burrito was under heated, under seasoned and completely bland. Despite ordering the hottest sauce, it was pretty mild. I found myself pouring on extra hot sauce just to give it some flavour. My friends dishes didn’t look any better.

Mad Mex is yet another bland and uninspired Mexican conveyor belt, serving food only fit for those who like imitations of actual food. It’s like McDonalds with a veneer of class.

4/10

Saturday, February 7

"There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self." - Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, February 5

Organised Chaos (A Trip To Thailand): Part Two

Over the next few days we hung out with my friend’s Thai acquaintances. With their ability to speak Thai, and navigate the city, we were able to cover much more ground than before. We went to many a museum and cultural site, making that easy small talk that occurs among travellers, even when none of you can communicate well in one particular language. The time we spent together was certainly valuable, we saw many sites a day, but these Thais were…quite Asian. It was a quiet and studious affair. I did very much appreciate their help, and would wonder how I could repay their kindness when they had selflessly acted as our guides and asked for nothing in return.

My mission to try a wide variety of fantastic Thai food wasn't going well either. Not being a local, I had no idea where to eat good Thai food, neither did my friend nor apparently the Thais. Right outside our hotel where some food stalls, serving dishes such as chicken rice and congee. Now these dishes were extremely tasty, fresh and cheap. However, they were Thai appropriations of established Chinese dishes. So while I would have enjoyed eating Thai style chicken rice any day of the year, it wasn't exactly special. In the entire week in Bangkok, I think I only ate two meals that really excited me.

Congee, Thai style


Monday, February 2

Food Review: Sautee Cafe Bistro & Bar

Cuisine: Middle Eastern/Turkish
Price: Around $20 per main
Location: 27/2 Nuffield Street, Newmarket, Auckland
Website: http://www.sautee.co.nz/

My interest in Sautee was peaked when a friend mentioned it served great Middle Eastern food and belly dancing. I love Turkish cuisine, but rarely eat it, due to it being hard to find quality restaurants. 
So off I went to Sautee with three friends.

The restaurant was extremely spacious, to the point I wondered why they didn't fit more seating into the place. Still, it was to our benefit as we had a bit of privacy and the large glass windows let in plenty of light. The menu was expansive with many smaller and large option including seafood, meat and vegetable focused dishes. If you are a vegetarian, you could easily cope at Sautee. 
We decided to order several of the smaller and large dishes to share; starting with the cabbage dolma, lamb gozleme and Syrian falafels. For mains we choose the Morco saffron beef cheek, calamari meze, meze platter and meatball soup.



As we waited I observed something unusual; there was only one dedicated wait staff for the twenty or so diners. The server was constantly busy, making it hard to flag her down. For instance after ten minutes of waiting for water, I had to go up and ask for it myself, as well as additional food menus. Not entirely unexpectedly, the wait time for our food was even worse. The starters took over twenty minutes to arrive, and the mains closer to forty minutes after the starter. Luckily we were in good company, and not famished, but the extremely long wait time was, none the less, inexcusable.

Food Review: Orleans

Cuisine: American/Southern
Price: <$20 per portion
Location: 48 Customs Street East, Britomart, Auckland
Website: http://www.orleans.co.nz/

Orleans is a popular place, especially on Friday nights. I arrived well in advance of my friends, in order to secure a table for us. Unfortunately Orleans doesn't take reservations, unless it’s over ten people! The waitress was helpful though, and we had our table when we needed it (however after I arrived and waiting forty minutes earlier).
The restaurant itself strikes a tasteful balance between bar and restaurant, with high tables, bar stools and cushy benches, creating a laid back vibe. The wall's wooden panelling was another detail that I appreciated, adding to the character and originality of Orleans. Few restaurants in Auckland capture this elusive mix of sophisticated casual.
Sitting down at our table, I was also overjoyed by another sight; three bottles of hot sauce for the taking! I love hot sauce and apply it generously, so I love it when a restaurant provides it to use at your liberty.

We decided to order a couple of sides to start with; the curly fries and cornbread. The service was swift and the items arrived quickly. I enjoyed the mealy cornbread, though one friend thought it quite average. The curly fries were crispy outside, airy and fluffy inside. The chipotle mayonnaise had a slight smoky taste, which made it all the better. The final touch of light seasoning on the fries, created an incredible morish dish.
For mains we decided to share several dishes, which seems like the Orleans way. So we went for the chicken waffle, crispy NZ pork belly, low country gumbo, southern swine plate and sweet potato gnocchi.
Some of the items arrived promptly and others...not so promptly. Two of our dishes arrived fifteen minutes apart. Isn't it restaurant 101 to serve everyone their food within a few minutes of each other? In both cases I had to ask the waitress where our food was, as it was taking so long. The staff were otherwise pleasant and jovial, but they whizzing around so fast, that I had to make effort to get their attention, otherwise they would just ignore us. Not ideal.




Saturday, January 24

Organised Chaos (A Trip To Thailand): Part One

Thailand is a country I’d heard colleagues and friends rave about, and a country I'd desperately wanted to visit for years. I’d been to South East Asia before, it represented a bare element of humanity; dirty and chaotic, yet passionate and beautiful. I'd treasured those past trips to Asia, and I expected something similar in Thailand. I’d also had a love for Muay Thai for a while, so Thailand was on my 'bucket list' of countries to visit. 
My attitude to travelling was to do as little planning as possible, and go with the flow. My travelling companion had also visited Bangkok before, so I figured it would be a winning formula.
In hindsight it wasn't a winning formula, but I don't regret the attitude I employed.

I arrived to a busy, small and run down airport. After standing in a long taxi queue, I was ushered into a car with a driver who barely spoke English. He told me it would cost 500 Baht (around $20 NZD/SGD) to go to my hotel. I had been warned about unmetered taxis, and the scamming of tourists, so I told him 400 Baht. I figured fixed sums are smarter, since the drivers incentive is then to get you as fast as possible to your destination. This opposed to a meter, were his incentive is to take the longest route possible.
The driver agreed to my price, but not without much (what I took to be) cursing. He then starting talking on his phone in an angry voice. As I was driven passed signs written only in Thai, dark and unlit streets and with my ignorance of the city, I realised how vulnerable I was. If the driver decided to drive me down a deserted alley and introduce me to some 'friends', I would have had no forewarning or defence. “Shit” I thought to myself, “I may be about to start my Thai holiday passport less, moneyless and perhaps dead.”.
Luckily my fears  never came to fruition and with much relief, we arrived at my hotel.




Thursday, January 22

Food Review: Number One BBQ Restaurant

Cuisine: Chinese
Price: Around $15 most mains
Location: 1 Commerce Street, Auckland CBD, Auckland
Website: NA

Greasy, tasty…greasy. Three words (yes, one repeated twice) to describe Number One BBQ Restaurant. One of the many Chinese/Cantonese restaurants in Auckland city, this one serves above average fair which is best shared between three or more people. The service is fast, the waitresses abrupt, the portions large. If you go with friends, you’ll enjoy a hearty meal for less than $20 each.

As highlighted at the start, a lot of the items on the menu are slathered in fat. Don’t kid yourself that the bee hoon (vermicelli) is healthy because its gluten free! Many of these dishes will leave you with that slick, oil coated mouth feel, which isn't altogether unpleasant at times. Overall the food is cooked well, and if you choose wisely you can have a nice mix of dishes. The roast meat is always good, as is the congee (rice porridge). I wouldn't bother with the noodle or fried rice dishes though, unless you really like vegetable oil.

If you want a fast, cheap, extremely sinful meal, then Number One BBQ Restaurant will do you right.

6/10

Thursday, January 15

Blog Posts In 2015

It’s been a while!
I went on a three week vacation in South East Asia. Was a great trip, ate lots of amazing food. Seem to have come back in superior health.
So over the next few weeks I’ll be writing brief summations of the different parts of my journey, a few of which will be focused solely on the food I ate in South East Asia.
At some point I will get back to writing regular food reviews in my current home city, Auckland!

Friday, December 12

Food Review: Chop Chop

Cuisine: Asian
Price: $18 for ramen
Location: 140 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, Auckland
Website: http://www.ponsonbychopchop.co.nz/


Ponsonby Central is a one of Auckland's more luxurious hubs, hosting a variety of refined restaurants. Chop Chop is one of those eateries, serving what could be described as Asian-Asian fusion. Seating is on stools only, which with the unassuming menu and staff's cowboy hats, encourages a relaxed atmosphere. There are a variety of Asian flavoured dishes, such as ramen and Korean fried chicken, as well as plenty of alcoholic cocktails. As hinted at before, the food owes its inspiration to no, one Asian cuisine. The roast belly ramen for instance, is a blend of Chinese and Japanese cooking. So while not authentic ramen, the unami rich broth and the incredibly crunch, fatty belly pork create something fantastical. In fact all the ramen dishes are delicious and filling. Other options like the egg net add diversity, being light and refreshing with the Thai style dressing and delicate egg net.



While ordering at Chop Chop the host will most likely push you to order some drinks. The coconut milkshake is sumptuous, with a strong coconut flavour and thick creaminess. Though it doesn't taste much better with the additional shot of bourbon . Many of the cocktails sound tantalising, and are worth a try such as the colourful Black Dragon. The cheesecake was presented beautifully, but tasted rather bland. Don't bother with it. 
Overall the food and drinks make for a stand out, if non traditional Asian meal.

Chop Chop makes for a casual, yet well crafted, mish mash of Asian dining. It’s in no way authentic to any one Asian cuisine, but then Chop Chop doesn't try to be. The cocktails are definitely worth the addition to your meal, with some colourful mixes and flavours. Lovely spot for lunch!

8/10

Friday, December 5

Food Review: Rice Noodle Lover

Cuisine: Chinese/Rice Noodle
Price: $6-9 a dish
Location: 350 Queen Street, Auckland CBD, Auckland
Website: NA

A friend had mentioned a tasty place serving spicy Chinese noodles “opposite the Civic”. Curiously, despite walking up Queen Street several times a week, I had missed it every time. It was only after a careful combing that I found this almost literal hole in the wall; the eatery being a counter scarcely bigger than a window. How the poor chef copes cooking in her hot cubby hole all day, I don’t know!

The simple menu is almost entirely rice noodle based (hence the name), which is great for gluten free eaters and not so great for those that don’t like rice noodles. Though the rice noodles are always the bulk of the dish, there is enough variety that each option is unique. The dishes are best enjoyed spicy, with a medium heat my ideal level. Chilli daredevils will find joy in anything above medium, which is where I’d undoubtedly start to cry. So far the beef rice noodle (served in soup) is my favourite, the succulent beef and oily soup leaving me very satisfied. Unfortunately the ‘restaurant’ is take away only, but this is partially pardoned the absurdly good prices. $6 for fulfilling meal? I could cry!

Great spicy rice noodle dishes, great price, shame that there isn’t more choice or tables to sit. But then, you can’t have it all!


7/10

Monday, November 24

Adieu

Today, yet again I lost one of my best friends.

The first time it happened was when I left Glasgow for Singapore, leaving behind my Swedish best buddy. Now my French friend is leaving New Zealand, his journey here unfilled. It's the right decision for him, he lost his enthusiasm for life here, especially after falling in love with a girl who didn't reciprocate that love. That doesn't stop me from feeling very sad.

Over the last few months my best friends have been two French guys. We hung out at least once a week, were comfortable in each others company. We had the same sense of humour and outlook on life. We could talk shit for hours. We would meet up, just me and him and have good conversation. Now he's gone.

I most likely will see him again, but not for years and not for any length of time. Life in New Zealand isn't going to be the same without him. I've lost a great companion. Ultimately its going to encourage me to widen my social net, so that I can find a friend as good as him.

There is another part of my life which is melancholic (and won't describe here), and these elements together are dragging me down just now. I've come to realise that life is not static nor simple, and that I have to fight for my happiness.

People and events come and go. They are ever changing and I can't take life for granted. The happiness I have now, I may not have in a week. And this happiness I have to fight for. Nothing in my life has been easy, and if I was to give up and relax, it would all come crumbling down. I always have to be on, so that I can get what I want from life. If I stop, I die.

I'll miss you Alix.

Food Review: Federal Delicatessen

Cuisine: American/Deli
Price: <$20 most mains
Location: 86 Federal St, Auckland
Website: http://www.thefed.co.nz/

If walking down Federal Street looking for a place to eat, you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice with many exquisite dining establishments, such as Sean Connelly’s The Grill and Depot. On the same street is The Federal Delicatessen (The Fed), another quality eatery, serving hearty American deli food in a casual dining environment.

The restaurant’s diner inspired theme bestows a comforting and quaint ambience. Much of the seating is at the bar, with only a plastic veneer separating you from the kitchen, allowing you to be enthralled by the hustle and bustle of the chefs. The restaurant is often busy, and unfortunately suffers from feeling cramped at such times. Service is also affected, and often will take over 15 minutes for your order to arrive.


The menu changes based on the time of day, with the best fair available at brunch. The food is America deli inspired with plenty of bagels and sandwiches, and more unique items like meatloaf. Meat is heavily featured, and everything sounds delicious, which always makes it hard for me to choose what to order!

At The Fed I also found the king of cheesecakes with it’s smooth, creamy, yet light cheese. The griddle cakes are also incredible; filled with juicy, oozing blueberries and unlimited maple syrup on the side. Paradise! The ‘Chimney Sweep’ milkshake is also worth a try, for its incredibly luscious peanut butter and chocolate flavour, though it’s a bit overpriced for the serving size. Whether you pick savoury or sweet, You really can’t go wrong with your choice at The Fed.

The dishes are hearty and extremely filling, even the sandwiches. The bottle of hot sauce at each table is very much appreciated, as I always go liberal with chilli. Dishes of particular note at The Fed are the toasted reuben (bursting with succulent pastrami), smoked hash (smoked mackerel is so good!), cheesecake and griddle cakes. The savoury items are incredibly satisfying, though definitely on the heavier side with lots of meat and potatoes.




The Federal serves hearty American food, which will satisfy you time after time. The menu features strong, rich flavours and the rare treat of both great savoury and sweet dishes, with the cheesecake and pancakes must tries. Bring an empty stomach with you and enjoy!

8/10

Friday, November 7

Food Review: Sal's Pizza

Cuisine: Pizza
Price: $24 for 18 inch cheese pizza
Location: 183 Karangahape Road (multiple locations)
Website: http://www.sals.co.nz/

Sal’s Pizza is the closest thing you’ll get to an authentic New York pizza experience in Auckland, or at least the fastest and most widely available. The staff and interior are clean and serviceable, an appreciable few steps above other fast food restaurants. The glass counter top displays a tantalising variety of pizza toppings including greasy pepperoni, chicken and vegetable. 

Out of the half or so dozen choices, my favourites are the mushroom and meatball. The pizza can be bought by the slice or as a whole, and are very generously sized. A single pizza will easily feed two to three people! Toppings are delicious and fresh, the cheese a gooey mess and the crust is the perfect consistency; slightly crispy on the outside with a softer, chewy inside.

There are a few side options such as mozzarella sticks, garlic knots and pizza rolls. The pizza rolls are fatty, cheesy, doughy, glutinous treats. You know there is nothing healthy in them, but damn do they taste good. They tastes even better in the early morning, after a night of drinking. 

There isn't too much else to say. Sal's is a simple place, with a small menu, but it's the king of fast pizza in Auckland. The chain captures the elusive balance between affordable, fast food and quality ingredients and taste. It’s hot, fresh and greasy and I wouldn't have it any other way.

8/10

Wednesday, November 5

Food Review: Il Mee

Cuisine: Korean
Price: <$15 for most mains, $12 for bibimbap
Location: 480 Queen Street, Auckland CBD, Auckland
Website: NA

Il Mee is one of the nearly identical looking Chinese and Korean restaurants lining the upper part of Queens Street. It’s apparently one of the best Korean restaurants in the city, but if true speaks poorly of the quality of Korean food available in Auckland.


The restaurant is modest, with frayed menus and water served in plastic bottles. The staff are pleasantly friendly. The menu features an assorted selection of Korean dishes, including the eternal classic bibimbap. As with any Korean restaurant, complimentary side dishes are provided. The ‘pancakes’ are absolutely delicious, moist and sweet. I could eat plates of them by themselves! The rest of the side dishes are rather standard; bean sprouts, kimchi etc. I've eaten at Il Mee on several occasions and although I've enjoyed myself, I've never felt any desire to revisit. Most of the dishes are slightly too oily or sweet, reminding me more of Chinese food than Korean. Prices are reasonable and your belly will be satisfied. Just don’t bother with the dry dumplings.

Il Mee is an inoffensive venue to eat Korean, but there are certainly better restaurants out there (if not significantly harder to find). Only go to Il Mee if you are desperate for a Korean fix. 

6/10

Tuesday, November 4

Food Review: Little and Friday (Newmarket)

Cuisine: Bakery
Price: <$10 for most sweet goods
Location: 12 Melrose Street, Newmarket, Auckland
Website: http://littleandfriday.com/home/

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and looking for a new place to try (though not quite hungry enough for a full lunch) we made our way to Little and Friday. The café itself is part of a larger establishment; a fabric store, which combined with the flaky white tables and décor leaves a memorably quirky impression.

There were dozens of extravagantly presented baked goods in the cabinet and we found ourselves dithering over what to order. Eventually we settled on the feta and onion quiche, followed by a cinnamon doughnut and a chilli chocolate doughnut. The male staff member who served me was listless and unenthusiastic, leaving something to be desired. Nor was I fond of the seating arrangements. Initially we sat by the window, but began to roast in the New Zealand sun. The only other option was two large, communal tables. No, I don’t want to sit next to other people and have to listen to their conversation, while they overhear mine. Would smaller, separate tables be too mainstream for this café? We reluctantly sat down at the large table.



Aside from the pretentious seating arrangements and dull staff, the food was distinguished. The quiche was wonderful with its creamy filling and crumbly pastry. The onions provided a caramelised, sweet, balance to the rich cheese. I thought the sparse, large chunks of feta were overwhelming though and would have preferred them to be portioned throughout the quiche more evenly.
I'm a massive doughnut fan, to the point I can endlessly gorge on them, so was desperate to try Little’s delicious looking goodies. The cinnamon doughnut was perfectly crunchy, the light cinnamon touch adding an extra dimension of spiced flavour. The fluffy inside provided a nice contrast in texture, absolutely fabulous. The chocolate chilli doughnut is also a must try. The incredibly luscious dark chocolate centre and the gentle bite of chilli make for a sinful indulgence.

Little and Friday undoubtedly serves great food, but the lifeless staff and limited seating arrangements leave much to be desired. Grab your food, and find somewhere nicer to enjoy your well-earned treats.

7/10

Wednesday, October 29

Food Review: La Vista

Cuisine: Spanish/Mediterranean
Price: Around $25 a main
Location: 417 Tamaki DriveSt Heliers, Auckland
Website: http://lavistanz.co.nz/

La Vista is perfectly situated on the shore of St Heliers, commanding a beautiful view of the sea and sand. Watching the sunset from the restaurant, while enjoying a glass of wine and meal would make for an inspired evening. La Vista's interior is also eye catching, with a somewhat rustic, red bricked décor which matches the Mediterranean theme. There was live music throughout that Saturday evening, performed by two talented musicians. Inhaling this vibrant atmosphere; sea, setting sun, décor, music, I couldn't help but be optimistic about the meal to come. Surely it would complete this initially wonderful experience? Unfortunately, the dining experience did not match the alluring scene.

The choice menu at La Vista covers all the bases without being superfluous. There are a wide selection of tapas and assorted meat and seafood dishes. I was tempted by items such as beef bourguignon, slow cooked lamb shanks and the king crab and seafood pot. Eventually we ordered some sangria to drink, the pork ribs (costillas de cerdo) and the mussels in green sauce for starters. The main courses we chose were the venison stroganoff (ciervo estofado) and eye steak fillet with paprika puree (solomillo).

It took a while for the waiter to take our order, diners who arrived after us being seen to first. The waitress also seemed overwhelmed, but we assumed she was new to the job. Our impression of service wasn't great. The sangria was served first, and was refreshing if not a little sweet for me. It tasted like there was a good quantity of apple juice in there, I prefer a darker sangria.

Our starters soon followed. The mussels certainly looked impressive, arriving in a large metal pot. I'm a big fan of New Zealand mussels, so my appetite was certainly whetted by their appearance. I was therefore, sorely disappointed when the mussels were warm, bordering on cold. The pesto sauce had mostly fallen off the meat, and into the bottom of the pot, so I missed out on the pesto flavour until I cleared some mussels away. The sauce was a balanced mix of fat and fresh green, it was a shame it didn't feature more prominently in the dish. My friend’s pork ribs were thankfully more consistent, with a nice tangy sauce and tender flesh. The ribs were a solid starter, but otherwise unremarkable.

The mains came, and like the starters, looked promising. The taste however, was more ordinary. My stroganoff certainly had some interesting textures and flavours, but it lacked in richness and that OOFM factor. Like the ribs there was a lack of that umami, meaty flavour, which comes from hours of slow cooking. My friend’s eye fillet wasn't much better. The meat was very thick, tough and full of connective tissue. It tasted fine but was a chore to cut apart. The paprika purée didn't taste particularly paprika-y either, more of your standard mash. That said the combination of purée, gravy and fillet was fulfilling. The dish reminded me more of a British Sunday roast, than Mediterranean inspired, and I started to wonder where the Yorkshire pudding was.

And with the sun long past set, we left La Vista unfulfilled but not unhappy. The décor and music were lovely. The food initially appear inspired, but was disappointingly bland and forgettable. The service wasn't good and the whole experience felt like a bit of a chore. Perhaps it’s best to drop by La Vista for a drink while admiring the beautiful view, and save the food for somewhere else.

6/10