It's different in the provinces

There is something about going out of town that makes one appreciate the quality of service and food in our city.

I spent part of Easter in Blenheim, home of many vineyards, and far too many to visit in one holiday period. However I was impressed by lunch at Wairau River, by the pate and "Wallop" chardonnay at Alan Scott's and by the quality of the wine and service at Nautilus. No doubt others are good too, but I didn't get to everyone.

Hoverer that is more than can be said for the town itself. Two stories to illustrate my point. Dinner in the hotel looked like a good option on Good Friday night. The menu had bouillabaisse as a starter. This wonderful French seafood soup calls for about eight times as much seafood as tomatoes, plus onion, celery, saffron and wine.

The hotel menu described their  bouillabaisse as  tomato based, with fresh seafood. That's ok. Tomato based was right; the chopped tomatoes were right out a tin, and their presence overwhelmed everything else. Not that there was much. A few pieces of fish and squid and a mussel, perched on top. That was pleasant.

The dish had been microwaved  - but not for long because the temperature was just tepid; but also for too long because the fish disintegrated at a touch. Tasteless. No flavor, no fishiness, no wine,  no scallops or oysters, no prawns or shrimp, but plenty of tomato - from a tin. Did I mention that?

The lamb was much better, but curiously came with potato crisps, and an apple and onion "pie" , which was interesting, but neither seemed to enhance the lamb. The lamb was nicely cooked with a well made gravy. I did enjoy that.

Later in our stay my wife and I went to a café/bar for breakfast. We were promptly shown to a table, given menus and our order for tea and coffee were  taken. The drinks arrived quickly, and the waitress asked if we ready to order. We were, and then she asked if we would mind going up to the bar to order, and to pay at the same time , as "we are expecting to be busy today, and that stops the orders being messed up."

As there were only five people in the restaurant at the time, this seemed a bit of a stretch, but we did as we were asked. The food was fine but there were never more than 12-15 customers in the place while we were there. With three staff out front, the likelihood of staff being confused in the rush to serve seemed low. Certainly no competently run Wellington café would regard this as "busy" on a weekend morning.