Address: Marine Parade, Queenstown
Phone: (03) 442 5625
After a week of sausage dinners at the lake with a team of heat-crazed kids, we were delighted to be playing grown-ups. A civilised night in Queenstown with a slap-up dinner to begin sounded like heaven.
The daughter-in-law who lives in Cromwell made the booking at The Bathhouse Restaurant, which came with great recommendations so, after a couple of gins in the hotel room, off we rocked.
The setting and the evening couldn't have been more magnificent. The Bathhouse sits at the Remarkables end of Queenstown's exquisite lake front, right on the sand. The only thing between us and the water were a series of gorgeous young things with very little on. Perfect.
Our waiter was another gorgeous young thing, but suitably dressed for the job. She explained the menu in her delicious Scottish accent. The restaurant has gone the tapas way recently (which I'm beginning to dislike but more of that later) and we ordered.
Then we sat and we sat and we sat. Anywhere else and we would have left but this was a view to die for.
Our bottle of The Ned pinot gris ($35) was spicy and delicious, and, at 10 past 8, we were still getting nicely roasted by the southern sun, so we sat it out until our breads and dips ($15) arrived, followed five minutes later by the bruschetta ($13.50).
Neither were remarkable. The bread was ordinary, the dips plain boring and the bruschetta not much better.
Never mind, we were hanging out for our lamb kebabs, scallops and squid and there was plenty to keep us occupied.
Like most of the businesses in Queenstown, The Bathhouse seems to be entirely run by foreigners. Every waiter had a different accent and seemed to have been chosen on looks rather than experience. Which was good until we started to get hungry and our waiter came back to check our order for the third time, indicating that they hadn't even started cooking yet.
"You think I'm bad," she laughed. "She," gesturing to her curvy companion "got completely confused with her table!"
Though good-natured, the chef (apparently from Devon) was seriously slow, prone to over-cooking and taking his eye off the grill. Halfway through the evening that unmistakable, acrid smell of burning plastic curled through the air and out over the pristine lake. Yes, he'd chargrilled something plastic, probably a spatula.
While the scallops ($12) were truly awful, small, grey and overcooked, the squid was fantastic, tender yet crisp and just spicy enough. But it was the lamb koftas ($19 for two, tapas) that took the biscuit. First, the two servings arrived on one plate, "to save space on the table". Second, the lamb mince was overly smothered in pinenuts to the point where they broke apart and tasted of nothing in particular. Third, Liz swears that the mint and yoghurt dipping sauce was straight out of a Lisa's pottle.
On a more satisfactory note, our two lamb dinners ($56), though plain, were well-cooked and delicious, while the vegetables of the day ($7) turned out to be, unbelievably, potatoes and peas.
Again, thank goodness for the sunset, which finally arrived at 10pm and the second, glorious, bottle of Mount Rosa pinot noir, grown in Gibbston Valley and blended by the Otago Wine Company - which also makes Sam Neill's Two Paddocks range.
By now we were well and truly over the Scottish beauty - and the ghastly food - and hastily trotted to the reliable, fabulous Eicharts Hotel for dessert.
Now this is how we remember Queenstown: comfy chairs, superb service, classic favourites including creme brulee with a decent crust and no blueberries, chocolate brownies. And not a tapas in sight.
Rating out of 10
Our meal: $244 for bread and dips, a plate of bruschetta, two lamb kebab tapas, two squid tapas, one scallop tapas, two lamb dinners, a side dish of vegetables, two bottles and one glass of wine.
Wine list: Excellent range including Central Otago's best.
Verdict: A fabulous setting and building temporarily (we hope) ruined by inexperienced staff.