It used to be easy - if you were thirsty you went to a bar and if you were hungry you went to a restaurant. It's a bit more blurred these days, isn't it? You have gastropubs that attempt to recreate restaurant-standard food in a bar setting (and some even succeed, but they are few and far between); and you have top-end restaurants that are quite happy if you just want to sit at the bar and sink a few coldies.
Food in bars is always a tricky thing. Do you go for simple and filling? Or do you try something a bit more upmarket and, inevitably, expensive?
There are things to be said for both approaches in Auckland. Spitting Feathers in Wyndham St, for instance, was set up to be somewhere to go for a drink, rather than a restaurant alternative and it works very well.
Galbraith's, by contrast, aims for serious food, offering a menu as well done as many restaurants.
I'm talking about food in bars because something rather disturbing cropped up a week or so back.
My partner was visiting family in Wanganui and stopped into a local bar for lunch, only to be told that the kitchen was closed and all they could offer her was a muffin. That's not just outrageous, it's illegal.
According to the Sale of Liquor Act, bars must provide "substantial" food at all times while alcohol is being served. Muffins do not meet the legal definition of substantial. I bring this up because it's not uncommon to inquire about a late-night nibble, only to be told: "The kitchen is closed."
It's not as common in Auckland, but bars have been getting away with this for years, offering little in the way of food after 9pm and none after 10pm.
You don't have to be Marco Pierre White to keep a few pies in a warmer or reheat a pizza for the late-night diner, but it seems to be beyond many. Perhaps instead of running underage sting operations on bars, the police could have a look at other licence conditions as well, especially the one that means that I can get something to eat at midnight.
After all, I'm a growing boy.