Friday, March 29, 2013

A Restaurant mid the ruins

The end of March, the end of summer, the end of my time in New Zealand ..
We’ve had a crazy time, with earthquake repairs (5 weeks), tree trimming, fence remaking, rebuilding Wendy’s bathroom (three weeks), some lovely visitors – from PGB in the very early season, to our Alaskan ‘farmworkers’, Sarah and Jana, and old friend Jack at the very end --  but now it's come to its finish, and in four days I set my wings towards Berlin again…

Last night we had a celebration – Wendy’s birthday – and we set out for just about the only restaurant remaining amongst the ruins of quake-flattened Rangiora. Al Capone’s (don’t ask me where that name came from) was the first resto I ever visited in this area, a decade ago, and it was most agreeable. But we don’t go out much here, so I’ve only visited sporadically since. It hasn’t changed. The gangsters who decorate its walls must have scared off the quake-elves.

It’s a comfy room, with blessedly quiet muzak, agreeable 1920s atmosphere, and nice, relaxed service. I like staff to stay out of your face (if it weren’t good, I’d tell you), but, on the other hand, I don’t expect to go and have to find them!

The evening started well. They have a good wine list, and we decided on Wendy’s favourite Pegasus Bay. I opted for Jameson’s whisky. Plenty of ice. Good!

Then the menu. There were several interesting starters. I went for scallops in filo (actually there seemed to be only one scallop but it was huge), honey, garlic, shredveg … a very tasty and enjoyable dish. Wendy went for a warm salad of pumpkin, kumara and carrot, with cumin and sesame ... very New Zealand … and that too got the thumbs up.

The main course came. Eventually. I know freshly-cooked food takes time (and they have a notice to the effect) but it seemed a very long time between eats!

New Zealand used to be infamous for its vast servings of food. There was the day when I would dine on one entrée. Now it has settled down to more reasonably sized plates of food, which look nicer, and can be eaten in toto. Capone’s hits the line between ‘not too much’ and ‘too little’ pretty well, though three of our five struggled to finish.
Most of the main plates are your regular healthy meat cuts – steak, lamb, venison, pork -- (though there is a pleasing vegetarian dish): most of us settled for a delicious sounding terakihi fillets served on a prawn, courgette, potato and scallop fritter and draped with spinach.  Well, it lived up to its promise. It WAS delicious, but the chef must invent a way of stopping the bottom layer – the fritter – from going soggy with the juices from above. Well, it's just a thought.

It was too late, and we too satiated, to venture into the dessert list (and I didn’t spot anything original that sad ‘try me’) so we finished our evening, and wended the 12 minutes back to base …

And now we pack our bags. Jack flies out tomorrow, I go next, the girls may brave out the southern winter, and Wendy of course settles in as châtelaine of Gerolstein .. but we all came together tonight ..
A lovely occasion, and a very pleasing meal. How they manage it in the ruins of Rangiora, I do not know. Well done, Capone’s! We’ll be back .. probably same time next year!