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Herald on Sunday Rating: 4/5
Address: 6 Beresford Square, Auckland
Ph: (09) 368 4281
I'm beginning to consider the possibility that I don't like my friends. Well, to be more precise, that I don't like going out with my friends. At home, they are perfectly fine, and when they're at my place they behave themselves (if they don't, they get no dinner). But they're becoming a menace in public.
Some are now "on the pension", as the saying goes. They think that all this means is that they have to choose from the bottom row of bottles in the supermarket wine aisle. What they haven't noticed, is that they've started to behave like their parents, who bellow knuckle-bitingly embarrassing things like "I didn't realise the omelette would have eggs in it!", when served breakfast in a cafe.
It wasn't even my idea to go to the Beresford Square Wine Bar. I was actively suspicious of the idea, although this was based on the misapprehension that I was going to the Supper Club, an incongruously named dunny-turned-eatery, whose charming clientele are given to standing around dribbling and slurring in the morning sun, too drunk to fight.
It turned out that we were headed for a different place nearby. Better still, it is the new venture of Pascal Murello and Manuel Garcia, who started the excellent Mondial in Surrey Cres three years ago.
It was packed as we walked up and I didn't fancy the chances of getting in. But two of our number had already colonised the best table in the house, which was just as well because when everybody arrived we were eight. That was when the trouble started.
I'd just settled down over a glass of an excellent tempranillo and ordered a couple of tapas for the Professor and me, and I was feeling most content.
The duck liver parfait, which came with slices of a deliciously chewy baguette and crunchy crostini with an olive pesto baked into them, was wickedly creamy, and a plate of Spanish anchovies the size of small herrings completed the picture.
But dark clouds were gathering at the other side of the table. "We've decided we're going home," said one. "But you just got here," I replied, somewhat superfluously. "It's too noisy," she said. "We can't hear ourselves think."
I was going to point out that the place is a Mediterranean tapas bar owned by two Frenchmen, of Spanish and Italian extraction respectively. Where they come from, the words "bar" and "quiet" don't commonly appear in the same sentence, and they were never going to preside over a place for a quiet Friday evening tipple. But the Professor, bless her heart, suggested I fetch another drink and addressed herself to quieting the discontent in her best head-prefect manner.
So I chatted to Murello, who explained that when they sold Mondial there was a restraint-of-trade clause that prevented them from opening a bar within 2km as the crow flies. "This place is 2km and 70m away," he said, with a grin.
Back at the table, the Professor seemed to have calmed the restless hordes somewhat, although one of them was hoisting himself up on his walking frame to remonstrate with a waitress who had removed a plate with a piece of untouched bread still on it.
His grouching caused the other waitress, the lustrous Poi who came with the boys from Mondial, to swoop. "You need to chill out a bit," she said, in a tone halfway between Marilyn Monroe and Margaret Thatcher. "She's just topping the bread plate up. Nobody's trying to do you out of anything."
He fell gratifyingly silent and I couldn't resist giving Poi a discreet thumbs-up.
It seemed to have the desired effect, as did the food, which began arriving in a pleasurably steady stream: boards of terrines and pate; bruschette with creamy mozzarella and succulent tomato; plates of salmon done three ways - as a mousse, smoked slices and cold baked slab; and big squares of pizza (we ate them out of those, I'm proud to say), which easily cut up into finger food to share.
Despite our best efforts, we didn't knock off everything on the menu, which means we'll have to go back, alas.
We may do so alone, unless the pensioners lighten up. They're darlings, really, and I was kidding about the walking frame, but you can't take them anywhere.
Need to know
$ = $20-$40; $$ = 40-60; $$$ = $60+.
(Price guide reflects three courses for one person without drinks.)
For wine and nibbles with a French accent, try the well-established Winehot in Morningside.By Peter Calder Email Peter