Galbraiths Alehouse, Mt Eden

By Peter Calder

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Herald on Sunday rating: * * *
Address: 2 Mt Eden Rd
Phone: (09) 379 3557
Open: Kitchen open from noon-10pm (9.30pm Sundays)
Vegetarians: Two snacks and a roast vegetable salad.
Watch out for: A vacant table.
Sound check: Deafening when busy.
Wine list: Extensive and reasonably priced. But try the beer.
Bottom line: Pub grub.

I suppose I'll be banned from the Shakespeare for saying so - at the very least my "VIP" frequent-drinker card will be withdrawn - but I love the beer at Galbraith's Alehouse.

The Shakespeare, for the uninitiated, is the garish pink pub in the city, not two dozen jaywalking paces from the front door of the Herald on Sunday.

The Blonde will ruefully vouch for the fact that I have spent a good deal of her money there over the years, so I believe I can say nice things about Galbraith's without being accused of abject disloyalty.

Galbraith's is the ideal place to go if your fondest memories of Blighty are of the pubs.

When it's pelting down and dark in the mid-afternoon as it was the day I went, you might think you're in an English pub; all that's missing is the ding of the pokies that outnumber beer taps in your average Red Lion.

Looking for a hearty winter feed, I thought immediately of the pub that has occupied, since 1995, the wonderful heritage building that was formerly the Grafton Library.

I'm not sure I entirely approve of the paint job - if you ask me, the red-and-gold at the entrance redefines the phrase "gilding the lily" - but the high-ceilinged interior has been minimally and sensitively restored.

Best of all it has not one, but two fireplaces.

Only the outdoor one, in a sheltered courtyard patronised by the diehard smokers, is wood-burning, but the main gas-fired one is a pleasing facsimile.

An entrance hall insulates the interior from blasts of weather when the door opens - as it does frequently - so the place is always cosy.

I had invited a bunch of blokes of my acquaintance who responded like Pavlov's dog to an email with "free beer" in the subject line.

Beer, of course, is Galbraith's business: they have as many as 10 (depending on the specials on tap) of their own cask-conditioned real ales (as well as about 60 of other breweries' products), and the bitters are served at a sensible 10C-12C and not the nostril-aching 4 most New Zealand pubs insist on.

Working their way through the house brews, my mates looked happy to forget dinner and get a curry on the way home but I reminded them there was work to be done. They pulled their weight by making sure they didn't all order the same thing.

Philip was impressed by the lamb's fry, and as he was a chef at the Ritz in London, I know he's hard to please. My lamb shanks and mash might have been brightened with a bit of green on the side, but the rich gravy was excellent.

I could have told Mark that the chicken alla parmigiana was a dodgy choice because the menu billed it as chicken parmagiano and I never eat a dish that is spelt wrong. But he probably wouldn't have listened. Andrew reckoned the beef in the Wellington was "nice and rare", but I think he was politely saying the pastry wasn't up to much.

In all, it was good pub grub and some was very good. And the best thing was that it reminded us how thirsty we were.

- Herald on Sunday

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