Address: Cnr Richmond Rd and Ponsonby Rd
Phone: (09) 376 9929
Rating out of 10: Food: 6, Service: 8.5, Value: 7, Ambience: 8.5

Curly fries, skinny fries and french fries. Frites if you're flash, wedges if you're in the provinces (or 1997). At any given bar, on any given day, you can buy a hot chip by any other name.

Except Golden Dawn. At Golden Dawn Tavern of Power the bar menu has gone full Ponsonby.

By which I mean smoked pork hock terrine with cider-roasted green apple. Courgette babaganoush with smoky oil and jalapeno flatbread. Olives marinated with fennel seed and rosemary, and bread with puha butter and smashed garlic paste. The latter are annotated with a "V" for vegetarians. Vegans should look for the "V+". Tonight's offering: a $16.50 mushroom and puy lentil sloppy joe with tahini paste and salsa verde. You're not at the pub now, Dorothy.

There are no hot chips. There are polenta morsels ($13.50) containing cumin, potato cubes and mozzarella, but the spud was underdone and the cheese undetectable. They came with a really great harissa aioli, but that shouldn't have been the main point.


We had much better luck with the welsh rarebit - slabs of tangy, cheesy toast, with Lea & Perrins on the side ($12.50). Heart-warming and rib-sticking.

Golden Dawn is a grown-up bar and music venue. There's courtyard seating with long picnic tables, good heaters and a fair amount of overhead cover, so winter is no deterrent. The inside is dim and sexy - a piano drips with candle wax and a large board lists the week's live music and DJ billings.

The wine list is heavy on internationals, with an inclination towards "artisan". Hallertau is the tap beer. On a busier night, you might have to order at the bar, but we had lovely table service and the cocktails were sensational. A walnut and fig old fashioned ($18) perfectly balanced smoke and warmth; a Kingston mai tai ($17) was sweet-sour-seriously-good thanks to a kick of housemade jerk spice syrup and a tiny, joyful garden of flowers stuck on top of the tiki mug.

Sticky shin and bone marrow and a Kingston Mai Tai at Golden Dawn. Photo / Getty Images
Sticky shin and bone marrow and a Kingston Mai Tai at Golden Dawn. Photo / Getty Images

I wanted to love the food as much as I did the drink. A bar menu that invests in its customers to this level (roasted pecorino and kale dumplings, etc) should really be applauded. But I couldn't.

An $18.50 dish of sticky shin meat was like the most delicious bits from the bottom of the roasting pan, but the accompanying bone marrow was tasteless.

Prawn buns ($15 for three) had the consistency of garlic loaf left in the oven for a month and then microwaved back to life. The filling - prawn, preserved lemon and and Japanese mayonnaise - was moreish, but if that bun had fallen on an open-toed shoe it would have caused a foot injury.

We finished with cheese - a gigantic wedge of St Agur blue with cardamom oat crackers and a spicy poached pear ($15) that paired sublimely with the boozy fig at the bottom of my old fashioned. Best advice: skip the polenta and prawns and consider a cheese and cocktail match.

How much: Our table of two spent $139.50