It’s eighteen months now since I hung up my restaurant critic’s hat, and dived into the depths of New Zealand and the inconvenience of ill health. But last night I fished it out of the cupboard for another whirl.
Well, it was almost a challenge. The advertisement for the Raceway’s ‘fabulous new cooked-to-order menu’ popped up on my facebook, and then in my e-mails. Well, I thought, they must really want to know what I think! So my friend Simon and I cancelled our barbie and bottles on the terrace at Gerolstein, and headed for town.
Now, racecourse food is traditionally mediocre. Well, on the public levels anyway. You eat reasonably enough in the posh part where I usually go with my club. And Addington has been renowned for its awfulness in the past. Last week I dared a sandwich. $5.90 for a slab of supermarket bread with a 50c sliver of dubious looking ham and something like diet cucumber. Why can’t people make a decent sandwich that hasn’t been grown in a triangular plastic box? And tastes like it.
They should take lessons from the ladies at the North Canterbury OTB. The sandwiches on workout days at Rangiora are real food.
However, on to last night. The menu looked ideal (remember, I’m a no lettuce, no fries man) and happily there were surprisingly few of the risible adjectives of menu-ese in its nicely precise descriptions (what is ‘ground beef’? Mince?):
Prime aged sirloin, crushed rosemary potatoes, seasonal vegetables
Individual homemade ground beef lasagna
Grilled chicken & bacon ciabatta, tomato relish, with fries & aioli
Beer battered snapper fillets, crisp salad & fries
Sautéed prawns, creamy penne pasta with Spanish onions & capers
Baby back pork ribs, tangy BBQ sauce & onion rings
Thai beef with crispy noodle salad
Someone was going to be busy cooking that lot to order!
So after we had purchased my small beer (advertisedly $3) and Simon’s house white ($9.50!!!!), we ordered. I challenged on the prawn pasta, Simon was brave and went for the steak. Medium rare.
And I gathered my team of tasters. Three trainers, four owners, one temporarily unoccupied driver. They were a bit unadventurous and mostly went for fish’n’chips or steak.
The food arrived correctly swiftly (time enough to be cooked to order, but not too long) and I thought I’d made a bad choice. My prawns looked ill. Simon’s sensibly-sized steak looked good, and the fish looked splendid. Appearances aren’t always right. My prawns (2 large, 4 small) were tasty, the pasta perfectly cooked and the sauce very agreeable. I didn’t find a caper – but I’m not complaining about that.
The steak was tender and, since this is New Zealand, a tad less rare than we would call rare, and the accompaniments fine.
All the fish eaters were pretty happy. Comments ranged from ‘OK’ from the youngest, to ‘hugely better than last week’.
And from the one venturer into chicken and bacon ciabatta: 'excellent except for the old knife being too blunt to cut the crust on the ciabatta'.
At $13, all a good bargain.
Only one person was unhappy. A member who sat by us. He went to get a drink, and while he was away the efficient waitress brought his food … and took it away! He demanded a refund. :-(
The races were enjoyable, my Seppl finished a slightly weary 7th in a very good trot and is being given a holiday, and Jan’s Rehab got knocked over … but that’s racing. And we had a good time. I’ll go back soon, and I will now – which I would never have done before – have a $13 meal at the track. I want to try the mince lasagna, and the Thai (does it really come from Siam?) beef…
Perhaps they could paint the prawns with fingernail polish to make them LOOK as appetising as they taste?
PS I took my camera to photograph the meal, but I ate everything before I remembered to do so, so here’s a photo of Simon and Seppl instead.