Phone: (09) 815 1933
We spent: $108 for two.
Rating out of 10: Food: 6.5 Service: 5 Value: 7 Ambience: 7
We'd just ordered steak and chips when a woman wandered past with an axe in her head.
It was Halloween in Sandringham (though, when I mentioned the axe at work, a Glaswegian colleague barely raised an eyebrow: "Normal where I come from"). Trick-or-treaters were trooping in to Lord Kitchener, the new gastropub going gangbusters in a neighbourhood famous for biryani, but almost bereft of beer.
The menu is "ye olde English" with the briefest of nods to the suburb's more dominant cuisine - that is a vindaloo mayonnaise with the pint glass of chips ($8). Think Scotch eggs, bubble and squeak and gammon steaks (with pineapple).
Monday night's two-for-one pizza deal, combined with the supervised zombie hordes sweeping the neighbourhood for sugar, meant almost every bar stool was occupied. Table orders were, however, being taken quickly.
The beer is mostly Monteiths (spelled as "Montieths" on half the menu) and cocktails are named for moments in military history. Turns out the original Lord Kitchener used to be commander-in-chief of the Indian Army.
I mentioned this at work too. "Gosh," said a colleague, referencing the modern history of Sandringham, Auckland. "It must feel like being colonised all over again."
But we're here to talk food, not politics. My grandmother, who married an Englishman, makes a superb Yorkshire pudding. In her honour, I ordered the "giant" version, with roast sirloin of beef and seasonal vegetables ($26). Aforementioned steak was billed as dry-aged rib-eye with hand-cut chips and Aarons (no apostrophe) chopped salad.
Were the mussels and cockles with a gin and tomato tonic butter ($17) steamed or fried? "Both," said the waitperson. We ordered a plate to share, assuming they would arrive first, as befitting their status on the "snacks" menu.
Instead, I watched my Yorkshire pudding languish on the pass for a good five minutes. Then the steak. Then the waitperson hurried back to get our mussels and cockles, which were all steamed. Suddenly, we had three plates of rapidly cooling food in front of us. "This is not very relaxing," said my dining companion.
But it did all taste pretty good. The pudding crust was distressingly cold, dry and eggy, but the interior - soggy with meat juice and highly caramelised parsnips - was a thing of Sunday childhood joy.
I needed more time, and a spoon, to enjoy the shellfish, because the tomato broth was a meal in itself. (It came with grilled white toast bread, but I repurposed the edge of my pudding instead.)
Steak is steak, except when it's $34, which felt like a lot to pay for a piece of meat with a miniscule amount of iceberg lettuce salad and a dozen chips, even if the chips are really good. The bearnaise sauce was a perfect balance of butter and sour.
We ordered sticky date pudding to share, then waited while the kitchen grew the dates and hand-ground the flour. Forty minutes later, two enormous slabs of cake with very crusty bottoms arrived, along with word that we wouldn't have to pay for this dish ($12).
Lord Kitchener has got its flavours nailed, but it really, really needs to sort its service. On the plus side? Our unexpectedly long night away from home meant we didn't have to lie to small children doorknocking for chocolate.