Wednesday, October 29

Food Review: La Vista

Cuisine: Spanish/Mediterranean
Price: Around $25 a main
Location: 417 Tamaki DriveSt Heliers, Auckland

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.